Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Josh Smith is Coming of Age

This is not a car, although I have it on good authority that some cars are blue.

For a while now, the Atlanta Hawks organization has been purgatory for NBA players. It's hard to imagine a more depressing situation. Empty stands, bad management, and no leadership are symptoms of the problem, but you get the feeling that it goes deeper than that. Like, for example, those jerseys that make them look like 70's McDonald's employees. Or the fact that they addressed their dire need for a point guard by drafting another small forward. It makes you think that there's an angry ghost haunting this franchise. you know, one of those angry ghosts that forces you to make stupid decisions for five years.

But, Joe Johnson ignored all logic last season and signed (willingly!) to a contract with Atlanta. So when he was having his best season this year, the angry ghost would not have it, and he went down with an injury. What happened then? Well, since making the playoffs is out of the question, there were two options. The first was tanking. This is apparently a pretty cool thing to do this year. I say this because Boston is doing it, and boy do I love Boston. There's no way this doesn't make sense. You order a bunch of pathologically competitive people to lie down for the rest of the year, killing your chemistry and emasculating your coach. But it's all worth it, because when you get that top draft pick, everything is fixed. You are bathed in a shower of rainbows and diamonds, and you're awarded the NBA championship for being so god-damned clever.

The other option is the one that Atlanta picked, and that's play through it. Players like Josh Childress and Josh Smith took advantage of the hole in the offensive picture and have stepped up. I find this to be particularly encouraging for Josh Smith. He's always been a freakishly good athlete, but questions remained about how effective he really is in-game. For example, yes, he could jump over a car, but when do you see a car on the court? Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked: Josh Smith has been playing really well. Well enough to where there's no reason he shouldn't be starting next to Joe when he comes back. Sure, they're not a good team yet, but not quitting this year has set them up for good things in the next. I'll always think losing now to win in the future is a stupid idea. Boston, go ahead and ask Atlanta how that's worked out for them so far.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Kevin Durant is Going to Cost You

Kevin your mom is a fox. She'd look good in green.

As a Texas fan, now is the winter of our discontent. If you came to Austin you couldn't tell, however. The humidity is nearly unbearable and we've hit eighty degrees a few times in the last week. But, truly, these are the times that try souls when it comes to Texas basketball. Despite the sky high talent of the roster, Longhorn fans have endured a frustrating end to the season. First, there was the Kansas game in the Big XII championship that mirrored our previous performance against them. We had a big lead, all of the momentum, and then choked it away by playing the Mavs to their Heat. Then, in the first round of the tournament, we nearly blew what should have been a walk against vastly inferior New Mexico State. Finally, and possibly mercifully, we were knocked out by a USC team that just wanted it more. So what now?

I could pretend that there's a lot of things that this team has to consider. For example, what the hell happened to D.J. Augustin, the baffling game management of Rick Barnes, and recruiting for the upcoming season. However, the thing on everybody's mind is Kevin Durant. I realize that, in all likelihood, he will choose to go pro. The money waiting for him is excellent, and the risk for injury if he chooses to stay is large. However, he has not declared his intention for the draft, making him a taboo topic for anyone employed by an NBA team. So far, both Don Nelson and Michael Jordan have earned fines for mentioning him even in the most indirect way. Not to be out doofus-ed, Danny Ainge took the cake by sitting next to Kevin's mom during the Big XII tournament. While I love watching him be so stupid, and revel in watching him pay a fine for his trouble, truly, all this does is fill me with dread. Fines be damned: couldn't the NBA tell Danny he isn't allowed to draft Durant? I know they won't, but, seriously, the thought of seeing our golden boy mismanaged by the Boston idiot factory gives me chills. He deserves better! At least he could play for the logo in Memphis. Skip the draft this year, Kevin. Enjoy the cornucopia of beautiful women and delicious barbecue available to you here. Do whatever you can to stay out of Celtic green. I beg you.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The New York Knicks are Totally Fixed

When I was sitting down to put together some thoughts for this post, I realized how often I've talked about Isiah Thomas and the bizarre situation in New York. I'm not a Knicks fan. I'm just fascinated by how bad things have gotten. What would it take to make a regime change happen? It seemed that this would be the season where Isiah would finally end up unemployed. Then, maybe, the abused and overwhelmed Knick loyalists could move on.

Well, it doesn't look like that's going to be happening any time soon. In a stunning turn of events, Thomas has been given a multi-year contract extension as both coach and general manager. Admittedly, compared to last season, there has been a turnaround. Starbury has miraculously ceased to implode, Eddy Curry has started trying, Jamal Crawford has been huge, and David Lee has provided some excellent energy off the bench. They're in the hunt for the playoffs, and have rallied their way through tough injuries.

Still, this decision making seems, at best, extremely premature. Dolan had previously been firm that he would make no decision until after the season, which seemed like a logical idea. What changed? Wouldn't it make sense to take stock of the season as a whole, playoffs included? And even if you like the dynamic between Isiah and his players, why retain him as GM? Even if he is able to be effective as a coach, there's no question he's a complete disaster when it comes to personnel.

I should be eating more crow here. Isiah Thomas has managed to string together some wins, and he deserves credit for doing so. But, I can't help but feeling a palatable sense of dread when I consider the future of the franchise. Maybe I'll be completely proven wrong, and things will work out beautifully. But, I think Knicks fans have gotten a reminder. Isiah Thomas is a symptom, and James Dolan is the disease.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

I Would Like the Celtics to Win More Games

I represent a big shift in the culture of ESPN, because I'm a smarmy kid who went to prep school.

I find myself in a strange position lately. I've been enjoying seeing the Celtics on their four game winning streak. I was getting pretty discouraged, but this young team is coming together down the stretch and it's encouraging. Sure, they're out of the playoffs, but they have a chance to get out of the basement. I, for one, would love to see that. The thing is, I'm not a Celtics fan. I'm just a Bill Simmons non-fan. And if the Celtics winning a few games means Boston doesn't get their hands on my sweet baby Kevin Durant, then that's what needs to happen.

Bill Simmons has been openly salivating about the prospect of Durant landing in Beantown for a while now. I feel violated. There's no team I feel more strongly about than the Longhorns. And, there's no "journalist" I have grown to strongly dislike more than Bill Simmons. His extreme self-obsession, mind numbing repetition, and general assery are annoying of themselves. The knowledge that he represents a huge success story in sports media today is a curious statement on the genre. And, damn you Bill, I've enjoyed Kevin, and I don't want to share him with you.

I don't want to read you gloating about how he's on your team. I don't want him to become another object of your superiority complex. Watching Durant has been a rare experience. His absurd level of talent, calm, controlled demeanor, and incredible skill have made this my favorite Longhorn season ever. Seeing him play in person was something I'll remember for the rest of my life. I don't want those memories tainted by seeing him in green. I know how you people operate! You took Paul Pierce from the Big XII, too. He was beautiful! Now look what you've done to him...what Danny Ainge did to him. Kevin can't fix Danny, Bill.

So please, Celtics, pull together. Play harder than you ever have. Texans appreciate your dedication.

Friday, March 2, 2007

The Next Best Thing to Being Nude

Remember Starter jackets? I was too broke to have a legit one. In '92 my mom took me to JC Penny's and I got the second tier version. Still, I loved that jacket. It was incredibly gaudy: a black, white, and red pattern with huge Chicago Bull head on the back. In fact, a sketchy girl in my class asked if she could 'borrow' it to wear to Six Flags over the weekend. Because I'm smooth, I didn't answer and ran the other direction.

The point I'm trying to make is, when you were young you were allowed to express your fandom with wild abandon. But, as I've aged, I've been struck by how ugly and sub-standard most fan gear is. So, let's say jerseys are just a little too much for you. You want good design, but the self-fellatio of Brand Jordan makes you nauseous. What are your options? Well, if you don't mind paying a premium, some of them are quite good.

Of the companies making high-end sports themed gear, each tends to offer a different aesthetic. Undefeated, the maker of the shirt pictured above, focuses on the raw power of athletics and their unspoken sense of intimidation. Supreme celebrates the dangerous and taboo, evident in their upcoming line centering around Mike Tyson. No Mas takes a more scholarly approach, using their encyclopedic knowledge to point out many of the more comic, and frequently tragic, aspects of sport. Under Crown celebrates the early 90's mingling of basketball and hip hop. Lemar and Dauley create gaudy reflections of the athlete as a larger than life star. FALSE recently got Kevin Garnett's blessing to collaborate on a series of tees. And this only scratches the surface.

I'm well aware the idea of a 'high-end t-shirt' is ridiculous. But for those of us who can stomach the price tag, there's an awful lot of cool stuff to be had out there lately.