Category Archives: SPORTS!

Tahat Takes: Kaeperknickers in a twist and the milquetoast Seahawks

Full disclosure: up until a few weeks ago. I didn’t care for Colin Kaepernick. I hadn’t thought about him in a hot minute mostly. And at the height of his powers, I projected my dislike for the 49ers and Pleated-pants Jim “McHandshove” Harbaugh and thought Kapernick arrogant, overrated, and self-centered.

I was the guy who gleefully posted the differences between Kap and Dangeruss’ Instagram on your timeline.

I was a PETTY AF sports fan.

I made him a character acting out a role in the theatre of the NFL.1

I was wrong. Colin Kaepernick is a full person containing multitudes and deserves all the respect I can afford—and that’s before he sat down during the national anthem and demonstrated that he has a curious, working mind engaged in one of the most challenging national issues of our time.

I’ve never bought an NFL jersey in my life, but if I do it’s gonna be Kaepernick’s2.

Some would delegitimize Kap’s efforts by saying he’s rich and doesn’t “have a plan.” But his wealth doesn’t make him less Black nor are protests required to “have a plan” to be on the right side of history.

There’s also a notion floating around that Kap is doing some sort of activism lite, and that he hasn’t achieved much of anything. But he has created space for a conversation in a league that isn’t interested in having this conversation despite the fact that it’s good for business.3 That’s a BFD.4

Enter the Seahawks.

Last week, Doug Baldwin spoke up, promising that the whole team would do some sort of demonstration of solidarity. I, for one, got hella excited. Unleashing ANGRY DOUG BALDWIN on Black Lives Matter and police reform on opening day is an activist’s wet dream.

Giving Baldwin and the Seahawks the benefit of the doubt, I think they meant to do a really meaningful thing—to show solidarity for a movement that prioritizes the lives of black people, that ending racism and oppressive systems require the collective work of many people. The team-wide act, also worked to address the criticism that Kaepernick’s protest was an attention grab by eliminating the individual-ness of it. But at some point, the reality of their demonstration has to take precedent. And in the space of social movements, rhetoric and symbolism are everything.

On its face, a show of unity is an honorable, valuable thing. Who’s against unity?

But the call of unity has long been used to soothe people out of frenzy, as a band-aid for an amputation. But history shows us that to correct injustice—especially systemic injustice, which is more lubricious to grasp—requires anger and unrest so as to manifest into social movement.

Baked into our civic code is the idea we don’t need everyone to agree to something to make it happen; we only need enough to make a majority. That’s how we make change in a democracy. Calls for unity–specifically in response to a movement calling for change–is, at best, a moving of the goal post and, at worst, a blatant effort to cut a movement’s knees from under it.5

I have no interest in unifying with members of the Klu Klux Klan, neo-nazis, or anyone who thinks my interracial marriage and our mixed race kids are abominations.6

Now there’s a case to be made that overhyped histrionics of unity aren’t entirely the Seahawks fault. The media hyped it, not just Doug Baldwin. It’s not purely the Seahawks fault that mine and so many other’s expectations were Ezekiel Elliot-high. But Baldwin and others on the team have been around and have enough media savvy to know the type of coverage and reaction that was coming.

I am also tremendously sympathetic to NFL players not interested in engaging in public forms of protest. For many, professional football represents their only path to social mobility. The NFL is highly regimented and historically conservative. Their earning potential isn’t guaranteed and every time they suit up, they’re risking their health AND their careers.

Protect that. No one should feel like they have to pit their livelihood against what’s right in the world. That makes the choice even riskier. But in the event you face that impossible decision, protect yourself and provide for your family.7

But there’s a real, insidiously inflicted damage made in the milquetoast #alllivesmatter half-measure that the Seahawks proposed. In what is surely an unintended consequence of expressing broad support, their actions validated the misdirected conversation surrounding Kaepernick and other player’s method of protest.

Jesse Williams, in what may be the most woke moment of 2016,8 said, “If you have a critique for the resistance—for our resistance—then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression.”

Applied here: y’all that are up in arms about Kaepernick sitting but don’t have a valid criticism of the systems of oppression that drove him to sit9 need to examine y’alls priorities.

Many woke people tried to keep the focus of their coverage of Kaepernick on the racial inequity of our policing that he was trying to point out, however, 99.9% percent of the coverage around Kaepernick centered on his methods of protest—an insidious way of delegitimizing his point in the first place.10

This is wrong. Full stop.

It’s no different than our presidential election coverage eschewing policy for the horse race. It’s just wrong.

Now none of this is the fault of the Seahawks and what I’m sure is a well-intentioned leadership group the face of which has become Doug Baldwin. And I hope against all hope that this was the start of something bigger—that Doug Baldwin’s efforts to connect with the Mayor of Seattle yield real, substantive discussions and outcomes.

But standing together and locking arms has forced even the most progressive people into a debate about the methodology and efficacy of protests when we should all be talking about the inherent racial inequity and injustice in policing as presently constructed.

Let me say that again: WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED.

All of which are American dreams! All of which are American dreams! All of which are American dreams!

 

 

 

New York Knicks Trade Target(s): Ricky Rubio

It is Wednesday.

Going into the break, the New York Knicks have choked and swallowed their way to an inelegant 23-32 record. With no draft pick in 2017 and an interim head coach, it is hard to determine what, if anything, the Knicks have to play for.

Recent head coach Derek Fisher preached player development within the system, but with a starting lineup with only 2 players south of 30 years old, it is difficult to understand if that premise ever had any merit beyond the desperate equivocations of a coach who knew this bitch was going south in earnest, teeth and all. Some have even speculated that the aforementioned comment factored into the decision to fire Fisher in the first place. As many of these people reside within the New York media, it is difficult to say if the speculation has any merit. Those guys tend to be fucking assholes (exceptions made for Seth Rosenthal and Chris Herring who are decidedly chill).

Beyond Porzingis, things look bad. But hope looms narrowly over the immediate horizon! The trade deadline beckons! Given that, let’s take a look at the well-intentioned wreck presently occupying the Knicks point guard position and the boyishly handsome also-Spaniard who I would love to see rocking orange on Friday against the Nets.

The Incumbent

The East (and West) is filled with point guards who routinely shred Jose Calderon’s decrepit ankles (ankles which have become better suited for pig farming than for playing defense in the NBA). While Calderon offers some value as a locker room leader and a sharpshooter within the triangle, his liabilities on the defensive end preclude him from functioning as an effective starting guard in a league where every team (save the Knicks) has a dynamic (and often young) talent at the point.

On offense Calderon is safe but hesitant and is a step too slow to take advantage of the driving lanes that Robin Lopez’ work within the post opens up. He routinely looks off cutters to swing the ball around the perimeter, letting slightly high-risk opportunities for easy buckets fall by the wayside in favor of late-shot-clock Aaron Afflalo isolation plays. These work more than they should but not nearly enough.

Ricky Rubio

If rumors are to believed, the Minnesota Timberwolves have made starting point guard Ricky Rubio available of late. Rubio is about as dissimilar player to Calderon as can be readily conceived. Beyond their native tongue, comparing Calderon to Rubio isn’t quite comparing a mountain to a volcano so much as it is comparing a mountain to a platypus that can’t shoot three’s.

Rubio is utterly incapable of making a shot from more or less anywhere on the floor but is a crisp and decisive passer who looks to get others involved. He does not fit the conventional mold of a triangle point guard insofar as he is ball-dominant and a poor shooter. He is a good basketball player, however, and the Knicks are woefully short on those. Phil has come out numerous times and stated that any player can function within the context of the triangle. Ricky Rubio is a basketball player. Checkmate.

Rubio is also in the midst of what may be his best season statistically (18.1 PER and .122 winshares per 48 minutes) but has seen his role diminish to provide playing time to Zach Lavine at the 1 and allow Andrew Wiggins more opportunities to play on the ball. He plays solid defense despite weird unfounded comments that seem to exist everywhere to the contrary. Rubio is currently +9.6 points per 100 possessions and Rondo, everyone’s favorite actually-terrible league assists leader is at -3.1 points per 100 possessions. I only included Rondo in this comparison because he fucking sucks and I relish any opportunity to use him as a negative foil to someone I like better.

Despite Rubio’s solid-if-imperfect play, he is not without his warts. He is due 14 million dollars a year through 2019. Even with the impending rise in the cap, that is a number that can affect teams looking to be players in free agency. It also could loom as an issue for a team that will have to offer massive extensions to both Wiggins and Towns towards the end of that deal.

For the Knicks, that number would limit their flexibility for the next three years, which could be problematic if they are serious about being players for Russel Westbrook in 2017’s free agency period. Being a sane and reasonable fan, however, I cannot bring myself to think that Westbrook would go anywhere near the Knicks, mostly because I have followed the Knicks in off-season’s-passed and been infrequently rewarded with anything beyond signing one of Amar’e’s knees or re-signing Carmelo.

As for next year’s free agency period, moving O’Quinn and Calderon (the two pieces most often discussed in Knicks’ trade rumors) would take 11 million off the books. It is likely the Wolves, being awake and presumably giving a shit about whether their team is good, will need more than Calderon and O’Quinn to move Rubio. A Lance Thomas or a Derek Williams would give them some young pieces that could contribute down the road or come off the books next year should the Wolves want to be players in free agency themselves.

All-up, Rubio would be a huge upgrade for a Knicks team that could use more talent and youth at the guard position. He is only 25 and has gotten consistently better throughout his time in the league. He is a long and underrated defender. He can’t shoot the ball but would hardly be the first player to become competent from distance late in his career. He is an excellent playmaker on offense and defense who has a glaring deficiency keeping him out of the conversation as an elite point guard.

Rubio would make the Knicks better. Make it happen Phil.

What the hell happened Saturday? – Pt. 1: The Slam Dunk Competition and other takeaways from NBA All-Star weekend

This thinkpiece1 is part one of a tryptic of posts trying to wrap my head around what happened Saturday. Quick recap: The night started out with a GOP Debate that was clearly written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. During this time, the greatest NBA Slam Dunk competition in the history of ever happened (and by extension, the best overall mini-games day of All-Star Weekend in recent memory). Then, Chance the Rapper killed Saturday Night Live—like I-was-transported-to-an-otherworldly-church killed—presaging the release of Kanye West’s latest album, which is singularly the most erratic, momentarily brilliant filament of platinum I’ve consumed in a long time. Needless to say, I stayed up late trying to make sense of it all. I’m still digesting.

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“Man, did you hear what Drake just said? He said this is the game with the 24 best players in the world. You’re one of those guys. Embrace it all, because you never would have thought that when you were at Michigan State, and I never would have thought that when I was coaching Division II, but we’re here.” –Coach Gregg Popovich [to Draymond Green pre-tipoff]

“I’m not a role model…just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.” –Sir Charles Barkley

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But who’ll raise the kids dunking basketballs?

If the world ever figures out how to put a gif on a tombstone, let it be known at this time in this place, this is the one for me:

Quick breakdown: You’re watching fingers-crossed-heir-apparent Andrew Wiggins’s brain melt into the same fluorescent color as his metallic jacket, while the rest of his body perfects the platonic form of the hold-me-back-but-prop-me-up-DAYUMMMM-I’ve-just-been-struck-by-the-spirit pose. Karl Anthony-Towns’ look of absolute disbelief then sudden and extreme joy reminds me too much of my son when I pretend to take his sister’s nose. Demarcus Cousins has to help his Kentucky running mate John Wall, whose legs have apparently lost the ability to perform a routine standing up maneuver. Thank god for DeMarre Carroll who actually blinked during the dunk in question, but looks so damn fly it doesn’t even matter.

The dunk contest might well have been worth it for giving us this gif alone. Alas, there were some jaw-dropping, dope dunks to go along with it. 2

Aaron Gordon’s mission was to give us four dunks we’d never seen before. He did that, and in the service of originality, he helped uplift this withering event to new heights, recast a banal event into must-see television, and reframed the very limits of what is humanly possible on a basketball court.

Dunk 1

Dunk 2

Dunk 3

Dunk 4

Dunk 5

Dunk 6

For years, basketball fans have been lamenting the absence of marquee names—a departure from decades-previous competitions that featured Michael, ‘Nique, Clyde, Kemp, Kersey, Vince and Tracy. Zach Lavine did well enough last year to abate that criticism, and with Gordon’s help this year, slayed the detractors.

Dunk 1

Dunk 2

Dunk 3

Dunk 4

Dunk 5

Dunk 6

The value of the slam dunk competition has been historically misregarded. Conventional wisdom says you need the biggest and best superstars to restore the Slam Dunk competition to its former glory, but the truth is: we never needed star power; we just needed great, mind-bending dunks.

The slam dunk competition, after all, is about awe, wonder, and capturing the child-like imagination.3 It distills, in its most potent form, what is humanly possible on a basketball court and acts as the perfect metaphor for the “I believe I can fly” narrative. It’s actually better that the dunk contest be stocked with young guys that casual fans have barely heard of; the relative anonymity of the dunkers only makes their rise more unlikely, dramatic, and, in some ways, relatable. It breathes life into this kid’s hoop dreams and dusted off my own, which I’d shelved years ago.

Unless it’s still unclear, Zach Lavine and Aaron Gordon gave us the. Greatest. Dunking. Duel. Ever. Reminiscent of Travolta-Cage or Westley-Inigo or Iago-Othello or Travolta-Slater, Lavine and Gordon went at it old school mano y mano in double dunk-off, but in the freshest, most post-millennial way possible.

We used to worship human highlight reels, but this peerless duo gave us YOLO Snapchat dunks that’ll live forever on Vine in the era of we’ve seen it all already on seven different streaming services. Lavine and Gordon demolished the idols of old and did it rudely. They didn’t leave a farewell note or even bother to look back at the mess.

Seriously these guys are both 20.4 Meaning they can’t even legally drink and also that they don’t remember Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady in 2000, which means they don’t remember that dunk contest being compared to the all-time greatest faceoff between Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins in 1988. So perhaps they don’t fully realize the magnitude of their place in slam dunk history, but hey, they broke Twitter.5

Zach Lavine’s airy hangtime made human flight seem possible, and Aaron Gordon’s carved-from-marble strength made you think you were witnessing a previously undiscovered force of nature.

Everyone forgot pretty exciting Skills and Three-point Shooting Competitions

Karl-Anthony Towns, rookie and owner of the absolute disbelief mug above, won the Skills Competition! Not only is he talented. He’s tall, really tall—like seven feet tall. In fact, he’s the tallest dude to ever win the Skills Competition. To match the hype and the height, KAT snatched the title from the smallest competitor Isaiah Thomas in final-round-of-48, first-one-to-hit-a-three-wins-the-game dramatic fashion. Bullyish ball, baby.

Klay Thompson beat out Stephen Curry and Devin Booker to take home the three-point shooting title. Thompson is the best pure shooter in the NBA and deserves it. He had to sink just two corner threes on the final rack to win, and he drilled every. Single. One. Of. Them.6

Mama, there goes that man.

Now the Splash Brothers have matching shooting titles and that silly moniker is for reals something to be feared across the league. They’re adorable. The whole damn Warriors phenomena is adorable.7

Speaking of adorable. Devin Booker was included in a conversation with Steph Curry and Klay, and he’s like super adorable. I mean:

devin booker 1

C’mon man.

devin booker 2

Devin, you have to stop.

devin booker 3

Studs.

His inclusion in this conversation of best three-point shooters in the NBA is further testament to a surprisingly deep draft class. This baby face assassin was taken 13th overall and is barely 19 years old. I can’t wait to see him develop into a faster, stronger Ray Allen, as well as star on ABC’s The Bachelor season 23.

Drake’s hosts and posts some sartorial game

It’s well documented that that NBA players wear some ridiculous outfits off the court. 2016 All-Star MVP Russel Westbrook leads the pack in this regard. As de facto Toronto ambassador to everything and host of this year’s festivities, Drake took the opportunity to get in on the action.

Do Right And Kill Everything:

Drake coach

Noted Kentucky fan Drake channeled his inner Coach Calipari as he led Team Canada to victory in the celebrity game.

drake pink vest

Noted Furby fan that he is, Drake channeled every millennial’s favorite elementary school toy as he watched Zach Lavine and Aaron Gordon defy the laws of physics in this cool pink fluffy vest that says, “Go on, pet it. You know you want to.”

drake mamba

Noted Kobe fan Drake dons a Farewell Mamba jacket from a 90s-style sweatshop that zapped Kobe of his killer instinct. What possible other reason did he go 4 of 11?

All-star game sets a record for points

The West scored 196 points and the East scored 173 points in regulation making the 2016 All-Star Game the most All-Star Gamiest—setting records for individual team and overall points scored in an ASG.

Five free throws were attempted, two blocks recorded on 286 field goals attempted 8 and exactly zero defense played—even when Lebron squared up against Kobe and slapped the floor Michael Jordan-style.9

Yes, it was a record, and yes, it was tons o’ fun.

I only wish Kobe had completed his triple double so he could have been in serious consideration for ASGMVP. Kobe deserves everything, and if you don’t think so, you’re ignoring the fact that the NBA—and basketball and ball-like objects getting thrown at hoop-like objects in general10—is better because of his career.11

Lebron James changes up his free throw routine

Lebron James, perhaps the most scrutinized athlete in the world, changed up his free throw routine last week and no one noticed! To be fair, Lebron didn’t shoot any free throws this weekend on the biggest stage, etc.,12 so I suppose we can forgive the basketball media elite for this oversight.

Top Luckswing researcher Phi Phan,13 however, noted James’ new routine during the February 10th Cavs-Lakers game. In a thoroughly filed report Phan noted, “He now steps back with his left foot while spinning the ball in his left hand.14 More importantly, James has also added a right shoulder shimmy a la Kevin Durant before he squares up for the release.”

The sample size is small, but since incorporating this new routine, James has gone 40% on 2 of 5 free throw attempts. Sources close to the situation say, we’re about to have a crisis on our hands.

This isn’t the first time he’s changed his routine or his mechanics at the charity stripe. It was noted twice last year and in 2013 when he was with the Miami Heat. Which begs the question: where are the pundits?15 Where’s the outrage? Who’ll be the first to cry, “THUG!”? Why aren’t the media heads spinning in the back with their grinning gun slinging god fearing swinging blinging top of the ninth inning bringing winning outrage machinery-ing?

Even NBA Reddit is quiet on this, which is like your drunk racist uncle downing a fifth of Knob Creek at Thanksgiving then proceeding to not have an opinion on the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s weird.

My only hope is, everyone’s noticed but is choosing to remain silent because there are more important things in sports to cover.16 In which case, I’m the only asshole writing about it.17

1/169: In the shadow of a Flip

This past weekend, 20-year head coach Flip Saunders died from cancer. That it happened the weekend before the NBA season opened, in the lull between pre-season and the much-anticipated (at least in my household), Chicago-Cleveland (or, for the nerds, the Atlanta-Detroit) matchup is not insignificant.

An outpouring of support followed.

John Wall said something nice:

KG posted a pretty cool homage:

http://instagram.com/p/9UfnWZgx8w/?taken-by=officialkevingarnett

Kevin Love was commemorative:

Public grief has always made me uncomfortable. There’s a performance aspect that should never be factored into the calculus of personal loss. I’m supposed to say people grieve in their own way, but fuck that. Coming to terms with grief–true grief–requires, at the very least, a moment of quietness, a singular silence in which to re-frame the rest of your life. Acting out the simulacrum of grief cheapens the loss and relationships of loved ones, and as the scale of this charade grows, the memories of those lost soften to the point that they become flat characters defined by singular adjectives and traits.

  • “He was a generous guy.”
  • “Her smile always brightened my day.”
  • “He had such a head for the game.”

I grieve for the grieving.

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Flip’s death comes on the heals of other prominent NBA figures Darryl Dawkins, Moses Malone, Anthony mason, Jack Haley (shout out to my least hated Billionare marky-mark). Perhaps catalyzed by Flip, this NBA season amidst a sea of real, and overblown, reflection. Suddenly, this game that screams the pinnacle of schoolyard achievement is framed against real life, real emotion, real achievement, and real loss.

Flip coached some shitty teams. The overblown declines He oversaw, probably in the long run, get outbalanced by the underrated teams, but in the public eye–the same sphere in which his visage is now softened in memorial–he was absolutely roasted. It’s important to forget that. Sports is so ephemeral, and gut reactions, such a natural biproduct.

For some reason, I want to embrace this uncommon feeling of gravitas at the start of the NBA season. Drown out the shininess and bright lights, for a minute, to swim in a Mad Men-like haze of bourbon and cigarette smoke. Wallow in the inevitable nothingness of it all. Then crawl out from the bottom of the tumbler, dry off, and ball.

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3 fairly improbably predictions after day 1:

  • Detroit Pistons are going to make the playoffs. Apparently Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a beast. People have been saying he’s going to be good, and to date, he has shown very little to support that. A 21p on 4/7 3pt shooting is a good start to convincing the world otherwise. More importantly, Reggie Jackson looks like the forreal starting point guard he wants to prove he is. A +26 outing on 15p, 8r and 5a are all-star type numbers, and I’m betting them bearing out over the course of the season. Brandon Jennings at home:

  • The Bulls and Cavs will still be the best teams in the East. Sorry, Joey. The Bulls won a game on defense. Apparently, they haven’t forgotten how to play on that end of the court and the offense looked more competent for stretches than the accumulation of the last 3 years.
  • Steph Curry will be MVP again. 24p in the first quarter

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The five most interesting teams of this season:

Miami Heat

Goran Dragic and Chris Bosh are playing together for the first time ever. The starting 5–Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Bosh, and Hassan Whiteside– May be as good and is certainly as lauded as any. Whiteside’s development will dictate how far they get into the playoffs (I.e. Whether or not they beat the Cavs). The offense will come along with Dragic at the helm over the course of the whole season; he’ll push the pace, which alone will raisethem out of the bottom 3 in points scored. Coach Eric Spoelstra will need to point a lion’s share of his focus on thedefense, however. The fluorescent Heat were dead last in rebounding and allowed more shots up than any other team in the league; only 5 teams allowed more points last season.

The bench: led by Gerald Green and Amare Staudemire, will make for good television as they may set records for both points scored and points allowed by a second unit ever. Beyond the scorers, the bench has an odd mix of really complimentary players, and may shock the world with how well they blend together. Mario Chalmers and Captain of the all-NBA man bun team (#androgeny) Josh McBob: distributor, stretch shooter. Green & Stoudemire: scorers, straw man defenders. Chris Anderson & Juwon Howard 2.0: rebounders, defenders, dark-alley grimacers. Justice Winslow & Tyler Johnson, schooled by a supremely talented pair of wings in Wade and Deng, could turn into real NBA pros defending on one end, euro-stepping into upper-mid-level contracts until 2025.

Houston Rockets

Kinda copping out… They were a top 3 seed in one of the Bestern Conferences in NBA history last year and they didn’t lose anyone. Their marquee addition Ty Lawson, however, coupled with the best driving Beard in the NBA will make Twister games of opposing defenses. Harden-Lawson are a low-key best back court in the NBA (and there’s a ton of competition). Instead of the dribble at the top of the arc, rumble to the foul line parade that’s plagued Houston games for the past three years, I keep imagining Lawson driving and kicking to Harden who drives and kicks to Trevor Ariza who drives and kicks to Terrence Jones who drives and kicks to Lawson who drives and kicks ad nauseum as if enacting a real life gif. Their transition game will be wicked. I mean little pin ball Lawson main lined jet fuel into several seasons of otherwise unspectacular Nuggets squads sprinting into consecutive 50-win seasons.

The bench: Two years ago, this team’s bench–headlined by Francisco Garcia and Patremy Beverlin–was much maligned. They over-corrected with last year’s Josh j.Smoov Smith (which I actually loved). And despite losing Smith, still boast a really good bench. Other than Clint Capela and the two dudes who’ve never logged a real NBA minute (Sam Dekker & Montrezl Harrell), everybody else is a legit NBA pro sans question marks, which somehow is a marvel in this, the most talented iteration of the association.

Power Forward is their only position of ambiguity. Though not thin on talent, the voltron 4 of Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, and the pair of rookies is packed with potential, but has been for a couple years now. Who’ll emerge as the guy to finish games will be an interesting sub-subplot to the season that will never come to fruition. Especially with the spread-the-floor three-point-shooting Rockets content with letting Ariza finish games as stretch mark 3 and a half.

Minnesota Timberwolves

These guys will be the centerpiece of the most entertaining irrelevant games on League Pass. I am more jacked for Wolves-Bucks, Wolves-Magic, Wolves-Celtics, Wolves-Pistons, Wolves-Nuggets, Wolves-Sixers than Spurs-Warriors. This is exhibit a in my NBA masochism.

In transition, they’ll be straight up scary. More half of their rotation has helicopter blades for arms: I don’t know for sure if that means theyre defensive, offensive or poop on some rims-focused. What a design, Flip.

*pours one out*

The starters: Ricky Rubio, Zach Lavine, Andrew Wiggins, Kevin Garnett, Karl Anthony-Towns. Lavine is the big question mark. Everyone knows about his athleticism and every opposing coach knows to exploit his atrocious defense. If he can develop into a halfway decent defender though, continue to show that spectacular off-the-bounce-game, and more consistently hit at range, Lavine will easily make up for the above-average-if-not-spectacular development of Wigz and KAT. To that point, the latter two are rare talents, whose skills are in some ways anchored in different eras. If just one of them, or both alternatingingly go on extended flashes that scrape the ceilings of the players they could be, then watch out Western Conference. They’ll at least disrupt seeding, if not make a legit run at the 8-spot.

The bench: a bunch o’ yungbloods peppered with Andre Miller, PhD and Tayshaun Prince, AARP.

As young as they are, they’ll obviously lack discipline, which is why this team more than any other is at the top of my Mr.-Commissioner-Silver-sir-please-can-we-trade-coaches-like-chattel-or-players List. Can you imagine if Rick Carlisle or Mike Budenholzer or venerable Pop or Doc had this squad to play with? I’ll be interested to see if Sam Mitchell has the coaching chops to design a high flying offense; he did steer a 2006 Raptors squad to a 47-win, borderline top-10 offense first round playoff bounce. That finish would exceed all expectations in 2015 Minnesota.

At the minimum, theyll fly on and above the court making them fun to watch, and now, they’ll have extra motivation. This season for the Twolves will be unlikeevery other team. Here’s to hoping they can keep the core together and developing. If so, Their NBA irrelevance (for the casual fan) will not be for much longer.

Milwaukee Bucks

The starters: Michael Carter-Williams, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokuonmpo, Jabari Parker, Greg Monroe.

Pabari Jarker is back y’all! Its pretty easy to forget that he had a really good rookie year despite playing only 25 games–15p and 6.7r on 49% (per 36). He’s got pro size and skill set and will only develop into a better scorer.

The Bucks added Moose, The New Kidd on the Block, Greg Monroe (endless fodder here, anticipating at least 4 salt lick puns this season). A proven commodity in both buckets and boards.

Khris Middleton is a legit NBA pro, which a bit weird to write out loud. Not only did he exceed expectations on the offensive end at 16p on 47%, but he got after it on D with 5.3r and 1.8s (per 36).

MCW leaves a little to be desired, but the promise of point-center-savant 20-year old Greek Freak more than makes up for it. G’s per 36s are shockingly similar to Pabari and MiddleT, which brings up a great point Jalen Rose made in the Jalen and Jacoby podcast that I’m just straight stealing insights from: Head Coach Jason Kidd tallied the third most triple doubles and highest spilled beverages on the court rate, and now he’s opted a team that’s effectively comprised of long, thin Swiss Army knives. Everyone scores but isn’t a scorer. Everyone defends but isn’t a defender. It’ll be curious to see what this troupe of generalists can pull off.

A quick note on the bench: it’s been dramatically overhauled, and the Bucks are surprisingly deep with Miles Plumlee (who I think was more responsible for the Phoenix Suns sudden run at the playoffs two years ago, but more on that in a later post pontificating on Big Plum taking over Milwaukee), John Henson, Jerryd Bayless, OJ Mayo, Grieves Vasquez, Chris Copeland.

Those ain’t packin peanuts y’all…

Which is why you should watch out for J. Kidd trying to swing a big deal for a big name. JOE JOHNSON ALERT!

Seriously, you could spread Mayo’s stupid contract, not really have a need for Middleton and throw in a Rashad Vaugh-type for money reasons in exchange for a go to wing scorer that doesn’t give that much back on defense. I just convinced myself of this trade. It’s happening.