Author Archives: Hardwood Paroxysm

What We’ve Been Up To

Being that so many of our writers are writing at so many different places outside of HP these days, from time to time we’re going to update y’all on what we’ve been up to lately.

Here’s Steve McPherson writing about Johnny Flynn, trying to do what you love for a living, and his experiences as a musician:

Most of us are never going to make a living doing what we love, and of those that do, a vanishingly small number will be paid very, very well (as the sixth pick in the 2009 draft, Flynn made just under $3 million his rookie year and just over $9 million for the life of his contract) to do something we not only love but are among the very best in the world at. I certainly don’t belong in the latter category, but judging from Flynn’s story, it seems like it can only be more fraught with distress than what I attempted, which was to be a professional musician.

For the five or so years after I finished college, I tried to make music my life and livelihood. For a generation of children raised by successful, middle- to upper-class baby boomers, making a creative endeavor into your career has supplanted the traditional reliable job, two-car garage and nuclear family of the American Dream. Since industrial jobs have moved overseas, we’ve heard about the rise of the “creative class” in America, and that’s what I wanted to be a part of.

When it was good, it was great. I played a lot of shows in a lot of places, opened for some terrific bands, got to know some warm, generous fellow musicians, recorded and released some albums I was very proud of and sometimes even made some money.

Read more at A Wolf Among Wolves.

GUEST POST: Hereafter

Trenton Jocz is a lifelong Seattle resident looking to break into sports media, either through covering the NBA or advancing the conversation as a sports radio host. He can be found tweeting about basketball, the sham of amateurism in college sports, reality TV and other random things on Twitter @TrentonJocz. – Ed.

On my 16th birthday, one door of my sports fandom closed and another opened. That night, the Sonics traded Ray Allen to the Celtics, signaling the beginning of the end for professional basketball in Seattle but also the formation of the team that, despite me not having seen a live game since they were formed, brought me closer to the game than I could have imagined.

Fairly ambivalent about Kevin Garnett at the time, I was still elated over his acquisition, as it represented a legitimate shot for Allen, the greatest Sonic in my cognizant lifetime, to become a champion. The Sonics had been stripped bare by Clay Bennett & Co. in order to disenfranchise fans and further clear the path for their exodus. Meanwhile, the Bulls, always my favorite team even above the Sonics, and the Hinrich/Gordon/Deng nucleus had me rather whelmed. Once young and brimming with potential, they’d stagnated like most teams rife with those good-but-not-great core of players do by the time post-rookie deal extensions come due, and little did I know that the arrival of Derrick Rose, now my favorite athlete ever, was merely a year away. At the time, rooting for Allen to win a ring functioned as a life preserver for me as a basketball fan.

Obviously, winning the championship in Year 1 was the pinnacle of their success. They supplied a handful of all-time classics over their reasonably perilous trek to the title, most notably the Game 7 Pierce/LeBron duel (AKA “The P.J. Brown Game”) and Pierce’s debatably pseudo miraculous return in Game 1 of The Finals, as well as the series-tilting 24 point comeback and the series-clinching 39 point evisceration that cemented their status as champions.

Despite all that, little from the 2008 team stuck with my nostalgia-inclined memory. That’s not to take credit away from that group. Winning it all allowed the franchise to avoid scrutiny in the years that followed over whether the pieces fit right, at least for reasons other than age. However, the five iterations that succeeded that them had more vulnerabilities, more intricacies, which made them significantly more fascinating and endearing in the same way Batman has always been more compelling than Superman.

The irony and curse of the Doc/KG teams was that aside from Garnett’s mysterious knee ailment in 2009, it was always the younger players around the Big 3 that were felled by injury. The torn ACL of Kendrick Perkins may or may not have swung a title in 2010 while Rajon Rondo’s gruesome elbow injury effectively ended their shot at beating Miami in 2011. I can’t imagine any team has ever lost two players to season-ending heart surgery as Boston did in 2012 and most recently they lost three players (Rondo, Jared Sullinger and Leandro Barbosa) to year-ending injury.

I always considered them the team to beat in the East in that 2010 season. Looking back, it was mostly blind faith, belief in the type of tropes mainstream media so often overuses, but under the strong voice of Rivers and the leadership of Garnett and Pierce, those tropes always felt validated. Of those that fell short of raising the trophy, the 2009 group was probably the best, but the one I always found most befitting of the “What If?” game was the 2010 team because they came the closest and it had the most significance to me personally.

For years, the spastic yet increasingly predictable nature they went through seasons with, a former champion clicking on all cylinders coexisting with an also-ran comprised of fading stars (or in Rondo’s case, mercurial) and bargain bin role players, eerily matched the tide of my own life. Often, it was just little coincidences here and there, the randomness inherent in day-to-day life, but their run to being runners-up and the emotions that accompanied it also coincided with my own. As Boston was beating Dwyane Wade and the Miami Expiring Contracts, followed by upsetting the Cavs with more than a little help from LeBron, I had hit it off with a great girl, at the time the only one to have met my lofty standards. She could hold a deep conversation, the kind that makes you feel like you’re on a higher plane of existence while the rest of the world is frozen in time, her wit rivaled only by her beauty.

Following suit with the Celtics and their almost poetic inevitability to close out Game 7 though, I snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. I felt like I shared a unique pain with them, pain borne out of intertwining the regret of one’s own missteps and the helplessness that comes with plain old bad luck. The absence of one might have been enough to overcome the other but coming up just short leads to those boundless “What if?”s and “What could have been?”s. Being so close to something you want and knowing it will take a while to find again, the temptation is to try recreate that same high, but that rarely works because neither rosters nor people stay static. Life is always changing and succumbing to those thoughts for too long only keeps you from moving on.

Still, a sliver of hope always remained that luck might swing the other way for one last, final, last run for the Celtics. That’s what made the dissolution of what remained such a tough pill to swallow. With Rivers fleeing in an attempt to form the next great Western power and what’s left of Garnett and Pierce off to Brooklyn for one last puncher’s chance, two maybe, to reclaim their abdicated throne, it’s really over. No last dance, no farewell tour, just some fumbled negotiations and a few Wojbombs later and they’d scattered, literally, coast to coast.

The way it ended, combined with the bitterness Allen seemed to harbor a year ago, left me with a familiar feeling: doubting whether what I felt was real. I never considered Allen a traitor for joining Miami, but rather I was disappointed that his relationship with the Celtics ended on such icy terms. Ubuntu was always a little cheesy, but the gossip-laden departures of Allen and Rivers had me contemplating if the values behind it were a mirage.

For a while, falling down the occasional YouTube rabbit hole or catching an old game on TV would summon a sense of melancholy. I’d liken it to watching the first season of Game of Thrones now, knowing how events take a turn for the worse for the Starks. Thinking of Ray Ray hitting all those triples and snapping his fingers the way I find myself reflexively mimicking from time to time or the Nate Robinson/Big Baby “Shrek and Donkey” game from the 2010 Finals brought a bit of solemnity, just as seeing Arya embarrass Joffrey at the river isn’t quite the same knowing the horrors that await her at Harrenhal and the Red Wedding.

I had to remind myself that just because something didn’t end with the desired result doesn’t mean that it wasn’t real. While it’s surely possible that all my thought was for naught, and my feelings were misguided in a Rachel Dawesian manner, my intuition tells me it wasn’t. And all those little moments, like Rondo sneaking into Miami’s huddle, KG’s “Boo Boo go to bed!” sound bite or the range of emotion on Pierce’s face as his elation over beating the Heat in double overtime turned to shock and sadness when told of Rondo’s ACL tear didn‘t lose their authenticity just the story didn’t end happily ever after.

With that era firmly in the rearview, I’ll still root for the Celtics that remain, especially Rondo, my second favorite player behind Rose, and Jeff Green, who I had the pleasure of meeting his rookie year in Seattle. Even more so now, I dream of a Bulls dynasty in Rose’s prime and Seattle getting an expansion team. No matter what happens though, the euphoria that would come with those might eclipse but will never duplicate the feeling of rooting for the 2007-2013 Celtics.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Slipping Into Delirium

Robby Kalland currently covers the Atlanta Hawks for Peachtree Hoops of SB Nation and will be moving to Hawks.com this August. – Ed.

Spending eight days in Las Vegas and watching approximately 32-40 basketball games of varying quality from awful to decent (with the majority leaning to the former) will do strange things to a man.

As I write this, I am sitting on a red-eye flight from Las Vegas to Atlanta. Since first landing in Las Vegas late Saturday night, I’ve lost a good portion of my money and all of my sanity. This week was my first Las Vegas experience and my first Summer League experience. Coming in, I thought the toughest thing would be staying out of casinos and avoiding going bankrupt. I figured watching basketball would be the least of my worries. I even expected basketball to be a respite from the insanity that is Las Vegas.

I was wrong.

The first three or four days of my Summer League were wonderful. I had been experiencing basketball withdrawals since the NBA Finals. I hadn’t seen my Hawks play in over a month. I craved basketball; I NEEDED basketball.

Despite the generally low quality of play, the first few days I thoroughly enjoyed sitting on the baseline watching and observing games. I joyously took in anywhere from 4-8 games a day with my laptop and body in perpetual danger of being taken out by the seemingly ever-present rogue basketball that would exit the court due to an errant pass or air-ball.

Luckily, my laptop and body are leaving Las Vegas unscathed; despite the best efforts of the players and half-time half-court shot contestants.

However, after day three or four, the basketball became monotonous…very monotonous. The bad play that was somewhat endearing early in the week became increasingly frustrating; forcing me to look elsewhere for entertainment.

This search for entertainment led me into the stands, where I hunted down executives, coaches, and players for on and off record conversations. The easy access to these people all in one place that are normally difficult to find is one of the main attractions to Summer League (for some it is the entire reason for going). However, there are still only so many conversations that one can have to avoid watching basketball. By the end of day four, I was running out of distractions, and thus, unknowingly, on the verge of losing my sanity.

Wednesday, my fourth day in Vegas, was when the lack of sleep and constant mediocre basketball really took its toll. It began Tuesday night, when the decision was made to head out to the Hard Rock to meet up with a number of other media members. The night progressed and many beverages were consumed, which, as is inevitable, led to a late-night (or early morning depending on how you look at it) food run. As we left the McDonald’s by the hotel, it donned on us that the next day would be a rough one. Why? This is why.

Daylight was not our friend. After sleeping briefly, we made our way back to UNLV for more basketball. Running on fumes and caffeine we pressed on, just hoping to make it through another day. Around the middle of the afternnon, as I sat in the upper press section of the Thomas & Mack Center, regret began to sink in. Regret that I had stayed out so late. Regret that I was staying in Vegas so long. I quickly learned that I was not alone in having these feelings as I looked down press row at dozens of weary-eyed, downtrodden writers. Some handled the grind well and remained vigilant in their tasks of watching and writing for as long as they could. For others, a state of delirium set in quickly. Those that had been there from the beginning were on their seventh day and struggled to stay mentally invested what was happening on the court. This, again, led to the collective group attempting to find alternative forms of entertainment. This pattern repeated itself over the next four days, as we all attempted to find ways to keep ourselves amused. The most common form of entertainment was to make jokes, puns, or post funny GIFs or images on Twitter to elicit a laugh from the rest of press row. As the week progressed and we entered the final weekend of Summer League, the ratio of basketball analysis to jokes swung dramatically, and the jokes and puns got progressively worse and worse. By the end of the week we had all become so slap-happy, that what was happening on the court became mere background to our musings. Saturday brought the worst of everything, thanks to one unwitting participant: Scoop Jardine. The first game of the day was a quarterfinal that featured the Cleveland Cavaliers and former Syracuse guard Scoop Jardine. We all filed into Thomas & Mack and took our seats in the upper press section and prepared for another eight hours of basketball, knowing full and well that it was the last full day any of us would have to endure. Looking to just press through the day, we watched as the Cavaliers warmed up on our side of the floor. As they warmed up, we took notice of Scoop Jardine, not for his basketball ability, but for the pun-ability of his name. This began the worst four hour stretch of puns ever as we all succumbed to our delirious state, even those that had held out and fought the good fight for so long.

 

 

 

 

Those are just four of the many awful puns that were created by the group of sleep-deprived writers just trying to endure another day. As the day continued, the bad jokes and puns moved on from the initial subject matter of Scoop Jardine and entered entirely new realms of terrible.

That Saturday proved to be the final straw for some. There were those that changed flights to get out of Las Vegas a day or two early, while others decided to skip Sunday’s games and go elsewhere in the city for the day. Both choices were admirable and wise, but I had been claimed by the Summer League beast, caught in its trance.

Another day of basketball awaited me.

Sunday was a mercifully shorter day with just two games and also featured a trimmed down press row as many had left that morning or decided not to come. Those of us left tried our best to stay awake and alert while soaking in two more games. However, despite my best efforts to stay focused, Vegas had claimed my sanity and I stared blankly at the court. My 12:35 AM flight back to Atlanta could not come fast enough.

Las Vegas remains undefeated. It will always take something, whether it is money or sanity (or both), Vegas finds a way. Summer League was an unforgettable experience that was both wonderful and terrible all at the same time, mirroring the city in which it is held.

Now it is time to recuperate and try to regain my sanity, only 350 days until next year, when we get to lose it all over again.

Infinite Joke

 Photo: goodwines | Flickr

Ed. Note: The following is a parody of Dwight Howard’s free agency saga written by friend of the blog Robert Silverman. You can read more from Robert over at TrueHoop Network Sister Site/Brother Blog Knickerblogger. Now sit back, relax, and let the satire consume you.


Contrary to published reports, the Dwightmare isn’t over yet. In a hastily organized press conference at 5am from a remote sub-basement of the purportedly haunted Stanley Hotel in Colorado, Dwight Howard announced that he had not yet made a decision on which team he will sign with because he’s determined to first finish reading David Foster Wallace’s seminal, ground-breaking novel, Infinite Jest.

“I was listening to offers from the Rockets and the Lakers and the Mavericks and the Hawks and I think maybe a Chuck E Cheese franchise rec league team and I just couldn’t make up my mind,” the free agent center stated, looking noticeably disheveled, as if he hadn’t slept in many a night. He continued, “So when I saw this copy of Infinite Jest being used to prop up a rusty, discarded hot water heater, I realized that I’d never actually gotten all the way through it. “

Gobbling fistfuls of Jujubes, Howard added that he had been a long-time fan of Wallace’s work, beginning with Brief Interviews With Hideous Men. “I thought it was about Stan Van Gundy! Hahahahahaha. I’m kidding. Seriously though, then I moved on to his non-fiction stuff—the Lobster thing. And I knew I wanted to read Infinite Jest, but it’s so freaking long. Who has the time?”

And then, like I started and it was really confusing. The narrative keeps jumping around and there’s this whole mishegas with like subsidized time? What’s that? Do you know whether the Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment is before or after the Year of the Trial-Size Dove Bar? I don’t. No one does. And what’s with all these Canadians in wheelchairs? But I was crouched in the corner of the basement and like, I’ve been reading the book non-stop for the last 48 hours. I dunno, maybe more. I totally lost track of time. Subsidized time, get it! And let me tell you, my mind is completely blown. Completely. Totally Blown. Eliminate-my-own-map-type blown.

Howard’s behavior began to grow more feverish and erratic as he continued to outline his ever-increasing passion for David Foster Wallace’s fiction, and his borderline obsessive quest to complete the novel and determine, “What the hell Wallace really wanted to say.”

I mean, I think I’ve got it. Infinite Jest the book IS Infinite Jest the movie. Because of its non-completed arc, inspires the same kind of all-consuming, self-abnegating, addiction in the reader that the characters experience. You hear me? The book itself is something you get hooked on. And yeah, the Hamlet thing, but that’s like totally a red herring. I mean Joelle says it’s a pretentious title, which is totally like Wallace making a meta-critique of his own delusions of grandeur to rewrite freaking Shakespeare.

When asked what he thought of the book’s themes of addictive behavior and an eternal quest for personal pleasure necessarily leading to repetitive, self-destructive behavior, Howard seemed to ignore the question entirely.

I so want to figure out what happened to Hal. Did he eat the fungus or was it the DMZ or is it just withdrawal from marijuana? I like, really need to know the answer, you know. I keep going back and forth and changing my mind and that’s really frustrating, you get me?

Howard added that his current literary inquisition would only ensure that he makes the proper decision in deciding which team to ply his trade with next season.

Look, the suicide thing. You get to a place where Wallace has to be viewed as Kate Gompert, and that’s so freaking reductive, man. Wallace-as-Gompert necessarily forces the reader into a wholly simplistic either/or cage; eviscerating the larger conundrum – I mean it’s so freaking simple that it’s like monstrous, you know – is life worth living? And like if Wallace said no, it isn’t and…I dunno. That just so depresses me.

So I can’t do that. I can’t choose one team and reject another. There’s a third path where I, Dwight Howard, play for all teams and yet none. David would have wanted it that way, I think. I dunno. I keep going back and forth and back and forth. it’s really giving me a case of the Howling Fantods.

Muttering to himself, Howard then abruptly left the podium, furiously highlighting sections and making notes in the corners of his ragged, dog-eared copy.

Right. Yeah. So I just gotta finish this book and then I super-promise. NBA team. Real soon. Legacy. Gonna be champions.

He paused momentarily and began barking at the teeming throng of reporters

Oh yeah. You GOTTA read the footnotes. Don’t skip them or you miss important stuff, like Mike Pemulis getting the boot and…John ‘No Relation’ Wayne dies! It’s in Gately’s precognitive fever-dream. Maybe I should get together a book club and we can all talk this thing out. Morey can come. Kupchak can come.

But not Kobe, ’cause he kinda reminds me of poor old Orin Incandenza.

Awesome, Thanks

#awesomethanks

1. Was that the best Finals you ever watched?

Jack Winter: Unequivocally, yes.  It was the best playoff series I’ve ever seen.

Jared Dubin: Yes.

Derek James: That I have ever watched? Possibly. The ’98 Finals may have been better since it had fewer blowouts in the middle of the series (excluding game three, of course), but other than that it just might be.

Amin Vafa: Yes, yes, yes. Riveted every minute.

Eric Maroun: It’s so tempting due to recency bias to call that the best Finals I’ve ever seen but…OK yeah that was the best Finals I’ve ever seen. It was the two best teams in the NBA going at each other for the maximum number of games that a playoff series can possibly go. It was old guard vs. new guard. It was filled with iconic moments throughout. It was, in short, perfect.

Noam Schiller: Yes. Was too young to fully process those Bulls-Jazz series, and nothing since has come close.

Ananth Pandian: It was phenomenal to watch but stressful for me as I was rooting hard for the Spurs to win.

In recent memory, Dirk winning in the 2011 Finals will always be one of my favorites as he was just unbelievable that series.

Jordan White: Yes. Unequivocally.

BronTIm

2. What was the overriding theme of the season?

Jack: Basketball is smarter and better on both ends of the floor than it’s ever been before.

Jared: The battle of big vs. small. A lot of this season felt like a war for basketball’s soul, with teams like the Heat, Knicks, Rockets, Nuggets and (far too infrequently) Thunder blitzing defenses by going “small” with players who had traditionally played the 3-spot at power forward, while others like the Pacers, Grizzlies, Bulls, Clippers and Spurs mostly stuck to two traditional big men. The conference finals made it momentarily appear as though the small ball trend was about to die off just as quickly as it rose up, but when the Heat and Spurs met in the Finals, both teams shifted down in the back half of the series, and it resulted in beautiful, brilliant basketball. It’s fitting that the last two teams standing were two of the only ones that could easily shift back and forth between lineups featuring two “traditional” bigs and one, while mostly remaining equally effective. It’s even more fitting that the team that started the revolution in the first place was the one that prevailed.

Derek: The guys above me gave some good ones, but health was certainly an overriding theme to the season. The Timberwolves had a promising season derailed by injury and we also saw teams hurt by key absences such as Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Kobe Bryant and several others as well. You look at these Finals and the fact that the Heat and the Spurs somehow managed to be both the best teams and the healthiest teams, and that made a lot of the difference.

Amin: I think the theme of this season was “Life is a journey, not a destination.” This was a year filled with such uncertainty. I mean, yes, if you had to pick a team before the season began to win the NBA title, you’d have picked the Heat. Would you have imagined, though, that it would have ended the way it had? We all thought it was going to be a SuperTeam Lakers vs a SuperTeam Miami Finals, with everyone else in the league being roadkill. What we saw was something completely different. All of the predictions and assumptions I had at the beginning of the year were completely worthless as I watched the season progress. The Harden trade, the Spurs dominance, the Lakers fall from grace (not that they were really graceful), Indiana’s season, the New York Knickerbockers Retirement Community, the Maloofs going bye-bye, the Wizards having a top-10 defense all year, the Cavs picking first in the draft again, the 750 coach firings… I couldn’t have predicted any of it. And I’m so glad I got to see it all.

Eric: Injuries are the worst. Between Rose, Rondo, Westbrook, Irving, Love, Granger, etc. all missing significant time this year, you can’t help but wonder what incredible moments we were robbed of between those guys. In his last year as commissioner, David Stern should really turn the injuries off NBA 2K style.

Noam: 5 years after the Celtics rode completely new defensive principals to the title, those same ideals are either the backbone or supporting tenants of every self sufficient defensive team. Much like the SSoL Suns turning the league into a pick-and-roll, spread offense place, Tom Thibodeau has created a world where pick-and-roll spread offenses are just not enough. I’m fascinated to see where NBA offenses evolve to in the following years as a counterstrike.

Ananth: The Heat are very good. LeBron’s statistical brilliance and their 27 game winning streak seems so far away now but it did actually happen.

Jordan: Smarter basketball. Teams like the Heat, the Pacers, the Spurs and the Nuggets showed what happens when you eschew convention and embrace intelligence.

3. What was your favorite under the radar story of the season?

Jack: It’s not exactly under the radar and relates back to the previous question, but more teams realizing the expected efficiency of certain shots and tailoring offense and defensive strategy to get, limit, prevent and force them.

Jared: The sheer volume of young, athletic wings that blossomed into stars or sub-stars. Paul George and Kawhi Leonard announced themselves as likely All-Stars for the next half decade or so. Nic Batum, Jimmy Butler, Iman Shumpert, Harrison Barnes, Chandler Parsons, and others I’m probably forgetting made convincing arguments that they belong in the next tier, whether with strong regular season play, breakout playoff performances, or both. If the last five years brought the point guard revolution, the next five will bring the wings.

Derek: This may  not be very under the radar, but people appreciating teams like the Golden State Warriors or Indiana Pacers that they hadn’t really been exposed to before. Neat to share in even the casual fans’ newfound admiration for guys like Klay Thompson and Paul George although many of us had those players on our radars already.

Amin: That Miami wasn’t invincible and their victory wasn’t preordained. That’s a story that we saw play out until the last 30 seconds last night. Miami may have won, but they fucking earned it and fought for it. They had a lot of challengers–most importantly Indiana and San Antonio–and the fact that they weren’t invincible made them all the more intriguing to watch.

Eric: That David Stern managed to rig the NBA championship again for the 29th consecuti…*is electrocuted*. But for real, and maybe it’s because I got to see a ton of them due to living in Indianapolis, but the Pacers were really under the radar this year. I don’t feel like anyone really appreciated how good this team was until they pushed the Heat to the brink in the Conference Finals. For a team to be that good with a team constructed the way they were, that is without a high draft pick on their entire roster, was incredibly fun to see.

Noam: I wish there was actually a story of Michael Beasley doing NSFW things under an actual radar so I could make a bad joke, here. But since there isn’t, I’ll go with the re-emergence of the big man in a supposedly centerless world. Even before Roy Hibbert’s excellent conference Finals, we saw excellent regular seasons from Marc Gasol, Brook Lopez, Al Horford, LARRY SANDERS! and Joakim Noah. Andrew Bogut finally looked healthy in the playoffs and affected things dramatically. Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond and Jonas Valanciunas had very encouraging rookie seasons. It’s easy to call it a PG’s league with all the depth the position has, but the big men we have are awesome, even if posting up has become harder and harder against swarming defenses.

Ananth: This happened near the end of the season but John Wall got the Wizards to be a pretty good team in the East. Am interested to see how the Wizards continue to improve with a healthy Wall and another high draft pick next season.

Jordan: The emergence of several young defensive stars: Marc Gasol, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, LARRY SANDERS!

4.
Thoughts?

Jack: Treatment befitting the sports world’s only king.

Jared: It was great right up until Drake started talking. Even the Phil Knight cameo was cool.

Derek: Ugh, Drake? Anyway, considering how people have been talking about him for the past few years I think it’s a pretty bold move to put a phone number of his up there, but it’s probably not going to be any worse than his Twitter mentions. Anything featuring Bill Russell is automatically awesome to me, too.

Amin: Hahahaha what an awesome ad. And they included a phone number in the description so anyone could call and leave a message? That’s some badass marketing, Nike.

Eric: I would pay all of the money to see Warren Buffett’s hook shot.

Noam: Bill Russell’s second (third? Fourth? Fifth?) career as curmudgeony NBA old guy in commercials is hilarious to me. Although, this one is much more in character than him telling Uncle Drew that the game is about buckets.

Ananth: Simple and beautiful but am curious where they picked up a pristine old school answering machine from. Are answering machines going to make a comeback like vinyl?

Jordan: LeBron has made countless of hundreds of millions of dollars. Why is his answering machine from the 1970’s?

5. Where do the Spurs go from here?

Jack: Right back near the top of every preseason forecast for 2014.  This group is hardly done yet, and Kawhi Leonard making even greater strides towards reaching his newly limitless potential is the development that could get San Antonio right back to where they were before Game 7.

Jared: I really, really hope they just run it back one more time. They came too close not to. But I can’t help but feel like the team will look at least a little bit different next season. Pop’s rotation was cut down to about 6.5 guys by the end of the series, so new blood is likely to be infused. Splitter’s a free agent, and he might go get paid elsewhere. Gary Neal and Matt Bonner are free agents, too. Manu… well, we’ll get to that. The starting five probably will be back, and so will Pop, but Budenholzer won’t, and the bench could have a bunch of new characters.

Derek: It looks like they’ll have some cap space, so they might be able to make some moves or bring back the guys that they want to, which will help. I don’t think this is when you blow it up as long as you have a healthy Tony Parker and Tim Duncan, but I think they can still stay the course since there are many other Western Conference teams like Denver, Oklahoma City, and Memphis that are facing some big changes this offseason that may keep San Antonio in the hunt for another year.

Amin: To their cryo-freeze chambers? I dunno. They’re going to have to assess a couple of things on their roster–Manu possibly retiring as the biggest one. I mean, they did everything right. This whole series came down to one possession here or one possession there. San Antonio just has to trust the process that got them this far… and then do a bunch of flagrant fouls. So I guess they need some bruisers like they used to have?

Eric: They’ll use their cap space wisely, find an absolute diamond in the rough with the 28th pick, and reel off a 51-31 season next year because of course they will.

Noam: I believe they give Manu a short, small deal that expires with Duncan’s contract (something to the tune of 2 years 10 million), and then either re-sign Tiago Splitter, or, if he gets too much on the open market (and I think he will), go for a free agent second big. Personally, I’m rooting for Paul Millsap. Then they try and get another guard for cheap and count on continued internal improvement, mostly Kawhi-related.

Ananth: Greg Popovich will always have the same plan, “I get them on the bus. It arrives at the ramp over here. We get off the bus. We go on the court, and we play.”

Jordan: They’ll be fine. The only player they/we should really worry about is Manu Ginobili, whose history of bumps and bruises is unfortunately catching up with him. Luckily, Kawhi Leonard is a star in the making, and will likely take a more prominent role in the offense next year.

Birdman

6. Who is Miami’s biggest challenger next season?

Jack: I’ll cheat – these very Spurs and the looming Thunder.

Jared: In the East – Indiana. In the West…. well, it depends how free agency shakes out, and how long it takes Russell Westbrook’s knee to heal.

Derek: Themselves? A healthy NBA? No, I’m going to say themselves. The Heat have Birdman, Shane Battier, Ray Allen, and Mike Miller who are all vets in their mid-30s that they were key parts to this championship team that they will need to figure out if they can stay healthy andproductive for another season. Figuring out how to conserve Dwyane Wade so he can remain healthy and productive will be integral to their chances next year as well, and so will finding a way to get Chris Bosh involved more just in case anything I mentioned above goes wrong.

Yeah, the Pacers will be back next season, and still should be tough, but they also have matters to address this offseason and the Heat have beaten them two postseasons in a row. Even though the Thunder and Bulls will be healthy you still have to like the Heat’s odds going into next season. Of course, a lot could change through the draft, trades, and free agency, so a dark horse could eventually emerge, but as of now the Heat are their biggest challengers for next season.

Amin: I’m going to say Indiana. They’re on the up-and-up. All they need to do is beef up their bench a bit, and they’re good to go. Especially since all of the scotch tape holding Wade’s joints together will probably peel away by the next time they see each other in the playoffs.

Eric: Indiana, provided they are able to bring back David West. Oklahoma City, provided Westbrook is healthy. And a hypothetical team that somehow manages to land both Dwight Howard and Chris Paul this summer.

Noam: Can I wait to see where Dwight Howard is and how healthy he is? Because I think the answer could be Houston if the Dwightness aligns himself correctly. Ditto for Derrick Rose/Chicago’s offseason. Otherwise, usual suspects – OKC, Spurs again, Clippers (maybe?), Pacers (maybe?).

Ananth: Themselves, right? Be interesting to see what happens to their bench especially if Shane Battier and perhaps Mike Miller retires.

In the East right now it is the Pacers and in the West the vengeful Thunder and Spurs.

Jordan: The Pacers. They gave Miami a hell of a series, and seem to be best equipped to dethrone the Heat.

7.

Jack: God, let’s all hope not.  I was openly pulling for Manu down the stretch, trying to will errant passes to his teammates and stray shots through the net with audible cheers of encouragement.  The league won’t feel right without him, and he showed a few fleeting glimpses in Game 7 of the player we’ll all remember him as.  Manu can’t go out like this, and I don’t think he will.

Jared: I hope not, but I fear he might be. The last two games were just so sad. I’d hate for him to go out that way, but he just looked exhausted. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him hang up his kicks for good.

Derek: Finished as the Ginobili that we’ve long-known, yes. He’s 35 years old, missed 32 and 22 games the last two seasons, no longer a starter, and his diminishing production makes it hard to keep playing him even 25 minutes per game anymore. Perhaps the Spurs can still extract some more out of him by diminishing his role further and hoping that Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green can step up to make up for it.

Amin: No. The thing I liked most about Ginobili in this series was that he was basically the counterpart to Wade. Both of those guys have bodies that betray their spirits, and they’re going to (have to) figure out ways to preserve themselves. I think they can both do it.

Eric: I want to say no in the worst way possible but yes, I think this is the end of the line for him. These last two games were so hard to watch. I was nervous for the Spurs every time he set foot on the court Tuesday and Thursday. He may continue to play another season or two, but he’s finished as far as being a guy you can count on as part of San Antonio’s Big 3 is concerned.

Noam: I don’t think he’s finished, but I expect a diminished role from him going forward. He can still contribute – his “horrendous” Game 7 was an 18-3-5 affair on 12 shots – but he can no longer consistently fill the role of secondary creator offensively.

Ananth: Ginobili won’t stop playing until the fat man sings and since the NBA on TNT won’t return till next season, Manu will still be around.

Jordan: I can’t answer this question right now. It’s too tough to see such a brilliant and creative player decline so sharply. I don’t think he’s finished, but I don’t think he improves from his current state. Maybe, at the beginning of the season, we’ll see some vintage Manu, but the toll of an 82 game season may be too much.

8. Describe your personal season at HP in exactly six words.

Jack: “Better to be timely than good.”

Jared: I hope we didn’t embarrass Matt.

Derek: Excuse me, I’m new around here.

Amin: Started from the bottom; now we’re here.

Eric: Lion Face, Lemon Face, 15 Footers.

Noam: I don’t understand what’s going on.

Ananth: Chelsea Peretti tumblr-ed something I wrote.

Jordan: Awesome Thanks Connect Four Beef Magnet

9.

Jack: Yes.  They’ll get another dogged fight from Indiana and Chicago remains a potential sleeping giant, but betting against LeBron James these days seems unwise.

Jared: Sigh. Yeah. Fuck Pat Riley, man.

Derek: It’s not LeBron I’m worried about being up for the challenge of a fourth consecutive trip. No, I’m more concerned about their role players being able to help them get back there. Obviously, they’ll still be a great team, but with the age of many of their key players (Allen, Birdman, Miller…etc.), as well as keeping Dwyane Wade healthy for another long run, the Heat do have some strategizing to do. If their vets can stay productive and healthy while LeBron keeps doing other worldly things, then they can get back here again.

Amin: I think this depends on Wade’s health and Bosh’s contributions. But it’s definitely possible.

Eric: Can we wait til we see how free agency and the draft shakes out first before answering? Oh this post is going up in an hour or so? OK then. Then yes, yes they will.

Noam: It’s so, so early to answer that question… but since our society requires immediate reactions I’ll go out on a limb and say yes.

Ananth: Probably, but it depends on so many factors, didn’t most of the general public think the Thunder were going to be in the Finals again this year?

Jordan: Yes, but I say that with a very low confidence level. The Pacers could very well be the Roy Hibbert-manned wall that prevents the Heat from their fourth straight appearance.

A Vast Sea of Helplessness

bogenfreund | Flickr

Ed. Note: Evans Clinchy is a Bostonian and active member of the hoops blogosphere. He’s been covering the Celtics for nearly four years, with his writing appearing on CelticsBlog, NESN, and SI (among other places). You can follow him, his thoughts, and his writing on Twitter. He wrote this piece after the Pacers came up short in Monday night’s Game 7 against the Heat.

Quite possibly the most prevalent bit of NBA conventional wisdom, right up there with such nuggets of genius as “You can’t teach height” and “Defense wins championships,” is the idea that there’s nothing worse than being a middling team and falling into an endless loop of first-round playoff exits. Everyone knows the peril of basketball purgatory — if you’re too good to fall into the lottery and too bad to be a serious championship threat, there’s no way out, and you’re doomed to mediocrity forever.

The Indiana Pacers worked for years to disprove this theory. After the Malice at the Palace fomented the downfall of a legitimate contender in 2004, the franchise proceeded to endure eight straight seasons in the middle, never winning fewer than 32 games or more than 44. During that time, not once did they win multiple playoff rounds, and not once did they make a draft pick higher than 10th

It was really, really hard for Indy to break out of that funk. The aforementioned No. 10 draft pick was Paul George in 2010; they traded the No. 15 a year later for George Hill. Add those pieces to a foundation of Danny Granger (remember him?) and Roy Hibbert, then throw in a timely free-agent signing in David West, and you’ve got yourself a finally-better-than-mediocre basketball team.

After nearly a decade, the Pacers had finally built something they could be proud of.

At least it appeared that way. But what happened last night makes you rethink things a little bit.

To the Pacers’ credit, they pushed the Miami Heat to seven games in these Eastern Conference finals, which is something virtually no one expected any team to do this spring. The mighty Heat, winners of 27 consecutive games just a couple months ago, were pushed to the brink of elimination, and that’s something George and Hibbert and the rest of the Pacers can tell their grandchildren someday.

But how depressing is it to think that a seven-game exit was probably the Pacers’ ceiling? That no matter how “interesting” things began to look at certain points over these last two weeks, the chances of Indy actually winning this series in the end were precisely 0.00000 percent all along? That no matter how shrewdly constructed this Pacer team was, no matter how well coached they were, no matter how hard they fought to unseat the Heat as East champs, there was simply no out-talenting the unbelievable talent that is LeBron James?

That’s pretty damn depressing if you ask me. The Pacers worked for years and years to build themselves into something other than a first-round exit team. But ultimately, what’s the difference between a first-round exit and a third-round exit? In a league where rings are everything, a conference finals berth is nothing.

This is where we’re at. This is what LeBron’s relentless LeBronniness has done to the NBA. It’s left the other 29 teams in the league, some of them very good teams relative to the other squads comprised by mere mortals, wondering… what’s the point?

I suppose there’s some pride to be had in playing seven competitive, highly watchable games against the best team in the universe. The Pacers were one fluky 3-point shooting performance away from stealing Miami’s perch atop the East, and that’s saying something. Only it’s kinda not. Watching this series, you had this tingling sense that a Heat victory was a foregone conclusion, even when the Pacers tied it 1-1, then 2-2, then 3-3. LeBron was never really going to lose this one.

Basketball purists trumpeted this series as a potentially legendary one, a picture-perfect matchup of hoops yin and yang. You had the stylistic clash of an athletic, running, gunning supersquad and an old-school defensive team led by an old-school defensive big man. It was a beautiful sentiment. Beautiful, but baloney. This wasn’t a Taoist equilibrium — this was a food chain. The Heat were built to devour the Pacers, and devour them they did.

It’s hard not to feel bad for the Pacers. They’re a likable group of guys, an unassuming team from an unassuming town, they worked hard to reach this point, and they never had a chance.

The irony is that largely, this team was built by Larry Bird, the quintessential competitor, the guy who famously walked into the building for a 3-point shootout and asked the rest of the field, “Which one of you’s coming in second place?”

In the Eastern Conference, it’s the Pacers coming in second. Not only now, but it wouldn’t surprise a soul if they wound up right back here again next year, and the year after, and the year after that.

Indiana spent nine years building a team that was better than mediocre. But in the end, all they reached was a different kind of purgatory.

Thanks, LeBron. Thanks, Miami. As long as you’re around, everyone is mediocre.

We’ve read this story before

Photo: Kyle Slattery | Flickr

Ed. Note: Evans Clinchy is a Bostonian and active member of the hoops blogosphere. He’s been covering the Celtics for nearly four years, with his writing appearing on CelticsBlog, NESN, and SI (among other places). You can follow him, his thoughts, and his writing on Twitter. He wrote this piece after the Spurs defeated the Warriors last night to advance to the Western Conference Finals.

Assuming you have a human heart that pumps blood and a pair of human eyes that have been anywhere near a TV screen the last week and a half, you’ve probably found yourself drawn to the Golden State Warriors. How could you not? This team is new. Refreshing. At times flat-out electrifying. A year ago, they were in the lottery, and now they’re on national TV fighting deep into the playoffs.

Everything has changed since the Warriors rose to power. Klay Thompson is now a borderline household name, Mark Jackson has supplanted Al Sharpton as America’s favorite overdramatic preacher, and Stephen Curry has emerged as one of the top [insert ridiculously hyperbolically small number here] players in the NBA. The Warriors grabbed America’s attention and refused to let go. Now the Warriors are done, and America weeps.

Well, most of America does. In a way, I find myself relieved.

Let me clarify that I come at this from a position of impartiality, more or less. I’m from Boston and have no attachment to either city involved — I’m obsessed with all 30 NBA teams, but I have no particular emotional investment with either Oakland or San Antonio. It’s not about that. A win for the Spurs, while it may be a significant blow to novelty and excitement and perhaps even overall happiness, is a win for what makes the NBA the NBA.

That’s depressing, I know. So many series like this are. When you have a young team like Golden State and a seasoned one like San Antonio going head to head for seven games, it has “fait accompli” written all over it, and that doesn’t make for good TV. There’s nothing quite like a grind-it-out Spurs win for making the casual fan change the channel.

Let them.

If you really love this league, you appreciate that the Spurs are the Spurs, and you find comfort in the fact that they do this every May. A good Spurs playoff team is like your favorite book — you can reread it every spring, and it’ll never get old, because you can’t wait to rediscover every little nuance all over again.

You love the quiet, subtle, understated leadership that Tim Duncan has symbolized for the last 15 years. You love the crafty pick-and-roll artistry that Tony Parker brings to every game, regardless of the matchup. You love that Manu Ginobili, no matter how many injuries and shooting slumps and “Is he washed up?” debates he endures, somehow keeps doing Manu Ginobili things. You love that this team somehow takes spare parts that couldn’t cut it in Cleveland or Charlotte and turns them into valuable playoff role players. You even love that Gregg Popovich is kind of a dick, because let’s be honest — he’s the best in the world at this, and he’s earned the right to be kind of a dick.

These are the things we come to expect from the Spurs every year, and to get anything different would be oddly unsettling. When I pick up that dog-eared paperback of The Sun Also Rises and reread it every year, I’m not doing it to discover the alternate ending where Jake gets the girl and everyone lives happily ever after.

Pro basketball is an exact science, and the great teams are the ones who have figured it out. Steph and Klay are the experiment, but Pop and Duncan are the control. They’re the baseline. They’re proven, and they’re not going anywhere. You want unpredictable? Fine. Go watch March Madness.

Those who eat, sleep, breathe and dream NBA don’t do it for the entertainment. We do it for the excellence. If you’re the best, you deserve to be rewarded over and over and over again. Watching a rerun is never a bad thing — in fact, repetition is what it’s all about.

That’s not true of any other sport. Quick — how many rings did Willie Mays win? Three… two… one… buzzer. Too late. No one’s obsessing over that one, though. But we know that Duncan has four, and Magic Johnson five, and Michael Jordan six, and Bill Russell eleven. Those numbers matter. In fact, you could argue they’re the only ones that stand the test of time.

That’s the real reason we watch the NBA playoffs. Rounds one and two might be about surprises and upsets and whatnot, but the deeper you get, the more you cherish the opportunity to watch greatness.

If you miss the Warriors, that’s fine. I can’t blame you. But Steph Curry and the gang will be back in October. In the meantime, let’s settle in and enjoy true May basketball.

An Open Letter to Jason Collins

Photo via Bearseye | Flickr

Ed. note: The following guest post is an open letter from Eric Buenning to Jason Collins. A little about the author: Eric Buenning once won a pair of signed shoes from Larry Sanders, but never received them. He now spends his time either blogging, embarrassing himself on twitter, or learning how to break dance.

Dear Jason,

There have been a myriad of emotions since your decision to come out as the first openly gay active athlete, but there is one emotion I’d especially like to express to you.  That would be gratitude.  I want to thank you for what you did on Monday.

You do not know me, and I do not know you.  We probably do not have a lot in common.  You, being the millionaire athlete, me being the million-calorie couch potato.  You, being the finely- tuned physical specimen playing sports for a living, me being proud of walking up multiple flights of stairs without losing my breath.  Most importantly, you being the one courageous enough to put yourself out there in the face of certain backlash while I wouldn’t dream of doing something so forward thinking.  For that last reason alone, I want to thank you.

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”
– Harper Lee

Thank you for showing us what real courage is all about. We could have sat here and talked about how brave player x was going to be for coming out or whether society was going to be ready it if and when it did happen until we were blue in the face.  You did not wait for society to become ‘’accepting.’’  They didn’t need to.  As long as you had become comfortable in your own skin, it didn’t matter what any of us thought.  You were, as you put it, ‘’complete,’’ and the rest of your life would fall into place.  That’s an unfathomable degree of courage, one that only fits the bill of a hero.  For that again, I am grateful to you.

I will never understand what it takes to come out to friends, family, teammates, coaches, or anyone else one might encounter.  I am a straight, Christian male who will never go down that avenue.  I am however, riddled with flaws and have my own demons that are hard to overcome at times.  Though what I call ‘’demons’’ doesn’t exactly compete with what you revealed Monday, I feel the need to thank you because the ripple effect you created may extend further than just getting other players to embrace their sexuality.

With a ripple effect, there the initial splash that everyone sees.  It’s the image we associate with the “bloop” sound when a rock enters the depths of the water receiving it. It is arguably the most noteworthy part of the experience.  In a moment’s notice, however, multiple wave-formed ripples are formed and extend beyond the boundaries of the initial splash.

Jason, you may not have thought about how many various capillary waves you have created here, but I want to thank you for being the splash that started it all.  Sure, the hope here is that more closeted athletes will not have to live in fear of being ostracized by their sporting communities, but I hope you can understand what this act does for those that are bullied physically and mentally, harassed, left out, or made to feel inferior in any way possible on an everyday basis because of who or what they identify with.  As a result of your bravery, these people can realize that they also do not have to live in fear of themselves.  Who they are is a particular blend of unique characteristics unlike anything anyone has ever seen.  They don’t have to shy away from it anymore.  They can fully embrace it.  They too, can be complete, and you helped encourage that.

Thank you, Jason Collins for not only being brave enough to put yourself out there, but also being fearless enough to serve as a forerunner for acts of courage like this to hopefully become more commonplace in future days, months, and years to come.

-Eric

A Return to Normalcy

Photo: Werner Kunz | Flickr

Ed. Note: Evans Clinchy is a Bostonian and active member of the hoops blogosphere. He’s been covering the Celtics for nearly four years, with his writing appearing on CelticsBlog, NESN, and SI (among other places). You can follow him, his thoughts, and his writing on Twitter. He wrote this piece before the start of the Knicks-Celtics series this past weekend.

After taking a good, solid 96 hours or so to process all the thoughts and emotions brought about by the disaster that unfolded Monday afternoon in Copley Square, I was struck by an odd realization: The rhetoric we use to cope when tragedy strikes isn’t so terribly far removed from the basic sportswriting tropes that columnists fall back on when a deadline looms minutes away and they’re struggling to find meaning.

Grit. Grind. Perseverance. Resilience.

Especially in Boston, we’re no stranger to these buzzwords. Every time Rob Gronkowski plays through a nasty injury or Dustin Pedroia gets a little dirty breaking up a double play, we hear them. Sports journalism is a constant quest to assign narrative value to random, fluky, unpredictable events, and when we can’t really make sense of something, there are always easy lexical crutches to lean on.

Boston is tough. Boston has a will to survive. Boston can’t be defeated.

When you hear this stuff in a sports context, it’s no big deal. A little hacky and clichéd, sure, but it’s just sports and none of this really matters, so we’re able to let it slide.

But when you start applying these words to events like Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings, which ended three lives and injured 183? Then it becomes a little difficult to swallow.

Everyone has been throwing around verbiage about the heart and determination of Boston. We’ve heard it from our athletes, our celebrities, our random Twitter friends — hell, even our president. Barack Obama came to Boston on Thursday and gave a stirring speech, one that many are calling the finest oratorical moment of his presidency, in which he talked about how the marathon bombers “picked the wrong city” and that Boston has the resolve to “finish the race.”

It sounds great in a figurative sense, until you realize that thousands of runners quite literally did not finish the race on Monday afternoon, and that since we’re all humans here, every city is the “wrong city.” Obama’s speech was great, but it was only that — a speech. Words are ultimately meaningless. They don’t bring back Krystle Campbell, Lu Lingzi or Martin Richard; they don’t keep criminals off the streets; they don’t undo history. What happened Monday happened, and no one can change it.

Speaking of empty gestures (and getting to the point, since this is a basketball blog and you’ve already read 400ish words that have very little to do with basketball), there’s been a growing sentiment that as the Celtics begin the NBA playoffs this weekend, fans will support their cause in a display of solidarity with the people of Boston. It’s even been suggested — by a New York media outlet, no less! — that the Celtics are now “America’s team,” that the nation will rally behind the C’s from now until the moment they’re eliminated.

To that, I say: Thanks, America, but no thanks.

Rooting for our sports teams won’t make a difference. It won’t erase what happened Monday. It will simply add to the never-ending pity party, and that’s the last thing this city needs.

Especially during playoff time.

The other great cliché here, besides the one about grit and grind and all that, is that sports are supposed to be a distraction. We watch the games because they’re not real life — they help us get our minds off of everything that really matters, if only for a couple of hours. So once the ball goes up and the Celtics open the Eastern Conference playoffs this weekend, why would we want any sympathy? The sympathy is exactly what we’re trying to forget.

Basketball is not life. It has no terrorists or bombs or manhunts. It’s a diversion. It’s entertainment. And why does it entertain us so? Because we all love friendly rivalry. We watch the games for the trash talk, and the hard fouls, and the guys dunking in each other’s faces. Basketball is war, but it’s fake war. At the end of the day, we’re watching adults play a kid’s game, and it’s OK when things get heated, because that only adds to the fun. No one has their limbs blown off on the Garden parquet.

What’s perfect about the Celtics’ playoff run is that it begins against the Knicks. Boston and New York have both been through tragedy, and thus they know some things are more important than basketball — but they’re also great rivals, so when they do happen to be engaged in a sporting event, it’s the best fake war you can ask for. The Sox and Yanks go back to the sale of the Bambino. Pats-Jets has been great since the start of the Rex Ryan era. Celtics-Knicks… well, there was that time Kevin Garnett said that thing about that breakfast cereal.

Jon Stewart this week referred to Boston and New York as a “sibling rivalry,” noting that “oftentimes the two cities are accusing each other of various levels of suckitude.” I can’t say it better myself, so I don’t know why I’m trying. But the point is this: The Knicks are a perfect opponent for this first-round series. New York will feel your pain, sympathize for your loss, then take the court and try to kick your ass. That’s exactly how it should be.

Here’s what should happen starting with Game 1 on Saturday afternoon. KG and Carmelo Anthony should take their trash talk to all-new, never-before-seen heights. The Knicks should foul Paul Pierce, hard, right in his sore left ankle, and the Celtics should respond with a healthy shove to the bulging disc in Tyson Chandler’s back. Jason Terry and J.R. Smith should trade monster 3-pointers all series long. These two teams should beat the living daylights out of each other for six games at the very least, preferably seven, and it should be fantastic theater from the opening tip to the final buzzer. We deserve that. It won’t make us forget that Monday ever happened, but it will certainly brighten our moods a little bit, if only for a couple of hours.

Doc Rivers responded to Monday’s disaster by telling reporters at practice, “You don’t stop the spirit of Boston.”  In a general sense, I’m not sure what that means. But in the sporting world, it’s clear — Boston plays hard, Boston fights dirty, and Boston loves to be hated. Even now.

The Celtics don’t need an entire country to unify behind them. Their own fans will band together, that’s for sure — but as for everyone else, screw ‘em. Let ‘em boo. In fact, I hope they boo louder than ever.

Gunner Power Rankings

Photo: Mark Runyon | Basketball Schedule

Ed. Note: The following is a guest post by Ryan Weisert. You can find more work by Ryan at TrueHoop sister site (brother blog?) Valley of the Suns and on his own Pop Culture blog. Follow him on Twitter to read more of his pretty damn entertaining musings.

Gunners. Players who do nothing on offense but shoot and score. When they’re on, we love to watch them. When they’re off, we love to hate them. And all the while, advanced stats tell us they do more harm than good. But sometimes advanced stats take the fun out of the game. Sometimes a guy chucking off-balance 20-footers is more fun to watch than ruthless efficiency. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, gunners have a place in the NBA.

But who is the biggest gunner of them all? How do we rank and quantify the “achievements” of those whom advanced stats have sought to expose? I give you the Gunner Rating.

Gunner Rating = (% of possessions ending in a missed FG) – (Assist Rate) – (Offensive Rebound Rate)

Essentially, the Gunner Rating is the % of possessions a player has a net negative effect on offense. Gunners miss a lot of shots, but unlike other, more well-rounded players, gunners don’t typically contribute in other ways like finding teammates for open shots or crashing the boards.

It should be noted that missed shots where the player earned free throws were not counted in the missed FG part of the equation, because getting to the line is generally a positive outcome (for everyone except Dwight Howard and the Denver Nuggets.) I applied this formula to every player in the NBA averaging at least 10 shots attempts per game. Here is the Top 10 list I came back with. I’ve included each player’s Gunner Rating and PER. (Stats compiled from ESPN.com and NBAWowy.com. Updated through the end of the regular season.

Rank

Name

Gunner Rating

PER

1

Carmelo Anthony

11.2%

24.83

2

Andrea Bargnani

9.9%

11.27

3

Michael Beasley

9.7%

10.91

4

Ben Gordon

9.7%

12.74

5

Marcus Thornton

9.0%

16.32

6

Rudy Gay

8.9%

15.66

7

J.R. Smith

8.7%

17.67

8

Eric Gordon

8.5%

15.43

9

Jamal Crawford

8.4%

16.89

10

Klay Thompson

8.3%

12.71

The first thing that stands out on this list is Carmelo Anthony. He’s the biggest gunner in the league by a fairly wide margin, but while the rest of his gunner colleagues are sporting an average or below-average PER, Melo has the fourth-highest PER in the league. His PER is strong for a variety of reasons. He leads the league in usage rate. He gets to the free throw line a ton. He rebounds quite well on the defensive end, and doesn’t turn the ball over. Plus, eventhough he shoots less than 45% from the field in the regular season, Anthony takes and makes so many threes that his eFG% is still very respectable. All that said he’s still an unrelenting gunner.

Consider this: Carmelo Anthony missed more shots (820) this year in just 67 games than anyone on the Lakers active roster attempted save Metta World Peace (823). More than 17% of Carmelo’s possessions this season ended in a missed shot. It takes a lot of bricks to build a scoring title trophy.

Another thing that stands out on this list is perhaps the names that aren’t on it. Kobe Bryant and Monta Ellis seem auspiciously absent. When I first crunched the numbers, I thought I had made a mistake when Bryant and Ellis were far outside the Top 10. But when I looked more closely, I saw that Kobe and Monta’s assist rates (7.9 and 8.2 respectively) were far too high to crack this list.

Michael Beasley warrants special mention in this post because he just achieved something so gunner-tastic, I previously thought it was impossible. His first year in Phoenix ended with more shot attempts than points. As a writer for Valley of the Suns, I can personally attest that Beasley was no fun to watch for much of the year, but even I didn’t imagine he was this bad.

Another gunner characteristic not captured in the formula above is shot selection. Most gunners have never seen a shot they wouldn’t take, and for many, that means long 2-pointers are a big part of their scoring attack. Here’s the formula adjusted to factor in missed long 2’s (essentially double-penalizing them):

ADJ Gunner Rating: (% of possessions ending in a missed FG) + (% of possessions ending in a missed Long 2) – (Assist Rate) – (Offensive Rebound Rate)

And here’s the adjusted Top 10:

Rank

Name

ADJ Gunner Rating

PER

1

Ben Gordon

15.6%

12.74

2

Carmelo Anthony

15.0%

24.83

3

Michael Beasley

14.3%

11.27

4

Andrea Bargnani

14.3%

10.91

5

Rudy Gay

12.3%

15.66

6

J.R. Smith

12.3%

17.67

7

Eric Gordon

12.2%

15.43

8

Jamal Crawford

11.9%

16.89

9

DeMar DeRozan

11.8%

14.81

10

Glen Davis

11.7%

15.09

Eight of the original names stay the same after factoring in missed long 2’s. Ben Gordon, who led the league in % of possession ending in a missed long 2 (5.9%), vaults past Carmelo in the adjusted rankings. Apparently Gordon’s involved in some sort of wager to see how many bad shots he can miss before Michael Jordan will have him killed. The new names at the bottom of the list are DeMar DeRozan and Glen Davis. Davis is no surprise as his limited athleticism pushes far outside the paint to find shots, but DeRozan is somewhat of a surprise. With his athleticism, it seems logical that DeRozan would prefer getting to the rim over 22-footers, but that is not the case. With the exception of LaMarcus Aldridge, no one in the NBA took and missed as many long 2’s this year as DeRozan. Aldridge ranked 11th in the adjusted gunner ratings.

Davis and DeRozan supplanted Marcus Thornton and Klay Thompson, both of who take shockingly few long 2’s.

What’s most interesting about this list is the number of guys on it who are getting crunch time minutes in the playoffs. J.R. Smith and Anthony are the keys to the Knicks’ offense. Likewise, the Clippers heavily rely on Jamal Crawford’s and his 16.5 points a night. Despite the fact that advanced stats have served mostly to point out their flaws, gunners, because of their confidence, fearlessness, and ability to create instant offense for their teams will always have a place in this league. And the NBA is better for it.