The Last Thing the Internet Needs Now

So, How’s That “Big League City” Stuff Going For You?
November 28, 2008, 7:23 pm
Filed under: Sports | Tags: , , ,

They’re 1-15 (as of this writing, November 28), with a 13-game losing streak. Their new fans have actually booed them. At this moment they appear to be the laughingstock of the association that brings us Not Basketball Anymore. How do you like them apples, Oklahoma City? So far every time the Thunder (!) gets mentioned on ESPN, they’re being shown getting humiliated, pwned, insert your favorite negative adjective here, whether its by the lowly LA Clippers (one of the worst teams in the Western Conference) or the contending Cleveland Cavaliers (a game in which LeBron James was only needed for about 17 minutes). And given the circumstances of how the team wound up in Oklahoma City, it isn’t like the Thunder are going to be lovable losers like the Cubbies (or even pathetic losers like the NFL’s Detroit Lions). Was this what everybody had in mind when they wanted to do this to raise Oklahoma City’s profile beyond it being that city with the tornadoes?

And not surprisingly, this is music to the ears of embittered Seattle Supersonics fans (and some of us Oklahomans who didn’t like the idea of taking Seattle’s 41-year old NBA franchise, moving it to a significantly smaller media market and rebranding it in horrifically bad fashion). Can you blame them? There is a lot of blame to go around in the saga of the final days of the Seattle Supersonics, but not everybody in Oklahoma wanted a bunch of big money men to up and buy the Sonics and exploit what had become a toxic political situation to their advantage — which is what they did, plain and simple. The ones who REALLY got screwed in this deal — as always — are the FANS in Seattle.

I don’t blame Seattle fans for being bitter, nor do I blame them for laughing at Oklahoma City at damn near every turn (provided they understand that not all Oklahomans wanted this, and some Oklahomans are Blue instead of brainwashed), and nor do I blame them for the thoroughly hateful feelings they have for Clay Bennett and the ownership group, and for NBA Commissioner David Stern — a man who has been wearing out his welcome as the head of the league for some time now. In a time of economic downturn I can’t help but feel a little bit of glee at watching very rich men start feeling the pinch in their wallets.

Between Oklahoma being The Reddest State in the Union and the home of The Worst Team in the NBA, what’s a filthy dirty liberal that loves sports to do? Even the worst team in the Eastern Conference, the Washington Wizards, at 2-11 and also playing under an interim head coach, are slightly more fortunate. The only difference between DC and Oklahoma City is that everybody knows what place you’re talking about when you say “DC.” When you say “Oklahoma City,” people still go “huh?” And hey, gotta rub salt in the wounds of the McCain/Palin groupies one more time: DC is Barack Obama‘s future residence. Suck it Pubs.

But maybe the ownership group realizes (if they are in this for the long haul and this really isn’t just a plaything they can use to curry favor from the rest of the state and to just hear “OKC” on ESPN every night, regardless of context), they have to actually make it successful on the court in order to breed success off the court. They fired head coach PJ Carlesimo (a somewhat overdue move) after the first game of a home-and-home against the New Orleans Hornets (the team Oklahoma City put up and fell in love with for two seasons following Katrina), and did so under a midnight cloak before flying to New Orleans for the second game of the home-and-home. Oh yeah, and that Friday night game was a nationally televised beatdown of the highest order. I’m not sure the Thunder will have an opportunity to be nationally televised the rest of the season (while NBA broadcast schedules can change over the course of a season, it doesn’t happen that much).

To be fair, it’s still too early to assess what kind of impact interim head coach Scott Brooks will have on this team. To his credit, he’s younger than Carlesimo, maybe this is just me but players seem to relate better to guys who actually PLAYED in the NBA as Brooks did (as opposed to Carlesimo, who hasn’t suited up for a game since 1971 at Fordham). There has been some positive reax/speculation about Brooks moving Kevin Durant back to his natural position (small forward), but it’s still a little too early to see what difference that’ll make. Desmond Mason has yet to play a game with Brooks running the show (sprained elbow — he is coming off the bench tonight versus Minnesota). Little things like that may make a difference at the season wears on.

Thre is still a lot of season left. We’ll see.

(Before I actually hit the PUBLISH button, I might mention that at halftime, the Thunder are leading the Timberwolves 48-44. Minnesota is the only team the Thunder have beaten this season. So perhaps they’ll be 2-15 by the end of tonight. Doesn’t change the fact there’s still a lot of work to do in OKC).

Using a Tiny Bandage to Mend a Severed Limb?
January 19, 2008, 3:44 pm
Filed under: Media, Sports | Tags: , ,

From Becoming Somebody

Excerpt fun:

It would be fine if NBAE simply came out and admitted to the public that it is no longer trying to compete with credible sports-information web sites, publications, and TV networks, but is instead in the business of painting a rose-colored image of a sport often immersed in one PR disaster after another — players fighting with fans, players firing off guns outside strip clubs, coaches and executives sexually harassing employees, and referees involved in gambling scandals, to name a few. If it is so concerned that the truth will spoil its image, then it should maintain control of its product and all relevant methods of its dissemination. It should stop covering games, teams, and player news altogether and focus only on corporate and community initiatives. It should be honest with itself and its fans. But by entering into the highly competitive arena of live-event and news coverage, the NBA clouds the line between information source and PR tool.

I rarely go to — if I want to see game recaps and box scores, there’s Yahoo! Sports or (although that four letter word is probably a drunken rant for another time). I’ve never, ever figured out why bothers with game recaps and box scores to begin with when there are scads of *other* sources for the same thing. It is disconcerting to read the author’s account of how a postseason game recap was retooled so as not to offend a certain young uber-star and the apparel company with which he is closely associated. Why bother when the original, unadulterated account was already posted on other sports-information sites? Who is the NBA kidding here?

I certainly agree with the author, but I’d also like to add that maybe the NBA should be careful with how it covers its community and other initiatives. I’m sorry but the bad publicity that has beset the NBA in recent years isn’t going to be magically erased by showing This Player reading to a wide-eyed, pee-panted pack of grammar school children, or That Player collecting donations for a food bank, or This Other Player and Some of His Teammates putting up the frame of a Habitat for Humanity house.

Those are worthy, noble and good things, mind you (although — I think good works tend to matter more when they aren’t being breathtakingly documented for public consumption), but it bothers me that the NBA’s publicity wonks think its necessary to bludgeon everybody over the head with it.

This is just me, but when you’re Joe or Josephine Fan and you’re black and blue from all that, when you turn on ESPNews or open up the paper and see that Player A got caught discharging a weapon outside a titty bar, or Player B was accused of raping some girl, it just makes the otherwise noble mission of the NBA’s community service program akin to using a finger bandage to mend a severed limb.

Early Season Observations: Portland Trail Blazers
November 6, 2007, 11:18 am
Filed under: Sports | Tags: , , , , ,

(Since the season has begun I suppose it’s too late for parts 3 and 4 of the intended previews that would have rounded out the “Scoping Just the Teams I Remotely Care About” thing. Sorry, real life got in the way).

Anyway, the Blazers, who as of now are off to an 0-3 start. Martell Webster, LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy are the best things going for that team right now (and Roy, the reigning Rookie of the Year, got off to a slow start). The first game at San Antonio — on Ring night — was actually impressive because the young Blazers for the most part kept up with the defending champs and wouldn’t go away. It was an encouraging loss, but a loss nonetheless. Then the Blazers got pwned at New Orleans and fell on the short end of an 80-89 loss at Houston.

Coach Nate McMillan started the season with incumbent PG Jarrett Jack at the 1, a decision that he might now rue as he considers lineup tinkering ahead of another game against the upstart Hornets which will open the Blazers’ home season.

Jack is an incredibly talented player who is mired in a slump at the worst possible time, and it seems that point guard play is a sore spot early in this season.

Here’s the deal, and perhaps a recap of Portland’s wealth of point guards as I view them:

Jack — entering his third season in the NBA — is a combo guard who is probably more suited to the 2 (and backing up Brandon Roy for now). It is possible that Jack might not be adapting to McMillan’s new up-tempo offense, or it might be possible that there is something in Jack’s head that is eating him, but one thing is certain — he is in a slump and perhaps a change is in order for Jack’s good and the good of the Blazers as this young season wears on. Two other things to consider: 1) Jack’s success last season was when McMillan was employing a more deliberate type of offense and 2) There was still Zach Randolph down there to feed.

Sergio Rodriguez is a terrific second-year player from Spain. He can give the Blazers a spark when he’s out there, but excess turnovers (also a knock on Jack AND Steve Blake in the preseason and early in the real season) and deficient D seem to keep him on McMillan’s bench. The rub is that Rodriguez is widely regarded as the Blazers’ future at PG, and well, he’s gotta get his minutes *somewhere* and have the opportunity to learn from his mistakes.

Finally, this brings us to Steve Blake, technically the newest Blazer guard (because he came this season as a free agent), but not at all a new Blazer: He played the 2005-2006 season with Portland and started most of that season’s games at point guard from December 2005 on following an injury to Sebastian Telfair, who at one time was regarded as the Blazers’ future at point guard. Former Blazers GM Steve Patterson traded Blake (along with Brian Skinner and Ha-Seung Jin) to Milwaukee in August 2006 for Jamaal Magloire. When Kevin Pritchard became the Blazers’ GM last spring, one of his objectives was to get Blake back. Mission accomplished, no aircraft carrier, flight suit or well-placed banner necessary.

I know the following is unpopular sentiment on some Blazers blogs and forum communities (such as Blazer’s Edge), but it’s my sentiment, I’m entitled to it, and don’t think for one minute this has anything to do with my allegiances to a certain ACC school whose mascot is a turtle.

Blake SHOULD be Portland’s starting point guard. His calmness, steadiness and maturity on the floor is exactly what these young Blazers need to get them over the hump. At 27 he’s still young enough to still have his best NBA years ahead of him, and just mature enough to be a rock for what is one of the NBA’s youngest teams. Furthermore, he’s one of the few Blazers that has been to the NBA Playoffs (DC, 2004-2005 season; Denver, 2006-2007 season), so he has some experience on what its like to be THAT situation as well.

He isn’t going to be the next Steve Nash, and that might be the rub in his case: Blake does everything well — although he has his bad nights, everybody does — but “well” is what you get with him. Not “spectacular” or “stunning,” just “well.” Because you can’t look at Blake with goggly eyes and murmur, “ooooh, shinyyyyy” like a small child transfixed by the Christmas decorations, he’s apparently beneath the bar in a league that is all about flash over (and sometimes at the expense of) substance.

Rick Morrissey Gets It
October 20, 2007, 11:46 am
Filed under: Sports | Tags: , , , ,

If there was ever an endorsement for patience, this has to be it:

Chicago Tribune — Avoid Temptation: No Kobe (bold emphasis is mine, not Morrissey’s)

People expect immediacy these days. Cell phones, instant messages and liposuction sprang from impatience. So the possibility of acquiring Bryant looks like the probability of an instant championship to some of you.

But how much more fulfilling would it be if the Bulls’ nucleus stayed together and took another step forward?

I know: That kind of thinking is so yesterday, so wrapped up in patience.

But let’s look at it a different way. Which would you find easier to embrace? A championship with a Kobe-come-lately? Or a championship with three players whom the Bulls drafted and nurtured and developed?

Good question to ask and something I’ve been feeling for a while now. It WOULD be a hell of a lot more gratifying to see the Bulls come full circle from post-dynasty chumps to champs again with the dates they brought with them.

And that’s exactly because in my view the Bulls organization realizes that “rebuilding” entails allowing the seedlings to blossom on their own instead of ripping them up at the roots and replacing them with some kind of extra-pretty super flower that might poison the rest of what appears to be a carefully cultivated garden of NBA delights. I would think that master gardener John Paxson knows this (of course, Ben Gordon’s contract extension appears to be unresolved at this time too … we’ll see how that goes, but for the Bulls’ sake I’d love to see Gordon follow the example of his teammate, Kirk Hinrich, last season and finally sign that extension).

A player like Bryant brings star power and attention to the Bulls that hasn’t really been there since the Jordan years. Okay, Ben Wallace is a legitimate — and perhaps fading — star, but Kobe Bryant is the center of his own solar system, and yea though that sun burns bright, sometimes it threatens to immolate everything in its path. Is it worth the potential destruction of the Bulls for this?

As if we needed another reason to worship Henry Abbott
October 16, 2007, 11:25 am
Filed under: Sports | Tags: , , , ,

… he has started a YouTube TrueHoop group. Participants (nearing 500 as of 6:30 a.m. CDT 10.16.2007 — I apparently need to fix my time settings in this thing) have picked their favorite basketball videos from around the expansive site and put them in one convenient location. I could kill a whole weekend there. Really.

So the five of you or whatever that look at my thing — go check it out.

And Mr. Abbott — THANK YOU SIR!

Much love, best wishes and good vibes to Etan Thomas …
October 12, 2007, 10:39 am
Filed under: Sports | Tags: , ,

… as he recovers from open heart surgery performed Thursday at the Mayo Clinic. The surgery was to repair a leak in the aortic root, and needless to say he’ll be on the bench for a while.

But at least he’ll be on the bench instead of on a more permanent sojourn. While it may be too soon to gauge whether or not this ends his playing career, his patrolling the paint at DC’s Verizon Center is probably the least of everyone’s concerns right now. When they’re talking about your ticker, you’d be wise to listen. It appears that Thomas listened, and hooray not just for him and his loved ones but every one of us.

Thomas, born in Harlem and raised in Tulsa, is one of the real good guys of the NBA. While not a superstar player or even always a great player (but good enough to have stuck in the league for six years, almost all of it with the Wizards), he is one of those guys who works hard and busts his rear when he’s out there — and not always to great accolades afforded the uber-stars of the league, and away from the court is hardly the one-dimensional sports celebrity or even remotely someone you’d dare call a “dumb jock.”

Thomas has balls of steel because 1) he exercises his conscience, and 2) he exercises it usually through a medium that tends to be maligned in the often hypermasculine athlete culture. While he’s certainly not the only guy in the NBA with a conscience (Dikembe Mutombo, Luol Deng, Ira Newble and Steve Nash say hello), who the hell else out there is creating art while engaged in discourse about Things That Matter?

Regardless of how you feel about his poetry (his More Than an Athlete was published in 2005), or his other writing (he has been a contributor to SLAMOnline and the Huffington Post), or his outspoken opposition to the Iraq War and the Administration that started it, you still have to admire the man because he has the balls to stick up for his beliefs and principles. If I had kids they’d so be looking up to Etan Thomas.

And there really aren’t enough Etan Thomases out there — well-rounded individuals who are aware of the world outside the practice court or their own mansions. Individuals that have the guts to speak out about the often unpleasant realities of the world. Individuals with a particular passion for young people — and not necessarily because it was dictated by some marketing whiz or a league mandate — that give the time to address issues in a way that doesn’t insult their intelligence.

So raise a frosty one to the folks at the Mayo Clinic for fixing up the one precious Etan Thomas we do have.

And raise another frosty one for Etan Thomas too.

Cheers. And get well soon.

UPDATE: Optimism about his recovery.

Agonized Musings Redux: It’s On!
September 25, 2007, 12:04 pm
Filed under: Sports | Tags: ,


Maybe I should have waited to post the original Agonized Musings … “ piece today given this meaty development in the Bloodless War between Seattle, Washington and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma:

City Sues Sonics to Enforce Arena Lease (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Who didn’t see this coming?

When you act in something that I don’t want to call bad faith but probably is (if not the pure legal definition), you should probably expect to be sued?

What do I mean by that? Here’s Slade Gorton, from that P-I article as above:

“In talking about another new and highly expensive arena for basketball in the Seattle area, they made the kinds of demands that from my perspective were almost designed to not be met, with only an extremely modest contribution (from ownership) and a huge investment from taxpayers.”

And more:

“Gorton said recent published statements by Sonics minority owner Aubrey McClendon saying the intent has always been to wind up in Oklahoma City lent further credence to the belief the new group never was committed to Seattle.

‘Regrettably, almost from the beginning, those Oklahoma owners gave every indication they did not intend a longtime stay in Seattle,’ Gorton said.

‘They refused the request to have minority owners who were from Seattle. They incorporated the venture in Oklahoma. And more recently, one of the principal owners let the cat out of the bag by saying a move to Oklahoma was their design from the very beginning.'”

I’m sorry to hate on someone from Oklahoma because I live here too, but what bothers me about the whole thing with Seattle is the “not exactly honesty” — blatant or implied — on the part of the ownership group. But was the cat really let out of the bag when Aubrey McClendon made his now-infamous remarks to the Journal Record? I think Gorton is spot on with the “demands designed to not be met” remarks. To me its like they thought they had all their ducks lined up in a row because Seattle was viewed as “apathetic” towards the NBA and downright cold toward the idea of publicly funding a successor venue to Key Arena after having done such for facilities for the Mariners and Seahawks. I believe that’s exactly why the ownership group trotted out this outlandishly expensive proposal for a new arena knowing it would go over like a lead balloon and perhaps expedite their exit from a disgusted Seattle.

Well, Seattle is just disgusted enough to sue the team to force them to honor the remaining term of the lease. How’s that?

I just wonder if its really worth all this trouble — and a certain amount of bad will towards Oklahoma City on some parts — to make OKC an NBA city when, as I postulated the other night, I’m not actually certain that it would succeed on a long-term basis. This is NOT a situation like the New Orleans Hornets were in immediately after Katrina — the little lost NBA team needing a temporary home and to be loved by a strange audience in a place they’d never been to (well, except for Desmond Mason, acquired days before that season started). The team that was expected to suck in 2005-2006 had, by the end of the year, doubled its win total from the horrendous 2004-2005 campaign (18-64)* AND had the NBA’s Rookie of the Year on its roster. To OKC-ians, they were the little team that could even though it was far from home and tried to make the best of its situation, and stories like that tug at Oklahoma’s collective heartstrings. I can’t help but think that had a large part to do with the Hornets’ success in OKC.

No, the Sonics aren’t a little lost NBA team needing a new home, but a team that will be taken out of its present home and potentially moved to another one on purpose whether anybody likes it or not. I don’t think I like that. Thankfully, there is no catastrophe, no tragic extenuating circumstances, it’s a rich businessman who wants to take what he bought and tradition and entrenchment and fans be damned, and it sucks. It certainly sucks for Sonics fans, and it sucks for people like me who are sick of Oklahoma being thought of in negative terms and unwelcome stereotypes because of what someone from THEIR state does.

And has ANYBODY asked the players how THEY feel about possibly moving to Oklahoma in the future, be it near or far? They’re probably not supposed to say anything and that’s understandable at this time, but such responses would be interesting to hear.

Most of all, where is David Stern on this?

There might be more later.