Russell has a bad beard, barely a beard
So Harden Schmarden
Russell is broad-shouldered, jumps high, runs fast, shoots imaginary pistols, snarls, is the latest embodiment of a made-up mentality called mamba
Man-made of bones and flesh though sometimes it doesn’t seem so like when he’ll
Snatch a board and explode like the Flash or Usain Bolt with basketball
Passing Steven and Enes, and Victor and Billy, and Steve McQueen and Dutch McQueen
It’s impossible though to keep up the high forever
Acid wears off, paint runs dry, the sun grows cold and dim, and Russell, unlike Wilt,
Can’t play 48.5 minutes a game
Sit, rest, sweat, replenish with electric koolaid Gatorade
And witness and watch a wannabe empire crumble on a Kevin Durant departure, like a
Prairie twister flinging Clay-B into snarling jaws of PNW throngs
Plus, minus, net, zero
Russell has knuckles that bulge, big hands I see during press conferences gripping thin-necked mics
Those same big hands the tools of a furious craftsman shaping a world of leather and wood and glass and steel and nylon
Big heart pumping, big heart probably three times the size of a normal human heart like he’s the human Secretariat
Chasing down Big O, Big Oscar, Big grouchy pants, while the pitched screams of the chorus clash in some unholy demonic din
Love, hate, sober, drunk, we can’t agree on anything
Even numbers lie these days
Down to the subdermal layers to the atoms of Russell’s being, scrutinizing
Stack up all the stats like petty biscuits of achievement and gobble it up without milk
Choke on the numbers
Critical and confused in a day where we know everything and yet still believe in what we can’t see
Everything ends and every ending starts with some sprouting in spring or something
A car crash in Houston on a
Late night in April
Careening into Patrick
Russell MVP rising so far so fast
Commercialized, commodified to sell product
In funny clothes, clownsuits
Prisoner of a musecage of his own design
(Oh, give it a rest, Kobe)
Head to head, I mean rim to rim nuclear-propelled missile bullet rocket projectile thundering sonic boom
Bukkake acid rain all over the NBA
But fizzle fizzle fizzle
No cupcake, no sadness, no victory
Those big hands crinkling, those knuckles crunching
Pupils big like frisbees
A multi-hued splatter on hardwood canvas Bill Walton Jackson Pollock basketball
Drunk on a tappable fury reserve,
Futuristic basketball player in Joanie Mitchell hats
Validated in losing, but still
Validated, but still
Losing, but still
It’s so late in the game for this. The All-Star game has come and gone, the midway point of the season occurred weeks ago. But I suppose and realize that stars and all-stars aren’t limited to deadlines and dates and given the potential for a late February/early March NBA malaise, I’m submitting my second annual Dancing with Noah all-star team. There aren’t any rules or criteria to this team. It’s almost certain to always be made up of NBA players, but on the off-chance that Terrence Williams ends up re-dominating overseas or Omar Cook averages 20+ assists/game, or a college kid morphs into a basketball-version of Cookie Monster and gobbles up the rest of the kids like they’re human versions of cookies with limbs for crumbs and organs in place of chocolate chips … well, you, we get the picture: It’s unlikely. Jibber jabber and distractions and excuses aside, let’s get down to business:
LeBron James (2nd appearance): The reasons for including LeBron are so numerous and obvious that I’m not going to bother reviewing them here. Instead I want to acknowledge what LeBron tells us about ourselves as a basketball-loving community. In 2011 after the Mavs Freddy Krueger’d the Heat’s title dreams and Bron was shook by Jet Terry and DeShawn Stevenson of all people, there was a deluge of criticism, but not just the temporary justifiable and deserved criticism. We blasted his psyche and condemned him for all time. Choker, LeBronze, jokes about his fourth quarter disappearing act and a bunch of other corny ass nicknames and jokes that questioned his mental toughness. A year-and-a-half later and the narrative has shifted to honest discussions about whether or not he’s better (or going to be better) than Michael Jordan. Our overreactions are of the knee jerk variety. We allow ESPN to dictate the terms of the discussion to the point that it’s entered the realm of absurdity. In our haste to anoint, we cum too soon and reveal ourselves to continually be prematurely excited. This is our problem, not LeBron’s and not MJ’s.
Kyrie Irving (1st appearance): First, let’s talk about what Kyrie is not:
Kyrie Irving is a point guard version of the healthy Brandon Roy—but better and still improving. Like Roy, his movements are deceptively languid at times. He’s the alpha and omega of this Cavs team, a player with innate feel for how to get any shot at any time. That he doesn’t compare stylistically to the best PGs in the game is a testament to his uniqueness because he is easily one of the best PGs on the planet today and before his career is over, he’ll likely hold that imaginary title for a time.
Kevin Durant (2nd appearance): If there’s a God in heaven and he likes basketball, we’ll be treated to Durant’s Dhalsim-like rubbery-limbed versatility attempting to act as a foil to the M. Bison ruthlessness of LeBron and this will carry on for years and years. Durant’s jumper is akin to Dhalsim’s fire breathing, but there’s so much more to fall in love with. He continues to expand his game and is more comfortable stepping out of the PC box in which corporate sponsors, teams and agents try to imprison players. Durant’s feisty and fiery and willing to challenge not just the public notion of who he is, but possibly his own internal notions. This is the beginning of the path towards true self-discovery. (True, I may be taking some convenient liberties here. Also, if you’re not familiar with the image below, do yourself a favor and snag Street Fighter II – thank me later.)
Chandler Parson (1st appearance): The youth screams boy band heart throb, but the beard (however patchy) reveals a serious young man all about ambition and improvement. In just his second season as a pro, Parsons has shown a remarkable development. The creative boy we saw grabbing rebounds and pushing breaks in Gainesville has quickly asserted himself as not just a starter in this league, but a productive everyman of sorts. Watching him blend in seamlessly among the heavy usages of Harden and Lin, one gets the idea that Parsons can be whoever you need him to be. While he’s not likely to ever be remotely elite at scoring the basketball, he’s more than capable shooting and driving and is steadily improving across the board after a strong rookie campaign. If you’re a Rockets fan or Darryl Morey, one of your favorite things about Parsons is that cap-friendly contract: He’s on the books through the 2015 season and scheduled to make under $3 million over that three-year span.
Kyle Korver (1st appearance): Korver and I have more in common than you’d think: We’re both from Iowa, both graduates of the illustrious high school class of 1999 and both have white skin. The comparisons start to go astray after that which is cool because I’m own man anyway. Korver’s rightfully known as a three-point specialist and that’s what he is. He does other things serviceably well, but those beautiful threes soaring up and dropping through the rim with a splash of the net are his calling card. I don’t watch a ton of Hawks games, but when I do, it seems like I always see the same thing: Kyle Korver raining threes on opponents. In games I watch, he shoots around 60-70% from three. I know that’s not his actual shooting percentage, but mentally that’s what it feels like. Korver can change an NBA game plan the way speedy kick or punt returners in the NFL can completely alter defensive strategies. And he’s so damn regular with it.
Andre Drummond (1st appearance): Right alongside Damian Lillard, he’s been everyone’s favorite rookie this year for his pure domination and regulation of the painted area. Put Drummond in the game and he sucks up space like a black hole; a hulking 19-year-old (doesn’t turn 20 until August) who grabs nearly 14 rebounds/36 minutes and blocks over three shots in the same time span. Due to injuries, he hasn’t spent enough time on the court to qualify for rate leaders, but grabbing 21.5% of possible rebounds when he’s on the court would put him at second in the league while his 16.9% on the offensive glass would be the best in the league. When he finally gets over this injury, it’s time for all of us to reach out Joe Dumars, Dave Bing, Kwame Kilpatrick, anyone with pull in Detroit and see if we can help coach Lawrence Frank see the light … which, the more I think about it, may be blotted out by Drummond’s enormous frame.
Earl Clark (1st appearance): Now on his third team in four years, the once-scrawny Clark has finally filled out physically and is seizing opportunity where there was none just four or five months ago. Back in November, the Lakers going to battle with Dwight, Pau, Antawn Jamison and Jordan Hill all getting more love and affection from the Lakers two Coach Mikes than Clark who was nothing more than a long body with warm blood coursing through its veins at the end of the bench with his view regularly obscured by Robert Sacre’s exuberant celebrations. Then things went to hell in a hand basket and big Laker bodies dropped like malnourished humans overrun with plague. And instead of succumbing to the pressures and temptations of Los Angeles, Clark stepped in with his finely trimmed facial hair, his manly new physique, a long-range jumper envied by Gasol and proved to the NBA world that he could ball.
Jrue Holiday (1st appearance): As long as my blog’s been in existence (just under a two years), I’ve been acknowledging the blossoming weaponry of Holiday. He’s a 6’4” PG with big round eyes that always appear to be wide open and contrast greatly with his dark skin. He doesn’t have the cultural clout that his fellow young points do and honestly, he probably hasn’t earned it yet. That’s OK though since he was born back in 1990 when me and Korver were kicking it in Iowa. I don’t have a clue what his ceiling is and I prefer it that way—as long as we’re not there already.
Steph Curry/David Lee (1st appearances): Even though the Warriors have been slumping, these are still two of my favorite players this season. Everyone’s always ragging on Lee’s defense instead of admitting that he’s possibly the most exquisite paint scorer in the league. Maybe that’s a knock on the current state of pro post play or maybe Lee’s just a very good basketball player who happens to be great on offense. Then there’s Curry who’s finally treating us to a mostly clean bill of health. Whether it’s imagined or real, we love the idea of Pure anything in basketball—pure point guards, pure passers, pure beasts and especially the Pure Shooter. Curry was essentially born into the NBA and inherited his dad’s jump shooting DNA. For all we know, he never even had to practice that jumper; just woke up, went to the gym and starting bombing threes. Even if that preposterous assumption is true, Curry’s spent a lifetime fine tuning his game and erasing any question marks his bombs away approach at Davidson had elicited.
Jamal Crawford (1st appearance): I struggled with the decision of whether or not to include Crawford on this list and at the end of the day his handle, heat checks, Seattle pedigree and the fact that bloggers and number crunchers are taking the time to discount his effectiveness were enough reason to add him. For me, this is a bit of a career award though. Crawford’s one of the good guys in the game and even though he’s one of just seven players in league history who’s scored over 13,000 points with a field goal percent of 41.5 or lower, he can still fill it up and give the Clips another competent ball handler.
Paul George (1st appearance): People love some Paul George. They love his length, his versatility, his name, the fact that he’s (relatively speaking) coming from nowhere except he’s not. He’s coming from Palmdale, California and I can’t think of Palmdale without thinking of this song:
Rudy Gay (1st appearance): Let’s keep it going with another inefficient scorer. Gay and his big ol’ salary (owed over $50 million between now and 2015) were dumped by Memphis a few weeks back. In the 11 games he’s played with Toronto, he’s kept up his ill-shooting ways with a true shooting percent at 45.9 which is considerably worse than his career mark of 52.4. But at the same time, he’s nearly doubled his career average of steals per game, averaging 2.6. Most importantly for Raps fans is that the team is 7-4 since Gay’s arrival with wins over the Clips, Pacers (on a Gay game-winner), Nuggets (another game-winner by Gay) and two over the Knicks. Toronto’s 4.5 games out of the playoffs, but whether or not they make it, from my vantage point out here in Seattle, Gay’s been able to breathe life into this team in a way no player has since Chris Bosh.
Isaiah Thomas (1st appearance): Along with Nate Robinson, he’s the shortest player in the league, but he’s better than Nate. He relies less on athleticism, but is still an above average athlete even at the pro level. He’s compact, muscular and prone to Crawford-esque hot streaks like the game against OKC earlier this season when he scored 27 points in less than 16 minutes. The worst thing going for Thomas isn’t his diminutive stature, but rather his coach and general manager. Keith Smart and Geoff Petrie have continued to make the 2012-13 season a mysterious and most disagreeable one in Sacramento. Everyone, Isaiah included, deserves better.
Tom Thibodeau (1st appearance): With a mishmash of starters that frequently includes a soon-to-be-mummified Richard Hamilton, Carlos Boozer, Kirk Hinrich and occasionally Nate Robinson, the Bulls have still won 32 games compared to 24 losses. They’re sixth overall in the Eastern Conference and according to John Hollinger’s Playoff odds are a 99.6% lock to make the playoffs. And they’ve done it all without Derrick Rose. I watch this Bulls team and think Thibs and GM Gar Forman constructed this team at an NBA thrift shop. The roster is made up of the dead and forgotten, unwanted and discarded. But every night, they show up with Thibodeau’s discipline and Joakim Noah’s passion and Nate Rob’s exuberance. And every night without fail they compete and for that, Tom Thibodeau gets the nod as coach for the Second Annual DWN All-Star Team.
That’s year two in the books. With any luck, I’ll see you next year around the same time with a new batch of talented basketballing goofballs, slick shooting heroes, rejuvenated rejects and NBA midgets.
Welcome one and all, man, woman and child to the first annual, Dancing with Noah all-star selection. Fans and coaches, writers and analysts, people I know and people you know; they’ve all had their say and now it’s our turn. We the people on this 14th day of February, 2012 wish to declare a new stash of all-stars free from the defined parameters of the National Basketball Association. Will there be carryover, overlap, blendings and snubs? We can only hope so.
This year’s team is made up of 12 players. Positions, team structure and conferences don’t matter much here. We’re not playing for gold medals or gold metals or home court advantage or even pride. If it’s a celebration, then let’s express ourselves in a mood of Dionysian delight and indulge in the players who captivate our attentions on the court and help our minds to believe in the impossible.
Kobe Bryant: Still the One. Not the “one” in the sense of Neo in the Matrix, but in the sense he’s still at the center of basketball world; consuming our loves and hates, sucking it all in like a swirling vacuum and becoming endearing with time. He’s tough, driven, motivated. Even the legions of anti-Kobe-ites have had their icy facades melted away by his commitment to and pursuit of excellence. Kobe Bryant embodies that blue collar, hardworking American ethic we tout so proudly in this country. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
DeMarcus Cousins: It’s fitting that this child-like man is on the Kings. His game is resplendent with royalty and a lingering sense of being spoiled that probably accompanies the young and entitled. But despite the years of bad press and the mountains of evidence that his attitude is rotten to the core, his post-Westphal game has become the envy of big men worldwide. At 21, he already possesses a more well-rounded offensive game than Dwight or Bynum. His motor ticks, he cares and he can only get older (which is hopefully accompanied by more maturity).
Ricky Rubio: His passes are snazzy and functional at the same time. He already had a cult following that maybe gave up on him after a couple of bumbling seasons in Spain, but a chance to radiate in the greatest league in the world has been seized upon by this young man who was apparently born to play here (in Minnesota?). Like Cousins, he’s only 21 and already running shit in Minneapolis. He’s fourth in the league in assists and leads the league in steals. His on-the-ball defense needs a bit of work and his jumper does too, but holy shit, Rubio’s already nudged, elbowed, scratched and clawed his way into NBA legitimacy. A lot of us thought it was all premature and a lot us are happily watching his highlights thankful for being so embarrassingly incorrect.
Andrew Bynum: Welcome to World B. Healthy—for now at least. In a scant 24 games of youthful vitality, Andrew Bynum has given fans and basketball minds a respite from the all-too-familiar tale of sky’s the limit prodigy hobbled by the cruel fate of injury. Bynum’s story (far from complete) is one of patience and warmth. His health and the world class performance that accompanies it, is a ray of sunshine for the young Sam Bowies and Greg Odens of the world. Yes young man, you may be down and out and experiencing literal growing pains, but tomorrow can be yours. Just ask Drew.
JaVale McGee: If 2012 Andrew Bynum is unimpeded sunshine, then JaVale McGee is a full moon; equally captivating, but cooler and more confounding. Despite the Youtube clips of JaVale doing nonsensical things on the court, I don’t believe there’s a decision to do or not do. Impulse takes over and next thing we know, JaVale’s tossing up hook shots, pushing the break or saluting imaginary soldiers in the crowd after blocked shots. If Kobe, Michael and Larry have taught us you can take basketball too seriously, then McGee’s head in the clouds routine (that’s not a reference to one of his dunks) acts as a comedic reminder that basketball is just a game—sometimes played by children.
Brandon Jennings: I like Brandon Jennings. I was pleased when he gave the establishment the bird and spent what would’ve been his freshman NCAA season playing in Italy. I like that he skirted the traditional sneaker powers that be and signed an endorsement deal with a power-to-be in Under Amour. And even though it was never his choice, I’m satisfied he plays up in that great northern everyman’s town of Milwaukee. It’s not as crazy of juxtaposition as a young, politically and spiritually curious Lew Alcindor playing there in the early 70s, but Jennings has enough Hollywood in him to seem like an outsider while maintaining a strong enough sense of himself to be accepted by the locals.
Andrea Bargnani: Like Franz Kafka’s strange tale The Castle, Bargnani’s work in 2011-12 is incomplete (he’s appeared in 13 of 29 games). And also like The Castle, this particular season, however brief and interrupted, has been a pleasure to partake in. The former number one pick and player most-frequently-compared-to-Dirk was having a career best season across the board until a calf injury deprived us, Raptors fans and Silvio Berlusconi of seeing it through. The NBA might not have a place on its all-star team for a guy who’s appeared in less than half of his team’s games, but here at Dancing with Noah, we’re willing to waive these simple trivialities.
Josh Smith: He might not be paid like he’s the man in Atlanta, but since Al Horford went down with an injury, Josh Smith has functioned as the heart, soul and elbow grease of this sleep-inducing also-ran Hawks team. He rebounds, dunks, blocks shots, shoots less threes than he used to (keep working on it) and does it at 6’9” without complaint. His improved rebounding and re-commitment to defense indicate he’s finally ready to move on from that experimentation phase so many of us go through and accept the talents his creators bestowed on him. Do your thing, Josh. Just make sure you do it inside the three point line.
James Harden: How good is this guy? That’s not a rhetorical question. We’ve all see his dope game: the lefty threes, upright running style, deceptive athleticism, change of pace and surprising passing and playmaking, but do we have any real idea what the ceiling holds for Harden? He reminds me somewhat of a talented backup in the NFL trapped behind an all-pro incumbent. Is he Aaron Rodgers, Michael Turner, DeMarco Murray? For any player in the league who takes ten shots per game or less, James Harden scores the most at 16.6ppg. If he took 20 shots a night, would he score 32? Doubtful, but I don’t think we’ll find out any time soon. He’s under contract through 2014, so until then, don’t let your curiosity get the best of you.
LeBron James: Just because we’ve come to expect greatness from this great one, let’s not get all carried away and take it for granted. As a transplant of almost eight years, I still notice things in Seattle that just don’t exist in the Midwest. My daily walk to work used to take me down Madison St which crosses over I-5. Looking south on clear days, you can see over 14,000 majestic feet of Mount Rainier resting impassively in the distance. So many times I walked past this and instead of marveling at its natural power and beauty, I marveled at the other people walking by who never blinked in the direction of that mountain. This isn’t to say I have a keen appreciation for nature that others lack. It’s to say sometimes we get so caught up in what’s next; we forget to enjoy what’s now.
Greg Monroe: There is hope in Detroit and his name is Greg Monroe. Sadly, I haven’t seen the latest Georgetown big man nearly as much as I’d like since it’s so painful to watch his team play, but I know from what some friends tell me and what the stats and highlights say that Mr. Monroe is for real. He joins Cousins, Bynum, McGee and Nikola Pekovic as post-Shaq bigs who embrace the advantages their size offers. Just because his team is so awful, let’s not condemn the son (Monroe) for the mistakes of the father (Dumars).
Kevin Durant: I guess it shouldn’t be a shock that he’s getting better at 23, but rather that he was so good at 20, 21, 22. He’s rebounding and passing the ball better and shooting a career high FG%. His on-the-ball and team defense have both improved. His scoring is down, but the team’s winning more. He’s exhibited a willingness to sacrifice his own points to appease the needs of others (Harden and Westbrook are both averaging career highs in PPG). And most importantly, he’s has taken what appears to be his natural high road regarding the Westbrook situation that lingered from last year’s playoffs and carried over to the beginning of this season. He’s handled the situation perfectly from the get go and has most likely reinforced what was already a sturdy foundation in OKC.
We can’t have a team without coaches and this year’s co-DWN all-star coaches are Minnesota’s Rick Adelman and Philadelphia’s Doug Collins. They might be a couple of old chips off the old NBA block, but both combine a strong sense of in-game coaching with the ability to read the temperatures of their teams and adjust accordingly. For that, they have the great opportunity to coach this mish mash, hodge podge of world class talent against each other in imaginary scrimmages that I’ll daydream about on the bus tomorrow.
Friends, this concludes the 2012 Dancing with Noah all-star selections. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.