We desperately want to know these athletes, but we refuse to have a grownup conversation with them. We’re really too angry and jealous to be trusted with so much as a paragraph of their actual thoughts. If a quote can be potentially mocked, it will often get suctioned into the LOL vortex, where middle school sneering obliterates all memory of the source material context. If a great many fans are already angry at the quote giver, then LOL framing gives way to STFU framing. Mad people like to stay mad, or at least, to validate their rage. If you already hate an athlete, you’re liable to sculpt his sentences into one, long, middle finger.
It would seem that a certain former Celtic is trapped in that STFU box because he joined a historically hated franchise. Ray Allen is 37 years old. His team was inclined towards a future involving other, younger options. Allen wanted a different style of play from Boston’s PG-dominant approach. Few expected Ray to get through five Celtics seasons when he was traded there at age 32, so you could say that it’s been a bountiful relationship for both parties.
This is one of the most common occurrences in the NBA, as aging stars often believe in themselves more than their teams do. Reggie Miller is an exception that proves the rule. Even the most cherished, beloved players are either forced to go, or depart on their own accord–often in pursuit of championship.
And for the most part, they are forgiven for doing so, even if the new squad is a rival. Laker fans had few bad words for Derek Fisher when he signed with OKC. Robert Horry was a beloved kind of foe when he came back to Staples in a Spurs jersey. Rasheed
Perhaps you remember those 2011 LeBron and Durant workout videos. Back then, the videos were intriguing. A year later, the videos are hypnotizing.
This was pre-season prep, James was trying to bounce back from an inauspicious Finals. We say “bounce back” for sports recoveries, but the term doesn’t always fit temporally. LeBron’s Finals humiliation was sudden, but the journey to get there was drawn out over 82 regular season games and 21 playoff battles. Maintaining offseason motivation should be especially difficult for NBA superstars because those playoff battles usually mock the notion that the preceding regular season games count. The rule: If your team is good enough to matter, the regular season games don’t matter. Players still have to go through with the tiring charade, though.
How do you “bounce back” slowly? How do you invest so much time in an arduous climb when the fall comes so much quicker? Your run can end on one stupid play. It could all be over before national TV audiences receive the images on the seven second Janet Jackson delay. And how do you build yourself back up, lego-by-lego on the off chance that owners and players might end the 2011 lockout? LeBron and KD were doing this just in case, just so they could start the tiring charade at full tilt.
I’m curious about this motivation because these workouts do not look fun. There is squatting, sprinting, and situps. Broadcasted enjoyment can be contagious. We like to rent it from those we watch, laughing along with their laughter. These videos are different. The footage is so enjoyable because this is such joint-rubbering drudgery. LeBron James and Kevin Durant could be betting on camel polo from an invisible helicopter hovering over Dubai, and yet here they are, running windsprints. It’s
Many are shocked that Ray Allen would “betray” his Boston fans. “Judas Shuttlesworth,” they call him. That’s a clever jab, one that’s also funny because it places the stereotypical Massachusetts sports lover at the Last Supper table, serene expression, open palm protruding out of his beer-stained Sawx jersey.
Steve Nash left for the Lakers, the archetypal hated team to those Nash-loving Phoenix fans. Dwight Howard probably uses a metaphorical Magic fan voodoo doll as an insole.
The aftermath of fan slight prompts punditry on how athletes just don’t get how much we love them, or about how they just don’t love us like we love them. I disagree with both notions. My guess is that pro athletes understand the depths to which we love them, but also perceive that the love as false, or worse, unsettling.
Think about it from their perspective. In the absence of knowing someone, how much should your affection matter to that person? And if you don’t know that person, then what is that love? It can be obsession. It can be misplaced narcissism. Fans are body snatchers, living vicariously through these men until the bodies break. At that point, the vessel is discarded, exchanged for a newer, springier avatar by which to romp around your TV screen in.
Ricky Rubio’s draft night was an informative, formative experience for me. The two of us experienced it together, though Ricky probably doesn’t remember my name. I was his draft escort, the PR sherpa who was charged with dragging him through hours of repetitive English interviews. His hatred of that night was palpable. Perhaps he sees my stupid, sweating face in his nightmares. I have an inkling as to what else Ricky might also glimpse in those dark dreams.
It’s a vision that still haunts me.
Steve Nash is coming to save your franchise. I know your team is over the cap, but he’ll take the mini-mid level exception. Why? Because money doesn’t matter to Steve. Because Steve’s the easy-going dad who trundles down the Whole Foods aisle with a bag full of red quinoa. Because Steve likes Radiohead, and you like Radiohead. Because winning a title obviously means more than anything in the universe to Steve Nash, loyal soldier of Sarver misfortune.
Not so fast!
Steve Nash is still killing it, and could get upwards of $10 million per year for a short term deal on the open market. Teams like the Knicks and Heat would need Nash to take a contract in the three million per year range, per the mini mid-level. So Nash-hopeful fans are assuming he’ll give up, say, seven million dollars of his money, per year to a private, cold-hearted business. Would you be shocked if Portland offered Nash to three years, $35 million? Then don’t be shocked if he rejects three years, nine million from Team Dolan.
It’s just so much fun to imagine, though. Editors have certainly pushed the Nash-to-big-market storyline on me, and I’ve buckled. Such Nash wishing unfortunately makes little sense in the actual world. The idea of “giving up money” is largely abstract to us, and it’s conveniently not our money. The statement, “All he has to do is give up some money” rarely comes with any acknowledgement that some dollar amounts are larger than others. Ya, I could see a player giving up a million or so to play where he wants. But $20 million? Who does that?
My best guess is that the “Who does that?” question can be answered, “Probably not Steve Nash.” Remember, this is someone who left his good
There were a few Game 7 fourth quarter plays where LeBron James was matched up against Brandon Bass. Now, it’s remembered as LeBron torching Bass, or Doc making the mistake of putting Bass on James. And yes, LeBron dunked on poor Brandon in semi-transition. It was a stunning crossover that morphed into a tomahawk in a way that made it all look like part of the same movement.
But, what followed did not reflect so poorly on Bass. An exhausted James had difficulty beating him off the dribble, which resulted in a lucky dagger of a deep three. In the subsequent possessions, a flagging LeBron settled for two bricked jumpers. He was tired, the victory was largely in hand, but I couldn’t help but think:
Cleveland LeBron would make a planted windmill out of Brandon Bass.
Cleveland LeBron thrice averaged over 10 free throw attempts per game. Cleveland LeBron beat the entire Detroit Pistons team off the dribble en route to a Game 5 victory that felt like history’s closest trouncing. He was a brilliant passer and an inexorable force when driving. To call LeBron “just that” would be reductive, but those qualities defined him.
It did not look as though he needed much else, well, maybe apart from a slightly improved jumper. In 2008-2009 LeBron posted 31.7 PER and .318 win shares mark. He was dominant in the 2009 playoffs, though his team failed him against Orlando. James was nearly as good the next season, but in the 2010 playoffs, LeBron was memorably mortal in that Game 5 versus the Celtics, for reasons that still aren’t clear. Still, it was only a game. His playoffs were altogether brilliant, and his supporting cast was altogether mediocre.
Cut to last year with the Heat, when Dallas cut off his driving
Russell Westbook created and ended the possibility of Oklahoma City victory. It’s difficult to process within the context of “blame.” Russell Westbrook is the reason Oklahoma City had a chance to win. Russell Westbrook is the reason they lost almost any chance of winning. Both these statements are true. He knocked over his wonderful sandcastle, and we’ll never quite grasp why.
There’s a logical case to be made against any sports scapegoating, as these games are comprised of many complex events. Also, it’s just plain wrong to act as though one man has loser cooties. With Westbrook, it would just be short-sighted because he looks poised for a decade of success. What good’s a future winning, successful scapegoat? Better to kick someone on the way out like poor Billy Buckner. Or better yet, spotlight a foul-ball-meddlin’ fan. Steve Bartman wasn’t exactly a threat to sign with the Yankees and play right field.
In our logical, benevolent haste to shield athletes from scapegoatery, we can sometimes minimize the hated mistakes. Kyle Williams fumbled twice in the NFC championship game. This prompted a) angry 49er fans anger-vomiting bile at Williams over Twitter b) a lot of screeds in opposition to the idea that he “cost his team the game.” Well, much as I don’t want Kyle Williams to wear a scarlet S.G. for the rest of his life, it’s hard to hurt your team’s chances more than “one muffed punt in regulation, one muffed punt in overtime.” If Kyle Williams didn’t cost his team that game, then no player can ever “lose” a game for their team. Maybe that’s your position, and it could be an admirable one. But in reducto terms, if LeBron kicks the ball out of bounds on every possession of a game, then what else could that
I’ve been doing hot yoga lately. It’s been a great exercise in not just helping me get into better shape but it’s also teaching me how to breathe.
Breathing can be a big problem when you’re going through strenuous activities. Personally, I’ve always had a problem breathing when I’m working out. It’s not that I have asthma or any kind of respiratory issue. My breathing is just fine during normal activities. For whatever reason, I have a problem remembering to breathe and regulating my breathing toward a normal state when I’m lifting weights, using the Stairmaster, or doing pushups or sit-ups.
I have no idea why this comes up. It isn’t necessarily a nervous thing, although there are some rare instances in my life in which I find myself breathing abnormally. When I was asked to be a guest on a radio show the first few times, I’d find myself speaking and almost holding my breath at the same time. It was a nervous action that went away, but every once in a while I find myself doing it the first time I’m on someone’s show.
For some reason though, I hold my lungs in when I’m working out. It’s a habit I’ve tried to break on my own, but I find that it takes away from my concentration. Now that I’ve started doing hot yoga, I have no choice but to learn how to breathe properly. The workout itself is introspective. It’s one of the few workouts that isn’t ephemeral by nature. There aren’t really short sets of exertion. Everything flows from one pose into the next, always requiring consciousness of movement and how it affects the next step.
With the added increased temperature, it strains not only the body but it strains your concentration. It forces you to focus on the basic parts of your workout. Your movements and holds have to break through your own mental limits. And in all of this time, you have to regulate your breathing. Controlling your breath into evenly distributed expulsions and intakes is how you learn to normalize the exertion for your body. Continue reading “Learning to breathe” »
While LeBron James is two wins away from dashing away a lot of exemplums regarding his legacy in the NBA, no one has improved their image during the course of these playoffs like Chris Bosh has.
In the past, people have made fun of anything about Chris Bosh – from softness to cross dressing like RuPaul to his genitalia to… oh yeah, they don’t think he’s a very good basketball player either. He’s been called half a man when referring to the Miami Big 3 Two and a Half Men. He’s been the most overrated player in the NBA and nothing deserving of his contract.
It’s often been the ammunition coming out of the quills full of desperation for discounting what Miami is capable of doing, what kind of a team they are, and the reasons they’ll never win a title. When in reality, Chris Bosh has been arguably the best safety valve in recent memory. Last year, there were times in which he looked lost and didn’t fit in. There were also times in which his scoring and spacing provided the perfect balance to Miami’s attack. Continue reading “Meet Chris Bosh: your traditional big man” »
I will be so grandiose as to assumed Spoestra listened to me. In the past, Kevin Durant was burning the Heat off pin-down screens, and not always with his shooting. Below, you can see an aforementioned example:
Having the screener’s man “show” was opening up lanes for OKC’s offense. So, Spoelstra decided to combat these screens by switching in Game 1. The results were not so good when Dwyane Wade got caught guarding Durant.
Finally, Spo took my advice with this third adjustment. He just played Durant like any old shooter, having Battier and LeBron chase him through screens, sans help. Here is an example of a pin-down play, guarded in such a way:
It ends in a contested Perkins shank, a welcome outcome for the Heat. The down screens were guarded like this all night, which might have something to do with why OKC’s offense was so Westbrook-centric. Kevin Durant got his points, because Kevin Durant is amazing, but those points mostly came off transition buckets and spot-up jumpers. More importantly, his Thunder teammates shot 38.5%.
Sometimes, coaches over-adjust, in a futile attempt at stopping a superstar. It’s sometimes better to “let him get his,” as they say.
One of the knocks on the Oklahoma City Thunder’s attack this season has been they’re a jump-shooting team. At a certain point, it’s expected that if you live by the jumper then you’re going to die by the jumper when those shots stop falling. However, when you look at how the Thunder actually spread around their shots on the floor, it looks like they’re just an intelligent scoring team.
Throughout the regular season, OKC maximized the value of their shots extremely well. If you’re ranking the quality of shot you can get in an NBA game, I’d put shots at the rim first, 3-pointers second, midtown (anything from the restricted area to 16 feet) shots third and long 2-pointers fourth. Continue reading “Thunder rolling at the rim” »