Another week, another group of lives lived on hardwood, in front of spectators and cameras, and another round of highlights compiled from those lives.
THESE ARE ... THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THEIR LIVES
Can you fucking believe this shit? The best defense in the NBA and the best individual defender, completely useless. You know the Warriors' performance in this game closed the Spurs' point-differential lead by more than a whole point? Generally, it works the other way around, but Golden State has apparently learned to humiliate math, as well.
It's over. The whole fucking NBA is going to be on pause for the next five to eight years, buried under a warm golden pile of the Warriors' shit. Inevitable. Will be extended and strengthened when they sign Durant. They will also find the next Jimmy Butler, but a center, and they'll pick him 30th in the draft one of those years, to really keep the streak going.
Can you imagine what Steve Kerr will mean to people after winning 13 titles? The shooter with Jordan's magic but Buddha's temperament. Like if Phil Jackson was likeable. Every other management book and every third sports book will unlock The Secrets of Steve Kerr. His litany of interviews on the Bill Simmons podcast will be finecombed for secret wisdom, given faint narrative frames, and packaged into 250-page books. He will charge "just like, however many suitcases of gold bullion you can acquire" to speak at corporate retreats. He will be regarded as a sort of outside candidate for President.
The team's new arena will be plated in gold. The gold will attract the eye of a seven-foot alien cruising through our galaxy looking to buy weed. After a series of misunderstandings, he will sign with the Warriors. His supernatural ability and wingspan will make him the IDEAL basketball player, a defense and rebounding machine with touch around the basket and none of what we humans know as fear. The tales of his life will be legendary, an unquenchable thirst for women and weed and wine and also KNOWLEDGE about the ways of life on civilized alien planets.
He will introduce us to his home planet's philosophies—unthinkable and unthought wisdom, understood by even the stupidest animal back on his home world—that will alter our way of life and lead to unending world peace. The Warriors will use the occasion to hang a banner. The Alien, receiving the LAST Nobel Peace Prize ever deemed necessary, will address the crowd via JumboTron. With tears in his eyes, he ends his address to a stadium full of weeping, hugging people with two words: "GO. WARRIORS."
Why even let the NBA continue operating? It's just a conduit for the Warriors to claim another victory over the waterlogged sadasses living in their pipes. The present reality will be the future reality, forever. Let's just wait for baseball to start.
GRADE: F, A, WHO CARES. THE WHOLE WORLD IS FALLING APART AROUND US
When I read that Earl Watson was going to be the Phoenix Suns' interim coach for the rest of the season, I was overjoyed, because it gave me an excuse to watch Earl Watson play basketball.
Dribbling, driving. Legs. What a bunch of crap. You know, when basketball was invented, by a doctor, there was no dribbling. The only thing you could do when you were holding the ball was to throw it to some other guy. It was a simpler time. A better time. A time to which we could, theoretically, return if we would just adopt a variation of basketball that was played on sand.
Unfortunately, the sneaker companies who run basketball, and whose vile products smother one of our best-loved body parts, will never let this happen. ALL THE SAND IN THE WORLD just sits there, not having basketball played on it, all because of the corporate elements that have hardwired themselves into our culture. Can you even imagine basketball on the beach?
Can't you see the elves of 30 years of sneaker propaganda pulling the levers in your head? FREE YOURSELF.
Earl Watson moves across the court as if sinking into sand, held at his feet by ghostlike grains manufactured in his mind and body. Look at him dish to a cutting Paul Millsap at about 1:11. Brings the ball into the frontcourt, all slow, as if listening to the faint splash of the ocean on a nearby cliff. He is met by his defender, Luke Ridnour, in a deep defensive position, his face marked with a kind of confused intensity. How is this guy, this Earl, so unhurried? Aren't we playing Basketball, a sport that is intense by its—and then Luke, filled to overflowing with Big Sneaker's preferred undefined anxiety, doesn't even notice as Earl, smooth as silk, hooks the pass around him. Relaxed. Engaged. Feeling the waves of the ocean and MOVING with their spirit.
That sort of pass, along with the long-remarked-upon good vibes he provided to any locker room he was invited into, kept Earl Watson in the league for 12 consecutive seasons even though he was never, strictly speaking, especially good. I suspect he will provide the same beachy vibes to a stressed-out Suns squad.
RATING: FOUR STARS
"Kawhi Leonard is one of the best players in the NBA."
Eat the sentence. Digest it. Feel its calories power your body. How was it? Delicious? Like a brownie, or a cookie, or a washtub full of bread pudding? Or was it like a handful of raw unwashed kale, full of vitamins and fiber and all of your essential silts and dirts, a truth you needed to eat and accept but imbued with a kind of complex plant-ness that's intriguing and healthful but not especially tasty?
If the former, you are a Spurs fan or a defensive fetishist, and I INVITE you to close this tab and read Sherlock Holmes plots arranged on a spreadsheet instead. If you're willing to accept the objective aesthetic truth of Kawhi's boringness, please continue reading.
When you eat a really good cookie, like, for instance, the Steph Curry-tasting cookie embedded at the top of this page, you are transported back to your childhood. Proust, Michael Jordan, etc., etc. I don't think I really need to hold your hand on the "feelings great players generally evoke" metaphor. You get it.
Kawhi, on the other hand, embodies all the virtues of basketball we learn to appreciate as adults. Astringent notes of defense, extraordinary rebounding, heady ball movement. His story is almost startlingly adult: taciturn college player taken mid-draft by the Pacers and stolen by the Spurs, who tell him to learn how to shoot. Submerged in their horrible night-shaded goo, Leonard outstrips all expectations, becomes a brilliant multi-dimensional role player, so great at so many things, such a perfect manifestation of his excellent environment that he comes out on the other side a superstar.
But just because he's a "superstar" doesn't mean that he creates inspiring feelings in the deepest, most unexposed parts of our hearts, the true task of the extraordinary athlete. To illustrate, I have written a brief children's narrative, called:
THE BOY WHOSE FAVORITE PLAYER WAS KAWHI LEONARD
Once there was a boy who loves to watch basketball. He liked dunks, he liked three-pointers, and he liked isolation play. The boy loved the lights and the noise and the energy. He loved the ball, because it was orange, a color he liked. He liked the shape the ball made as it traveled through the air.
He hoped and wished and dreamed for a basketball player he could call his own. Someone who made death-defying drives to the basket, perhaps, a three-point shooter or maybe a power dunker, like Shaq. When he went to sleep that night, he received a visit in his dreams.
"Hello, young man," said Dream Kawhi Leonard. I cannot say if it was really the man, crawling through the spirit plains, entering the dreams of young boys and compelling them to practice their free-throw shooting, or if it was just a manifestation of some deep craving for order within the boy himself. But I do know what he said:
"Hello, young man. My name is Kawhi. I am on the Spurs. I am your favorite player now."
The boy was confused. He didn't REALLY have a handle on who this man was. He knew about the Spurs, but he didn't WATCH them really. Seemed like adult basketball, some arcane and obscure thing he didn't really understand.
But if the spirits were going to reach out, he figured, maybe the universe had a reason for this. So he sat down the next day, and the day after that, and every day the Spurs played for the next five years, and he watched and celebrated Kawhi Leonard.
He would talk his friends' ears off about Kawhi's virtues: defense, boarding, keeping the ball moving, making plays when needed. He would wax rhapsodic about the Spurs' player development, the KEY to Kawhi learning to shoot three-pointers, which opened up driving lanes, which opened up his game.
Every time someone mentioned LeBron he would say, "Yeah, he was great, but Kawhi SHUT HIM DOWN in '13."
Kawhi's spirit stayed with the boy for his entire life, doling out advice about "sacrifice" and "working to make the team better" and "getting in a DEEP defensive stance so you can maximize your vertical movement." The last thing rarely applied—our hero was a deeply irritating pickup player—but the first two guided our child to a life of devotion and responsibility. Laundry, pulling weeds, doing his homework, staying away from drugs. Respecting teachers.
As he became a male adult and went off to college, he knew, straight away, that he was going to study engineering. The arc of a basketball's movement, which he now knew to be a parabola and the MOST efficient shape to use in bridge building, inspired him. But right when he was about to write "CIVIL ENGINEERING" in the "MAJOR" box, Kawhi appeared in his head.
"You sure? You're going to have to work for the government for a while, before a private firm will take you on. Electrical engineering, that's where the money is."
"B-b-b-b-but Kawhi, the arc! I saw the arc when—"
"Arc? I dunno. Sounds like some Steph Curry nonsense to me. Let's forget about that and really FOCUS on MOVING the ball of ELECTRICITY around the PERIMETER of the world, so we can get it shot nice and well into televisions and aircraft carriers and stuff."
So the boy did it. He studied electrical engineering. It was boring and difficult. He got a job doing estimations for a firm that designed electrical grids for emerging oil-drilling operations in the Yukon right out of college, and worked at this tedious task for three years with little incident. One day, he was called into his boss's office.
"I like you," said his boss. "You can have more money and responsibility."
He thought, for ONE SECOND, about telling his boss to SHOVE IT, that he was going to BREAK OUT OF THIS STERILE NIGHTMARE and EXPLODE INTO THE WORLD. But before he could get the words out, he saw his hero, PRESCRIBED BY THE GODS, appear right in front of his eyes. He sighed. "Thank you, sir. I will accept both."
He worked for that firm for the next forty years.
One day, he was very sick and near death. Kawhi appeared to him. "See? Wasn't that great. Aren't you glad I was your favorite basketball player, and the source of your deepest mental and spiritual energy for all those years?"
Then the boy cried and cried and cried.
The moral? Don't encourage your children to like Kawhi Leonard.
RATING: 2/3 (.666)
THANKS FOR READING! I hope you and your family stay safe and warm during this, the coldest time of year.