Hornets Hype

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Archive for May, 2009

Probably a lot of you that read this site enjoy Yahoo’s Ball Don’t Lie.  I do.  Big fan of The Basketball Jones, too.  But I caught a video they posted the other day, “Where Amazing Caucasian Happens,” a parody of Kanye West’s alleged-song, “Amazing.”  Honestly, I get that it’s a joke.  But beyond that, I think it bothered me.  The very premise that whites are worse athletes than blacks is ingrained deeper than this parody, and obviously is the thing upon which it relied.

To begin with, it is an outdated paradigm: whites-blacks.  The NBA, like America itself, is a multicultural thing, with a growing number of foreign players.  How do they fit in?  What about mixed heritage players?  I mean, seriously, there are few blacks in America as richly dark as persons born in Africa today, and few whites in America as pale as Swedes.  But why even get caught up in distinction?  Does it matter?  I don’t think so.

When Kobe broke out as a star, he emerged from a League that had a thug-like reputation.  What made him stand out wasn’t the color of his skin.  It was being brought up in an upper-middle class, suburban neighborhood, being well educated, and traveling the world at a young age; despite not going to college, he’s probably been better schooled than a lot of athletes who went to college.   I mean, contrast that to the out of court college experiences of Jason Williams, who got kicked out of one of the most prestigious college sports teams in the country for repeated violations of the drug policy, i.e., he liked the Weed.  So he jumped straight to the NBA with amazing raw physical talent, made highlight passes left and right, and talked with that Southern-ghetto accent.  Oh yeah, and he was white.  Yet his nickname, “White Chocolate.”  I don’t think I have to explain the correlation.  Both of these players inverted the extreme stereotypes that people have of certain races, and showed that it was a person’s actions that mattered most, and that anyone, of any race, if put in the right or wrong situation, could exemplify the best or worst of any attribute, race be damned.

From Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation's "White Men Can't Jump" (1992)Here’s the bottom line.  We do studies and track data and make all these distinctions by race.  But what is “race”?  Why are Hispanics not Caucasians?  They developed from Spaniards, like early Americans were French or American.  Are people in Spain today not “white”?  What even is “black”?  Not that long ago, in a famous case here in Louisiana, a woman discovered she was legally black because she was 1/36 black.  Not sure if that law is still on the books.  But think of it, how “mixed” people are considered to belong to whatever race the minority distinction in their blood inheres.  It’s more latent racism, that only “pure” members of the race count.  Crazy.

My point?  It’s irrelevant.  I try never to think of or even acknowledge race.  Sure, the guy standing in the third row with the pale skin.  The black lady walking past George Shinn’s seats.  There’s no shame in describing someone’s appearance, just like there’s no problem acknowledging the color of a person’s eyes.  But as if it means anything?  Nope.  It’s all how you are educated, how you choose to develop, and how you carry yourself.  For those of us that pretend these things are inherently related, it’s just lazy correlation.  As a convenient side-bonus, it enables people to forget the real and more complicated problems: unequal education, low wages vs. out-of-control inflation, and lack of health care coverage.

But that’s just me.  Yeah, I get this video was a joke.  But it’s also an implicit acknowledgment of how we perceive race relations.  I just think that time will erase all such artificial distinctions.  But who wants to wait that long?  Sorry.  Now back to your regularly scheduled NBA-blog.

So yesterday afternoon I was joking around that, instead of my regular snarky one-liners on Twitter during the game, I would comment upon Cavs/Magic Game 4 entirely in haiku. Well, this didn’t quite pan out the way I expected, since one of my domains got hit by a spammer from Sweden who generated 150,000 spam comments and caused my entire account, including this blog, to be suspended by my host. If you came here last night, you might have noticed the fact that the site was, you know, missing. Sorry about that. It’s fixed now. But it caused me to be on the phone with tech support and as a result I missed most of the game.

Skill. I haz it.True to my word, though, I hopped on Twitter with around 3 minutes left in the fourth quarter and did live game commentary through the rest of regulation and overtime entirely in haiku. I decided to put all my haikus together, just for fun:

1.
Dougie loves LeBron
but that pesky man named Skip
oh he’s just a friend

2.
Superman at line
strangely strong under pressure
hit one to close out!

3.
Rafer is so clutch
oh wait forget I said that
jack another one

4.
GET THE DAMN REBOUND
IT’S OUT OFF OF DELONTE
lucky break Magic

5.
Not too much time left
live or die by the jumper
time to live or die

6.
Come on Feel the Noise
watcha gonna do Magic
inbound play is key

7.
Swish goes the clutch shot
so this makes Rashard Lewis
King of what Kingdom???

8.
M-FING BULLSHIT
he tripped over his own feet
travesty ends not

9.
“What it comes down to”
“is Cavs are inferior”
“wasting our time” – M

10.
Fatigue a factor?
how bout monstrous ass screwings
by men in gray shirts?

11.
DUNK THAT SHIT DUH-WIGHT
the only way to live now
is fight through this hard!

12.
Holy MF shit
was that shot from in orbit?
make your own fate now

13.
They don’t need no crowns
these Magic know how to make
their own destiny

14.
“I’ll tell you how big”
“that play was,” says Doug– wait Doug
how big was what now?

15.
Clutcheriffic Dwight
tune it out with the music
that plays in your head

16.
Chosen One watches
as a taller star is made
in these late moments

17.
In an apartment
somewhere in corporate land
two puppets are sad

The Discourse of Lebron.

By on May 24, 2009

We all got played.  Have you ever seen a good Lebron Raymone James (“LRJ”) shot and turned to a friend, and just said, “Witness, dude.  Witness.”  Have you called him the “Chosen One?”  How about “King James”?  (I prefer Viscount James, but I disgress.)  Well, you got played.  In politics, business, and law, masters of language work hard to control the language, because when you control the words people use, you limit the choices available to those people.

A quick example.  Politicians love the term “Tax Relief” when they’re for tax cuts.  Why?  Because “relief” implies a malady which needs a cure.  How could anyone be against curing the tax “ills” of America?  Boom.  The language does exist to oppose that.  But if you re-frame the argument in terms of fiscal responsibility, and dispute the very use of the term, “relief” as loaded and avoiding the real issues inherent to taxation you can argue effectively by supplying a new language for the discourse.  Advertising does it all the time by using trademarks.  Product X has the new “SafeClean” system.  1) The company brags that no other product has it, which is crazy, because the “it” is a trademark, thus no one else can have it; and 2) people just accept that this product is actually “safe” because it has that word in the product description, which, technically doesn’t mean shit, it’s a name.  But people don’t look beyond the product name and how it’s packaged and are fooled.  My basketball point?  LRJ and his people are exactly those kinds of masters of language and we’ve all been clowned.
 

Art by Andre Moore

Art by Andre Moore

Bron-Bron tattoos himself with all his monikers and his publicity people put them out there, as ubiquitous as air and as often appearing as a bad Craig Seger suit: every time.  Then Nike puts it out there.  Then Vitamin Water puts it out there.  But what’s really unforgivable is that the national media does it.  This should be no different than when the news media was excoriated for using the term “Maverick” to describe John McCain, when his camp was the one to invent the term, and which was largely misleading because he voted with President Bush 90% of the time.  (Can you imagine if so-called objective pundits had said “Yes We Can” cover Obama’s campaign?  It was his slogan, so to have incorporated that language into anything other than the description of that slogan would have been ridiculous.)  My point here is that sportswriters should never use the terms “Witness,” “Chosen One,” or the like  in their articles.

Nonetheless, we get stuff like this, allowing the “Chosen One” metaphor to get out of control:

It changes the way we think of him, makes you want to proclaim, “He is ‘The One,’” as when Neo came back to life and made the bullets stop in “The Matrix.” From now on, anything and everything seems possible with LeBron. – J.A. Adande, ESPN.

Now to be clear, no beef against J.A., I like his work.  But really?  Does this mean LRJ is going to start shooting all his shots from the opposite baseline just because he can?  Don’t hold your breath.  LRJ is no messiah, just a good baller.  Maybe he should just start with free throws.

Here’s another one:

As if once wasn’t enough, the Orlando Magic were forced to watch LeBron James’ amazing buzzer-beater all day yesterday.  The Magic were witnesses all right. Again. And again. And again. – AP Report, Boston Herald.

Seriously, do journalists work for Nike?  It’s crazy.  We need to think about this, seriously.  The Big Nickname himself, Shaq, has more names than he knows what to do with, but they’re not nearly as self-promoting.  The Big Aristotle: trying to show he’s a thinker, not just a dumb giant.  It means something.  The Big Cactus: just a joke on the former nickname.  Dwayne Wade?  Shaq called him Flash to his Superman.  Okay, Superman’s a little self-involved, but it’s also not selling anything.  How about Kobe?  Black Mamba.  First of all, everyone made fun of it before it finally stuck.  Second, it’s supposed to be a metaphor.  He strikes fast and he’s deadly.  Fine.

But consider also that Lebron and his billionaire-minded camp manufactured his names before even playing a single NBA game!  At least the guys above earned their names.  To further prove my point, compare “Chosen One” to the “Great One” in hockey, Wayne Gretzky.  Gretz won eight consecutive MVPs and had more assists than any other player had points when he retired (in hockey points are a combination of both goals and assists).  Yet, again, LRJ had the audacity to call himself “great” before he even played a game?  Fuck, he could’ve ended up being Darko, there was no way to know.  The whole thing is ludicrous.

The worst part? LRJ doesn’t even encourage you to think.  He’s just the “Chosen One.”  The “King.”  No metaphor.  Just accept that he’s the shit straight up.  And as opposed to the inclusiveness of Michael Jordan–who, incidentally, didn’t need all these names because he let his play talk for him–whose corporate slogan was “Be Like Mike,” and invited us all to dream, all to share in his greatness, LRJ doesn’t want you near him.  Instead, you can just sit back and “Witness” his glory.  Sorry.  Other than in the context of linguistic discourse like this, or maybe just plain sarcasm, I won’t be using those phrases.

Lebron might score 50 tonight or hit another buzzer beater.  But it won’t change the fact that he’s a self-aggrandizing, arrogant man-boy who truly believes the world is Lebron-centric.  Fuck that.  We all have a choice over the words we use.  So don’t let someone else, anyone else, put those words in your mouth.  And national media?  Please, think a bit before you succumb to the lazy cliches that make you just another mouthpieces for LRJ’s self-perpetuating myth.

UPDATE 5/25/09: The Orlando Sentinel is on board!

So last night after the Lakers defeated the Nuggets in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, I fell asleep for like 2 hours. When I woke up, contacts sticking to my eyes, this is the first thing I saw:

Oh, you know, just had this red leather vest lying around and thought, "Wouldn't that look sweet with my madras shirt?"

Oh, you know, just had this red leather vest lying around the house and thought, "Wouldn't that look sweet with my madras shirt?"

Clearly this was some sleep-induced hallucination. Surely no one would be wacky enough to show up at an NBA press conference dressed as the really tall other half of Starsky and Hutch.

And yet Lamar Odom did. We shouldn’t be surprised. After all, we’re talking about a guy who showed up at a game last year wearing this:

lakesuit

It's a hoodie! It's a suit! It's a Lakesuit!

Like, wait, hold up. Is that…. a Laker colored suit? A Lakesuit? Or is it a hoodie? Or is it… a suit and a hoodie?

Lamar Odom strolled into the Lakers’ locker room some 25 minutes late. Lakers coach Phil Jackson had just finishing addressing the media during his pregame press session when he saw Odom and blurted out:

“Oh, my God,” Jackson said, laughing. “No wonder it took you a long time to get here.”

Jackson laughed at Odom’s outfit he was wearing. It was an all white suit. The sleeves on the coat were purple. The lapels were gold. “Are you in a marching band?” Jackson joked.

It was hard to describe what Odom was wearing. “This is indescribable,” Odom correctly said. “You can’t describe this.”

Pull up a seat, as we take a spin through the fashion world of one Lamar Odom…

[More]

I get it. Teams alleged tanked ends of seasons to get the #1 pick.  They made a lottery to counter.  Yeah, that’s really stopped teams.  Remember the term “tankapalooza” from the last few years?  Riley scouting college games instead of coaching?  Right.  No impact whatsoever.  Worst idea ever.  Beyond that, since 1990, only 4 teams with the League’s worst record have won the lottery, and teams with the second worst record have won it just 2 times.  So who’s really being rewarded?  Teams that don’t deserve it.  It’s total bullshit. 

The Lottery is a joke and an embarrassment to the League.  I think the only reason that they keep it in place is so Stern can laugh at the conspiracy rumors.  Which, speaking of, may be more than rumors.   Ewing anyone?  Duncan?  Rose?  Right.

So, anyone know who’s been given the #1 pick this year?  My money’s on either OKC or Memphis.  Stern wants the former to succeed and the latter’s already been screwed by the lottery enough that even Stern might feel bad.  But that’s just me.

Discuss.

The Myth of the Playoff Foul

By on May 14, 2009

Here are things you will hear: “That’s good Playoff basketball.”  Or “a good hard Playoff foul.”  Perhaps “they tend to let them play in the Playoffs.”  Bullshit.  Bullshit.  And…..bullshit.  Maybe I’m crazy, but I’ve never read the Playoff Rulebook.  I guess it’s different than the one they use in the regular season.  Oh wait, it’s not.  Well then, listen closely.  A foul is a foul is a foul.  Yet there is a long-standing Myth that teams like the Celtics, Rockets, Cavs, or surprisingly, and at least for this year, the Nuggets, play good defense and this is proven in the Playoffs.  But if you’re slapping elbows and hands to get steals, making body contact though your hands are clean, or if you in any way impede the offensive player’s motion when you’re not set, it’s a foul.  Period.

The concept that refs should “just let them play” in the Playoffs is insane.  Listen, like anything involving logic, which is pretty much everything, you can isolate the truth through variables.  Imagine someone trying to convince you that their team could field six players against your team’s five because it’s the Playoffs and they’re just willing to take that extra step to win.  It would be absurd.  Okay, but why?  Why is it absurd?  Well, first of all, it violates the rules.  Second, it gives the other team an unfair advantage.  Third, it’s pretty fucking obvious.  Okay.  Well, then, what about if you let a defensive player hack an offensive player?  That’s against the rules, gives the defensive player an unfair advantage, and generally is pretty fucking obvious.  Ultimately, the result is no different than fielding an extra player.  Is one more obvious than the other?  Sure.  But is one more excusable than the other?  No. Both are ILLEGAL.

The general belief that the Playoffs should be treated this way is bad enough.  But what really aggravates the situation is that some teams, who are perceived as good defensive teams, are less likely to be called for fouls, even if they commit them, because it is assumed that they are just playing good defense, and they get the benefit of the doubt.  But the fallacy of this logic is that they very well may be perceived to be good defenders because they’ve gotten away with it in the past.  It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Also, when you call plays different in the Playoffs, then all of sudden, players who have gotten used to a certain level of contact have no idea what they can or cannot do on the floor.  This freezes them, and makes them appear to be slow, indecisive, or just poor defenders.  Yet, this is something attributable to poor officiating more than personal deficiencies.

Even worse, this kind of game calling sets the scene for chaos.  Or worse, for someone to get hurt.  Because as we’ve seen with, significantly this year, the Nuggets, when you let a team manhandle the other, two things happen.  One, the other team gets frustrated, and tends to commit harder fouls, which only exacerbates things.  (I know, it’s no excuse, but to psychologically frustrate one team to the glee of the other is in itself an unfair advantage, especially in basketball, the most psychological of sports.)  But beyond that, the team creating the contact in the first place, once not getting whistled for what is ostensibly illegal contact, tends to keep creating harder and harder contact, because when you’re not called for a foul, the tendency is to try and see how far you can push things, to see what you can get away with.  So these teams keep fouling harder and harder, until all of a sudden flagrants and techs are flying, bodies are flying, people are getting hurt, and the refs have lost all semblance of control.  It’s ridiculous.

Yet, the NBA and their TV mouthpieces just pretend it’s so hard, and the Fates forbid anyone but Jeff Van Gundy criticize the refs (and even for that, Stern once again, took an on camera jab at JVG; Stern is like the Borg: resistance to him is futile).  Sure, basketball happens fast live.  No doubt.  It is hard to call.  But it can be better.  Don’t be fooled.  And the changes aren’t that complex.  1. Call it the same way over the course of the regular season and the Playoffs.  2. Encourage refs to watch each others’ games and try to establish consistent calls from ref to ref.  3. Standardize when you use replay; as it is, sometimes they use it and sometimes they don’t, and it’s insane how some obvious calls are missed because refs would rather huddle for 60 seconds and talk it over to get it wrong rather than take 30 seconds to look at the screen right off the court to get it right.  That the NBA doesn’t do these things doesn’t just do a disservice to the players and the fans, but the game itself.

So when people tell you about “Playoff Basketball,” tell them to fuck off.  Hitting shots with a guy in your face is Playoff Basketball.  Trying to fight through dudes hacking you?  That’s bullshit.  We all deserve better.

The Hype has been quiet lately.  Sorry.  But the grind of the 82-game season and the subsequent Playoffs emotional rollercoaster doesn’t just take its toll on the players, but sometimes those that follow it.  I wish I was a professional journalist, someone who did this for a living, who had all day to scour media sources for information, to talk to players and coaches, and, finally, to write.  But I don’t.  I don’t get paid for this.  I have another job, and it takes a lot out of you to work long hours and then spend almost all your free time on the Hornets.  Don’t get me wrong, I love basketball, I love the Hornets, but the Hype too needs a break.

Never fear though, ticktock6 and I have been watching the other games on and off, and with a much more objective eye, we have plenty of observations we’d like to share in the coming days and weeks, especially, as we’re one of the few sites out there accountable to no one.  We say what we say because we believe at the end of the day that it’s true.  Even if no one else will say it.  Like, for example, that Lebron IS overrated, or that the officiating is broken on a universal level but IS fixable.  Also, we love to give you all a forum to talk about those things.

So there you go.  Two sneak peaks.  More to come.  Stay tuned.

Crack. It Kills.

By on May 4, 2009

I’m not sure even how to react to the fact that someone actually wrote an article entitled “Hornets, Pistons win in Chris Paul trade” which begins:

Joe Dumars should go after New Orleans point guard Chris Paul.

It’s not as outrageous as you might think.

Um, except for yes it is.

Just like this was also stupid.

Sigh. Insert joke involving me having ______ (amount A) of ____________ (highly undesirable object B) to sell you if you think for more than 10 seconds about these articles.