I would not be the first person to theorize, after observing his allergy to modern offense and myriad baffling personnel decisions and general aura of pissy anti-competence, that Byron Scott was hired to help the Los Angeles Lakers execute a stealth tank-job. The Lakers seem custom-engineered to be a compelling disaster in a way that the NBA's more ostentatiously tank-minded teams are not. Kobe shoots and seethes entirely too much while his muscles and skin rot off his bones, and everyone else is either young enough to suffer Byron's minutes oppression or too old and bad to be considered a viable member of the next good Lakers team.
Even if, somehow, the team started to come together and play well, Scott is there as the backstop: if all else fails, he'll find a way to get the team a loss. And so the Lakers manage to bring in ticket money from the devoted KobeRubes, remain at the center of national conversation, and stick a giant needle full of Probability Steroids right into their lottery chances.
I was in the middle of my daily meditation on this when I found out that the Philadelphia 76ers had hired Jerry Colangelo to be their President of Basketball Operations or whatever, a position that is senior to the team's beleaguered and controversial general manager, Sam Hinkie. As if it were a flash of light, I saw The Process for what it was: a ruse to deflect attention away from ownership's shameful hard-rebuilding boner.
Think about it: the Sixers are principally owned by Josh Harris, a fund manager who made his fortune in private equity. Buying an asset, stripping it of all unnecessary functions—for example, employees—and reselling the newly sleek and stripped-down asset at an obscene profit is a common industry tactic. Harris knew exactly what he wanted to do. So Harris brought in Hinkie, who also has a private-equity background and could vibe with this sort of Technocratic Basketball vision, and told him to make it so. Hinkie went forward, not making a SINGLE compromise: he voided the team of any and all unnecessary veterans, sliced the payroll to the marrow, traded anyone for any pick he could manage to fandangle, and refused at any point even to begin putting a coherent basketball team on the floor in an actual game.
Hinkie cuts a perfect figure of a robot GM. He worked for Daryl Morey. He betrays no emotion and is hilariously secretive. He is EMPHATICALLY not a former player. As the team continued to fail—or succeed at failing, maybe—Hinkie naturally became the planet for conversation moons to circle. The Process was trademarked. The conversation isn't "Man, the Sixers—INCLUDING JOSHUA HARRIS, WHO REALLY PULLS THE STRINGS—are really fucking the pooch." It's "Man, that Sam Hinkie, I don't trust him. He just seems like a poochfucker to me."
Then, when it gets really bad, the team brings in JERRY COLANGELO, the old-manniest of Old Man NBA GMs and a former owner himself, as a counterbalance to Hinkie's unfeeling madness. It's a show of temperance from ownership. And so when the Sixers eventually rebuild behind Hinkie's ill-begotten talent, Colangelo and OWNERSHIP get the lion's share of the credit and financial windfall. Goat, SCAPED.
Moving the left hand so you don't see the right. Where's the card? I see the card. But the WORLD doesn't see the card. Because they're sleeping. Are you sleeping, asshole? ON TO HIGHLIGHTS! Sorry I called you an asshole, you're fine. I just get upset about the Sixers.
DWYANE WADE, MOUNTAIN MAN
Once, the space behind the three-point line was a dark land fit only for the nutsackiest of shooters. But there was a contingent of early efficiency advocates who saw that it was, in so many words, the future. "Someday, we will move to three-point land," they told their hopeful but hardscrabble families, "and build our fortune behind the line." Oh how quickly the frontier becomes the suburbs. Look at the way a standard spread formation overlays onto a standard suburban house, and tremble in fear and recognition:
In this new world, 33-year-old Dwyane Wade is a grizzled mountain man, one of the last major guards to regard the safety of the modern three-pointer as beneath his instincts. He rejects this stifling aspect of modern life. He will not sleep indoors, which he sees as an act of war against nature. Wade will instead head out to the woods and stake his future on the providence of the wild. Observe the last mountain man as he takes it straight to the Oklahoma City Thunder last Sunday.
The amazing thing about watching Wade operate with the ball, especially in his older age, is that he is always doing something to move himself closer to the rim; Robert O'Connell wrote beautifully about this yesterday. Watch the alley-oop off a Hassan Whiteside pick-and-roll at about 1:10: Wade's series of feints and intentional dribbles collapses the defense at the rim, opening an enormous lane for a diving Whiteside. The Heat go to the play again at about 2:40; this time Andre Roberson and Steven Adams manage to collapse on Wade's drive while Adams uses his ass to keep Whiteside from the rim. So Wade adjusts on the fly and tosses up a little hook shot, once upon a time the preferred weapon of the self-motivated grinder. Scoop shots, floaters, splitting small collections of human bodies, all in the service of getting our man as close to the rim as possible.
Who else is making the wheat like this anymore? This is some artisanal basketball, crafted by hand one basket at a time, and it stands out in a technologized, efficiency-minded basketball world. Until the next thing happens, whatever will wind up punching the current standard in the jaw and create a NEW standard for play and production, Wade is our last true mountain man, making his humble home on the side of St. Helens.
Critically, I genuinely can't say enough nice things about this mix. It features not one but TWO possessions ending in a Wade cherry-pick. Enes Kanter gets Whiteside'd at the rim so bad that, viewed out of context, you might think he was completely unequipped to play NBA basketball at all. Wade drills clutch buckets and turns Dion Waiters into a pile of goo. Delightful.
The mix ends with Wade talking about his children busting his beans because he can't dunk anymore. I liked his son because he clearly had no particular desire to be on camera. Not like that showboat kid in Oakland.
RATING: A+ (A for AXE-CELLENT, go Timbers!)
NIGHT OF THE BOBAN
This delightful Vine of 27-year-old Spurs rookie Boban Marjanović dancing in the lane against the sad-ass Philadelphia 76ers, receiving a pass from Boris Diaw, and dunking is fit for ONLY the highest of recommendations. Watch the way his tippy-toes dance into the lane, quiet as a church mouse, so that no one in the whole arena will be able to hear him. So sneaky for such a large feller!
People who watch this game with just their eyes don't realize the sensual dimensions a player needs to travel to be successful. I can just imagine this guy, slipping into suburban houses all over America in deepest night, opening the cookie jar, taking exactly three cookies, sneaking out of the house, and chowing down on his stealthily gotten gains. That kind of skill can keep you in the NBA for a long time.
RATING: THREE COOKIES
THINKING ABOUT BASKETBALL!
Everyone at ReelTalk HQ is fond of this piece of clip art. It's called "Woman Thinking About Basketball." The woman has a neutral expression, which means the viewer can put any and all of their own feelings onto the content. I made a presentation to demonstrate:
I'll bet you didn't think about the enormous range of emotions basketball can IGNITE in a person's soul!
RATING: INFINITE (possibilities!)
MATTHEW DELLAVEDOVA'S WHITE RAGE
Impotent white male rage in its purest form. Evokes Raging Bull. We will never know what trauma brought poor Matthew to this place; it could be anything from a dramatic board game loss to a public sexual embarrassment. A grocery clerk calling him out for rubbing his dick on a shopping cart, for instance, and then this.
All we know is that Matthew was about to get posted by a man a half-foot taller than he. He saw, in a flash, his own male body being dominated by another, larger male body. He decided, from deep in his own blood, tainted by a fear that someone might think him weak, or small, to grab the tall man by the waist and throw him to the floor. Look at his eyes as he does the deed:
Expressionless, uncompromised, these are the eyes of an animal driven by pure instinct. A degraded, filthy man making a last, desperate stand against the limits of his own body, just so he can feel like he is fulfilling society's standard of masculinity. His own standard. His father's standard.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention Kevin Love's understated performance in this highlight. For the first time in his life, Kevin is a pillar of basketball and sexual confidence, living a loose, easy, long-haired life, looking and living and LOVING like a sort of hyper-charged Cleveland SoulCycle instructor. He regards this explosion of insecurity with dumbfounded curiosity, acting as a rational frame for the unnerving, bloody canvas of Delly's explosive insecurity.
All in all, a troubling masterpiece.
RATING: 99 (VIA)
Thank you for reading. If you are living with cold weather, get close with a lover and let your shared body heat nourish you. Make love, if you feel it calling to you, or don't, if you don't. To be honest I speak too loudly for intimacy and have a somewhat shallow understanding of it. But I REALLY like it in the abstract.