Tag Archives: Los Angeles

A Tale of Two Videos: Tony Stewart & Ray Rice

Tony Stewart will not face charges on the murder, the vehicular homicide or the accidental death of Kevin Ward, Jr.

I’ve lost all hope in humanity.

The American justice system has failed yet again. I can only surmise Eric Holder’s recently announced resignation comes as a result of the inaction by officials to hold yet another a popular white “athlete” accountable for his crimes (see: Duke Lacrosse team, Oscar Pistorius, baseball players).

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Two weeks ago, the last apparent last bastion of the fourth estate TMZ released a video of Ray Rice shamelessly knocking out his then-fiancé Janay Palmer.

Once revered as maybe the top running back in the world, Rice’s career as it stands appears unredeemable. The Baltimore Ravens terminated Rice’s contract, and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. The NFL Players Association has since appealed on his behalf, sighting tired (but unfortunately, most likely true) slippery slope, two punishments for one crime arguments.

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On August 9th in upstate New York a 43-year old man driving a 1400 pound vehicle at a speeds of nearly 140 miles per hour hit a 20-year man—a boy really. The young man with a long, bright future ahead of him died, almost immediately. It was caught on tape.

One would hope—given the above circumstances—that the full weight of the law and public reaction would fall on the culprit. One would imagine that said culprit would be collapse under the pressure, a charged and convicted criminal as the world celebrates the triumph of justice.

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So here we are. The NFL is the midst of a once-in-a-generation scandal. Employees are answering to the former Director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (the goddamn Director of the F-B-goddamn-I!), turning over communications, cataloging steps taken and not taken in an investigation completed or not completed. Even Commissioner Roger Goodell—the shoot-first sheriff, self-proclaimed judge and jury of the NFL when he ascended to power—finds himself in the unusual position of target practice.

Rice is at fault, and the NFL and Goodell screwed everything to hell.

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There is a video that shows Ward’s murder. It wasn’t shown on ESPN or your local news, because it’s a video of someone dying (as if all that war footage of rockets firing and landing on nightly network news weren’t). Watch it here—if you can bear it.

The 43-year old man—Stewart, let’s be painfully clear—is free. He woke up this morning to a loving family, doting fans, a dedicated racing team and a job that he loves.

Ward will never get a chance to realize the NASCAR dreams Stewart shamelessly tried preserved in his all-too-early return to the track.

But more than that, Ward will never get to find and marry the love of his life, to swell with pride as he watches his children stumble and get back up, to grow old and see the world change. Ward will never get to turn the ignition or choke the throttle of his beat up no. 13, joke around with his team or get angry at his opponents, relish in victory or rise again from a loss.

Ward graduated from high school two years ago. Two years ago. And will remain fixed in his family’s memory an eternal 20-year old.

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The institution of the NFL has been turned inside out—and rightfully so—for countless reasons. Among these include: the culture of violence that has been absorbed by the players’ family members for years, the countless players facing even more countless charges of violent crimes and the apparent cover-up (or shameful ineptitude, if you’re an optimist) of the Rice incident—only the most recent indication of the NFL’s unspoken mandate to “protect the shield.”

Despite all this, last Sunday came and went. Hundreds of thousands of fans across the country flocked to their football meccas and millions tuned in at home. Billions of dollars were made in salary and advertising revenue. The testament of sport.

It would be pretentious, and in many ways wrong, to call for a boycott of the NFL—and not just because it would never happen. After all, most football players are by-and-large good people (I think) who understand that they’re not actually allowed to pulverize other people off the field.

I would hope that recent events have disrupted fandom—at least for a blip—causing unease and skepticism. There has been some reporting on this, but not nearly enough.

Football is good. Ray Rice is bad. And the NFL fucked up.

End scene.

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Ray Rice knocked someone unconscious—his partner nonetheless. He may never face judge or a jury, but he is being punished—by the league he belonged to, the team he was a part of and the American public at large.

Tony Stewart Killed a person. Where’s the indignation? Why hasn’t ESPN rushed to Ward’s aide with hours of outraged Olbermanns and Wilbons?

When we were talking about Ward’s death—for that brief two week period that quickly was swept under the rug the moment Stewart gloriously returned to the race track to bravely not lose his position in the Sprint cup race—we seemed to shy away from what actually happened. Our headlines never used the words like “killed” or “fatally struck.” Instead it was an unfortunate accident that happened to an unfortunately young person.

“…an on-track accident that left 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. dead.”

“…he was involved in an incident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr.”

“Kevin Ward Jr.’s death…”

“A sprint car racing incident involving NASCAR driver Tony Stewart left another driver with fatal injuries…”

It’s no wonder that Stewart got away with murder. Our verbs hid him from the truth of it. I don’t know yet if that was for his sake or ours. Both are infuriating reasons.

Accidents and death are part of the machismo of racing. I get it. But Ward didn’t die in an accident. He died after an accident—when Stewart’s right front tire clipped Ward, throwing him in the air like a rag doll. As for machismo, the NFL certainly doesn’t lack in it, and they’ve still managed to hold individuals to a modicum of accountability—no matter how disjointed and backwards-ass the path is to get there.

Stewart Killed a person. It’s on tape. I’m still waiting for the Fury of God’s Own Thunder.

#BREAKING: MARSHALL HENDERSON TO INTERN WITH DONALD STERLING FOR FRIEND’S RACE AND ETHNIC STUDIES THESIS

According to sources within Donald Sterling’s real estate management firm Donald T Sterling & Associates, Marshall Henderson has been hired on as Sterling’s personal social media Intern for the summer.

Our sources claim that Henderson wowed during the interview process, impressing Sterling above all, claiming that he was Henderson’s personal hero.

“His history with drugs intrigued us, and his recent comments regarding Michael Sam made him a top candidate,” said Luckswing’s source. “That was probably the happiest I’ve seen Donald in an internship interview since he met with Mel Gibson’s son.”

Henderson’s tenure will be short-lived despite the perfectness of pairing.

“[Henderson] did mention that he wouldn’t stick around long and probably use his experience for a friend’s thesis,” Luckswing’s source continued. “That didn’t bother us too much though. We’re fairly certain he’s got some pigment in his DNA and that’s only gonna take you so far with Donald.”

#BREAKING: DOC RIVERS LEADS BREAK INS, PEES ON REFEREE’S COUCH

Anonymous sources close to the situation have confirmed that Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers broke into the homes of NBA Referees Tom Washington, Bennett Salvatore and Tony Brothers late last night.

In an apparent response to a “blown call” in last nights game 5 between the Clippers and the Oklahoma City Thunder, Rivers led a small crew of team members, coaching staff and random street hoodlums in a vandalizing spree. They allegedly ransacked all three homes, peed on furniture and spray painted “PIGS BE PIGS” and “BACON” on nearly every surface as a warning for future games.

“At first, bro, I thought like we were just gonna be like TP-ing some rando’s homes, bro, maybe stringing and forking a some lawns,” said one Clipper (who may or may not be white and may or may not have been Donald Sterling’s favorite player). “Then, when we showed up like to our first house, Coach just started going H.A.M. He whipped out his, you know, and started peeing on everything. Everything!”

Another source confirmed that after last night’s press conference, in which Rivers exclaimed his disgust at the outcome and the processes of instant replay as well as his “love” for the refs, all he wanted was to get back at Washington, Saalvatore and Brothers immediately.

“He was fuming after that [press conference]. All he wanted to do was burn those [referees’] houses down. Hell, it took everything in us to keep him from shitting on their stoops. He’d a done it, too!”

West Points

CP3: 18.4 p, 9.8 a, 4.3 r, 2.4 stl, 47 fg%, 25.6 PER, 46.5 A%, 23.7 U%, 122 ORtg, 104 DRtg, .270 WS/48

RW0: 21.3 p, 7.3 a, 5.3 r, 1.7 stl, 43 fg%, 21.1 PER, 36.1 A%, 30.1 U%, 105 ORtg, 102 DRtg, .178 WS/48

TP9: 18.8 p, 6.6 a, 3.3 r, 1 stl, 49.5 fg%, 19.9 PER, 33 A%, 25.8 U%, 110 ORtg, 107 DRtg, .141 WS/48

DL0: 19.2 p, 5.8 a, 3.2 r, 0.8 stl, 42.7 fg%, 17.5 PER, 27 A%, 24.6 U%, 112 ORtg, 111 DRtg, .121 WS/48

–Career averages per 36 minutes (via basketball-references.com)

The four teams remaining in the Western Conference Playoffs feature the four of the top seven regular season offenses. Three of those teams were also among the top seven defenses (San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Supersonics and the Los Angeles Clippers). Each of those teams feature a Hall of Fame, or potential Hall of Fame forward. But for each team their success begins and ends at the hands of their point guards.

Their career splits are surprising similar, yet they are dramatically different players. In this sense, metrics are dangerous. It hides how each plays their position, as well as where they are in their careers. Both Paul and Parker are nine and 13 years into their careers, and have statistically, stylistically and, at least in Parker’s case, historically cemented their place in the NBA. For both Lillard and Westbrook their numbers will certainly change, skewing more efficient.

Pay attention. No four players shape the outcome of the West more so than Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker and Damian Lillard.

The Floor General

From the moment Chris Paul took an NBA court, fans and basketball wonks alike fell in love with Paul’s game. He is the truest of true point guards not named Steve Nash, and is unparalleled in managing his team’s offensive tempo. As this newest class of score-first point guards—led by Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, Derrick Rose and Westbrook—continues to prosper, Paul remains a beacon for old school point guard play that thrived on setting your man up for the easy basket.

The extent to which Paul impacts the flow, the speed and the positioning of the players around him is almost unfathomable.

Paul scores high marks on the Thibodeau test. He is among a handful of players (Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and maybe Stephen Curry and Goran Dragic for the sheer relentlessness of their respective games) that a coach, in this case Tom Thibodeau, wouldn’t have to practice or draw an offensive play at all, ever for a whole season and still get an above average offense.

Only with the emergence of analytics have we begun to quantitatively grasp all that Paul does. As a floor general, Paul lives for his teammates and his fingerprints can be seen all over the assist world, consistently ranking in the top of every assist-related metric throughout his career. This playoffs has been an exemplar.

In this postseason, Paul’s offensive rating scores a stellar 115.2 with an unsurpassed 34.1 assist ratio (assists per 100 possessions). But more impressive, his play has elevated teammates J.J. Redick and Blake Griffin into the top five of that category (for players averaging more than 25 minutes/game).

Paul has led the playoffs in percentage of field goals assisted while on the floor with a 48.9 Assist % (via basketball-reference.com). Mike Conley is the only player with a higher assist to turnover ratio in the post-season—and only by a hair (3.67 to 3.55). Not coincidentally, Conley is perhaps the only other playoff point guard whose team absolutely relied on his offensive management.

Paul separates himself from Conley, however, with his scoring ability—by-products of his superior strength and shooting touch. Conley’s individual offense does not come so easily. If Paul took 20-23 shots a game (instead of his current 15), no one would bat an eye. In fact, it’s encouraged. But Paul’s game isn’t interested in that. Paul’s game does what his team needs, and if that means jacking up nine threes, hitting eight

If it means going H.A.M. on pick and rolls

If it means being selfless, putting on a show and energizing his team and the crowd—home or away

If it means showing the pick and rolls, being selfless, putting on a show and energizing his team and the crowd—home or away

So be it. Count him in.

There’s that weird 18 point differential between Paul’s offensive and defensive ratings, but that’s mostly due to his out of this world offensive impact. He’s always been a tenacious defender, may be the answer to the MVP and is the best defensive point guard his coach has “maybe ever” seen.

The Freak                                                                                    

Pound for pound, Russell Westbrook is perhaps the most athletic basketball player in the NBA. The combination of speed, strength, quickness and leaping ability packaged in a 6’3”, 190 lb. point guard frame is a once in a generation phenomenon.

And we get to witness two of the top 10 NBA players develop together and explode all over the NBA in all their youthful glory

Now KD to RW

They’re also occasionally adorable

Westbrook scores more, rebounds more and has a better defensive rating, than the other point guards on this list. Still, more than CP3, Parker and Lillard, he suffers from a purely analytic view of his game.

Anyone who has seen RW0 play basketball cannot ignore the ferocity with which he goes about his business. His sheer relentlessness and undying predatory pathology elevates his strain of “give me that” to the highest of art forms.

Even after the whistle has blown

His tenacity and relentlessness has almost made him a caricature of himself

You hate guys like this. You love guys like this. If you’re playing him, you can’t stand the bravado. If he’s on your team, he’s the lifeblood.

I’m going to ignore the criticisms that he takes too many shots, that he should defer to Durant more.

Let Russell be Russell.

Whatever your view of him, his spirit is infectious. And despite his many physical talents, that is perhaps his greatest asset. He leaves no room for doubt as to what he’ll do to score this basket, to snag this loose ball, to win this game.

Anybody who has seen Kevin Durant play since his time at the University of Texas knows that he’s gotten nastier. It’s the only way he scores 32 points a game this year, snags the Bill Russell trophy and has a shot at a ring. He knows it too. And anybody who has seen his evolution alongside Westbrook’s knows in their heart of hearts that #0 is the reason KD is MVP.

As Kendrick Perkins has receded more and more into the background, Westbrook has become the emotional engine for this team. Unlike CP3, he doesn’t read his team’s needs and act according. Rather, like a benevolent ruler, he dictates the terms of this game, and this victory.

For Westbrook, moderation is a four-letter word to ignore—like quit.

Par Excellence!

Tony Parker has achieved nearly everything the other guys on this list hope to in their careers. In many ways, his career arc illustrates how a player—not born with God-given size and skill—develops into a probable Hall of Famer.

Parker has won three championships with the San Antonio Spurs, earning NBA Finals MVP honors in 2007. He has been voted to the All-Star game six times, made the All-NBA Second Team twice, the All-NBA Third Team once and is already the Spurs all-time leader in assists. And we haven’t even broached his storied international career.

Certainly Parker has benefitted from an ideal situation. He came into the league with uncanny quickness and exceptional ball handling skills. And together, with one of the greatest coaches in NBA history, probably the greatest power forward in NBA History and the greatest Argentinian basketball player in NBA history, learned to master the pick-and-roll-or-kick.

Statistically, Parker would seem to not excel at anything in particular–with the exception of a high field-goal percentage, but with as high a percentage, you’d expect a higher Player Efficiency Rating (PER)–this speaks to the system he’s had the had the good fortune of playing in and crafting.

Over the years, with the help of Chip Engelland he has developed a more-than-serviceable jump shot. His three-point shooting percentage has increased from a career worst 26% in 2008 to 37% this past season on the same number of shot attempts.

What has truly come to define TP9’s career is his extraordinary finishing ability. He has seemed to master every layup conceivable and in any given game, he’s prone to bust out more versions of a layup than you even knew existed.

Pretty much anywhere within 10-15 feet from the basket Parker seems to apparate at will, making magical plays

Also Parker has a Van Halen Lamborghini and a hyperbaric chamber. Probably because he’s made shots like this

TheDeadeye

The youngest of this group, Lillard’s ascension to the top tier of point guards has been surprisingly rapid, if not unlikely.

Lillard’s last two years reads something like a typical millenial’s resume—except, you know, talent.

A Technical Sales graduate from Weber State University in Utah, Lillard has gone from three consecutive first-team all-conference to NBA Rookie of the Year, to playoff hero in a city that hadn’t won a postseason series in like 300 years.

Let us supplicate for the sacrificial lamb that is and was Chandler Parson’s hair

Lest we forget, that’s not the only time he’s done it this year. Let us mourn for Alonzo Gee as well

At 6’3” with 6’8” wingspan, Lillard has a uncannily quick first step that splits the defense as good as anybody in the NBA—devastatingly so on a pick and roll. He makes oafs of slow footed bigs; when they (J.J. Hixon, below) come up to hedge on the screen, Lillards shoots the ball between his screener and away from the hedger the moment the big plops down flat-footed

At such an early point in his career, it’s incredible that Lillard has been able to put it together so quickly. Most likely, he’ll be exiting the playoffs tonight with a righteous Spurs sweep, but this is his first appearance in the NBA Playoffs. Ever. There’s no doubt he will return for years to come.

He has finishing ability

 

He has range

He has endeared himself to the hearts and minds of Rip City

He has found a groove

7-7-7-7-7: How Did We Get So Lucky?

After a weekend of five game-7s and a first round of eight overtimes, the past 48 hours of NBA basketball has been pretty boring.

Washington beat Indiana by six—though it was never really that close. The Clippers trounced Oklahoma City by 17—though it wasn’t really that close either. Miami soundly beat Brooklyn by 21. And San Antonio thoroughly outclassed Portland by 24.

Fear not, basketball fans. As the Prince of the Peanut Gallery, the High Priest of the Punditry, the Baron of Bloviators and Admiral of NBA Analysts Charles “That’s Turrible” Barkley would wisely warn us, “Let’s not overreact to Game 1.”

Well Sir Barkley, give me a subpar screen play, stick me in a middling production and call me Nic Cage:

BLOWOUTS! BLOWOUTS!! MORE BLOWOUTS!!! THE WINNERS OF GAME ONES WILL ALL BE IN THEIR RESPECTIVE CONFERENCE FINALS!!!!!!!!! ASDFKLASMDLBMAOWASDA;’SADFA/]ASVASCAXLKJUHNV!!!! REALLY THOUGH I’M NOT EVEN THAT CRAZY—CAPS LOCKS JUST MAKES ME SEEM LIKE I AM—LIKE BAD MOVIES MAKE CAGE LOOK GENIUS!!!

San Antonio v. Portland

This has barn burner written all-over it. They split the season series, and there is a possibility these teams offenses will literally set one or both of their arenas on fire. Portland had the most efficient offense in the first round, scoring 111.8 points per 100 possessions. While San Antonio had the highest effective field goal percentage (54.3) of any team in the first round. Together, they combined to take 282 3-pointers, sinking  over 37% of them.

While Portlandia was riding high on Damian Lillard’s sacrificing of Chandler Parsons on the altar of the scorer’s table:

the Spurs kept them kitsch by putting a 24-point bird on it.

Rip City seemed to try the switch-on-everything defense that the Dallas Mavericks used pretty effectively. Unfortunately, their bigs can’t contain Tony Parker (neither could the Mavs really), who torched the Blazers for 33 points and 9 assists.

LaMarcus Aldridge will continue to have a killer playoffs. He (along with the rest of the team) started off slow, but last night’s 32 and 14 was no aberration. He’s owned San Antonio’s power forwards all season, shooting 23 of 38 (61%) against Tim Duncan and Boris Diaw.

(Then again, if Pop can continue to get double digit contributions from the likes of Aron Baynes, then LMA’s contribution is effectively neutralized.)

Every facet of the San Antonio Spurs franchise has, at one time or another, had a place in every basketball wonk’s spank bank. From their ageless giant wonder to their too-good-for-your-shenanigans head coach, the Spurs are the Raquel Welch of the NBA. They have almost even managed to hold up (perhaps get better?) over time.

They’re still the one seed. They still won 60+ games this season. Their offensive schemes are still beautiful to watch. And their team defense is still unflappable.

That said, Rip City has been forged in the crucible of the Western Conference, Damian Lillard and LMA are the real deal and the Spurs were pushed to 7 by the significantly less talented Mavericks. The Blazers’ fit the underdog ethos, and will keep San Antonio honest.

The Spurs in 7.

Miami v. Brooklyn

Miami’s vice no more.

Prior to last night’s beat down, some held out hope that Brooklyn could really beat Miami. They did after all sweep the regular season series!

Except three of those games were last second, one-point victories, and the fourth, a double overtime slugfest. Which is not to say they were flukes. Entirely.

Mikhail Prokhorov and Billy King put together this team for this playoff moment against the Heat. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett have a history with Lebron James, and the Heat have a history of wavering in the face of wisdom (see 2011 Mavs, 2013 Spurs). Prokhorov’s purchase of the Nets must have come shortly after he emerged from his Serbian underground cryogenics chamber because he seems to have forgotten the symptoms of age—mainly that Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko were getting slower and could no longer jump as high as in their hayday.

Whereas, Miami has the best combination of talent and athleticism on this Earth in James.  They also have that unseemly extra gear that they turn on in the playoffs when they’re in trouble. It’ll prove problematic in the Finals, but while they are in the East, they should be just fine.

The Heat in 5.

Los Angeles v. Oklahoma City

First of all, if you have not watched Kevin Durant’s MVP acceptance speech yet, stop reading this and invest the seven minutes. It’s worth it. It’s a bit heartbreaking to write the following after such a thoughtful and unselfish outpouring from one of the Supersonic greats, but….

The LA Clippers has been Doc Rivers’ opportunity to resurrect the ‘08 Celtics. Boston won 9 more games than LA this season, but just take this ride with me for a moment. Here are the anonymous player splits (per 36 minutes via basketball-reference.com):

clippers celtics

The numbers don’t matchup perfectly. You could probably guess whom most of the players are, but it takes a thoughtful minute.

Blake Griffin, J.J. Redick (only played 35 games and averaged 28.2 min/game) and Chris Paul are the better had better stat lines than their counterparts—Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo. Deandre Jordan’s defensive acumen is not quite on par with Garnett’s, but despite scoring half the points KG did, he still produced over a third more blocks and rebounds.

Doc Rivers has always been a great motivator. In Boston, he united an entirely new roster around the philosophy of Ubuntu—as critical a component of their championship run as any of those individual players.

In this first year with the Clips, Rivers never seemed fully content with the unity and heart of his team. They clearly have got the talent to win it all. But in a glitzy Los Angeles market, with his best players fronting for corporate America in series of national commercials and a squad too young to really be hungry (with the exception of Paul), Rivers never seemed to have his players performing at the selfless and courageous level that he knows is at the core of a true champion.

Enter Donald Sterling.

In their three victories since the Donald-Sterling-Is-Fascist-Bigot-Gate, LA has averaged over 120 points in each of their contests. And more importantly, they look like had champion’s heart and fight. They played with a fire that makes even the casual observer step back, and say, “Damn. Those guys mean it!”

Their beating of the Oklahoma City Supersonics put the world on notice. And yes, they mean it.

The Clippers in 6.

Indiana v. Washington

Washington is only technically an underdog here. The Pacers are still debacling, despite their first round victory over the Atlanta Hawks.

At this point, the Pacers are only a slightly better version of the Chicago Bulls (though I’m not entirely convinced of that—giving a slight edge here in deference to seeding), whom the Wiz pretty easily dismantled. And if Jeff Teague gave Indiana fits last round, I’d like to introduce you to John Wall:

and Bradley Beal:

These young men are 23 and 20 (that’s right BB can’t even drink alcohol—legally), respectively, dynamic ballers that enjoy long walks on the beach and candle lit dinners. They’ll be accompanying your nightmares, or dreams, for the next couple weeks.

The X-factors (or Z-factors, if you prefer) are Trevor Ariza and Nene. Both bring deep playoff experience and have played balls to the wall this post-season. Ariza is shooting a ridonkulous 55.9% from behind the arc on just under six attempts per game. While Nene has increased nearly every statistical category from the regular season and generally looked spry and dominating against a hapless Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson.

On the other end of the court, Ariza and Nene will be charged with guarding Paul George and David West, respectively—the most consistent and necessary cogs in the Pacers offensive contraption. In the regular season, Ariza held George to 8 of 26 shooting. Conversely, West is much better than the Boozer/Gibson duo that Nene had had his way with previously, and the big Brazilian isn’t exactly renowned for his defense. Hopefully, West will find his rhythm and his stroke—he certainly deserves it.

Randy Wittman (who I’m pretty sure is another D.C. leader and baller Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s night gig) has got his guys playing really good ball. And in the end, this fast, shooting, magical fellowship of “pretty good” guys will stop the Balrog at the Bridge of Khazad-dûm Pacers in their tracks:

The Wizards in 6.

On Donald Sterling and the Ugliness of It All

In light of Donald Sterling’s stupidity. And extended stupidity. I’m struck by a profound sadness. A sadness for Deandre Jordan, Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford, and the rest of the Los Angeles  Clipper players who have to carry the burden of being that team. For Doc Rivers, placed, yet again, at the intersection of race and responsibility. A sadness for Elgin Baylor, who may finally see vindication. I even reserve a small sadness for Rochelle Sterling, who probably (hopefully) doesn’t share the same inclinations as her (estranged?) husband.

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In Bill Bradley’s seminal Life on the Run, he paints an intimate almost innocuous exchange with Hall of Fame teammate, former New York Knick great and current color commentator Walt Frazier about being black. In the South. In the 70s.

“…I still feel the tension of segregation.”

“How?”

“Just by walkin’ in the stores and how people wait on you; like here at the Marriot, the way the lady gives you change. They’re just little things I can relate to because I grew up in the South, and it reminds me of that again. The same thing in Phoenix; the other day I went into a store and four saleswomen just stood there looking at me asking each other, ‘Who’s going to wait on him?’ Anywhere in the South we go on Delta or Eastern Airlines, I can feel the tension between white and black, starting with the stewardesses; it’s different when we fly United or Northwest.”

“Will the South ever be different for you?”

“It will always be the same.”

“Why?”

“Because of the parents,” says Frazier. “Kids know no prejudice. They just go out and have a good time playing. Then the parents start saying black is wrong, don’t play with black kids, don’t be a nigger lover. So they change early in life and that’s the problem.”

There are so many intersections between Clyde’s experience and Sterling’s expectations, it’s shameful to imagine their remarks being separated by half a century.

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As this unfortunate drama plays out on every news outlet in America, it’s easy to forget or altogether ignore, the setting. This is, after all, one of the most riveting first rounds in NBA Playoff history.

And where the first round is usually reserved for the great talent disparities, cakewalks and tune-ups, this post season, more so than any other in recent memory, has three to five team—the Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks and Memphis Grizzlies (and to a far lesser extent, the Golden State Warriors and Brooklyn Nets)—aiming to upend that paradigm. With only half the series having played four games, the NBA is poised to break a ton of telling records.

With 16 road wins at a whopping .533 winning percentage, this year’s playoffs is outpacing the record 19 first-round road wins record set in 2005. No playoffs have ever seen more than 10 overtimes. Already, we’ve seen seven.

This is what basketball analysts should be talking about. This is every NBA fan’s dream.

But instead, this visage of vitriol…

…has been seared, at least temporarily, into America’s consciousness.

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Everyone has an opinion on what the NBA, the Clipper players and coaching staff should do—in protest and in sanctions. They need to do more, is a common thread. But when your employer has a pathological history of racism, there isn’t much you can do. This league has almost always been about black players making old rich white men richer, and there is very little in this moment that has the force to change that.

Calls have been made to exert the maximum penalty and strip Sterling of his ownership—which Commissioner Adam Silver probably could do and certainly has the public support to do. But doing so raises all sorts of slippery slope questions. If a billionaire owner has ties to a separatist group supplying arms to a militia committing humanitarian crimes in Eastern Ukraine, should they have a team? If another billionaire owner prone to enjoying copious amounts of cocaine, strippers and booze uses his venture capital firm to dismantle American manufacturing jobs, leaving thousands unemployed, crippling entire communities, do they deserve ownership of an NBA franchise?

In the morass of so much cynicism, scorn and condemnation, it’s difficult to discern the few voices that truly matter. And even then, it’s harder to find the more salient points, to balance the fair-minded with the emotional pull and still frame it in a larger historical context.

There are many questions here, with few and difficult answers.

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That a man of such vitriol exists and wields so much power in the universe of this game represented by the most diverse and progressive league American sports has to offer, is a testament to a forever unfinished work of social progress.

If there’s any benefit to all this stupidity, it is that this slumlord modicum of a man serves as a vanguard for every idiot who has ever claimed we’re somehow beyond racism, that we live in a post-racial society.

I love the game of basketball. By extension I love the NBA. It’s a beautiful game at its best when five players work in physical, mental and emotional harmony. That, in part, is what makes this episode harder to bear.

The Los Angeles Clippers (along with San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Miami) were among the four teams generally regarded as serious contenders. Superstars, a deep bench and a championship—they finally have it all this season. And if twenty years from now, the 2014 NBA Playoffs still exist in our consciousness as that one year that one racist owner said those racist things, God help us all.