Archive for August, 2009

Links To The Present: August 28th, 2009

Friday, August 28th, 2009

Alright, here are some ultra-quick links in the 15 minutes I have in between classes today:

I’m still kinda on the fence about Twitter for a lot of reasons, but once in a blue moon you get to see something like this unbelievable twitter saga from Natalie Sitto of Need4Sheed.com. I recommend going through this immediately and with extreme prejudice. There’s definitely some stuff in there about new media, what it’s like to work on the internet and then adjust back to who you are in the real world, what it’s like to be a woman who’s an actual sports fanatic, and the shifting definitions of public and private information. Also, it functions as a truly terrifying nightmare and cautionary tale for a guy in the age of Twitter. Also, it’s hilarious. Please go read this.
The initial MVP predictions are in from ESPN, and it’s LeBron out in front by a wide margin. It’s going to be interesting if he’ll be able to avoid “repeat fatigue,” especially without a championship to his name-playoff disappointments often hurt MVP chances the next year. I think if the voters can find a way to give it to Wade or Howard, they will. And CP3 will be unjustly ignored again.

This Rubio thing is one of the most frustrating sports stories in recent memory. Nothing worse as a sports fan than getting the chance to see the best play get taken away. Nothing.

FreeDarko on Beasley. Worth a read.

Picked up Inherent Vice while I was buying my school books today-I’ve only read Crying of Lot 49 all the way through so far, and failed my first attempt to finish Gravity’s Rainbow,which wasn’t at the store-Pynchon fanatics, help me out. Is reading this fluffier Pynchon going to somehow taint my image of him before I get into the heavier stuff, or are the fundamentals enough the same so that this will function as another good introductory text? Also, it would probably make me happy just to know I have Pynchon fanatics who read this blog.

Alright, class in 3 minutes. Have a good weekend, campers.

Hey, did I end up linking you last night? August 27, 2009

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

(Most of the time, these pictures honestly to have something or other to do with the post itself, but since I didn’t post yesterday and only have a link dump for you today, I humbly present golden retreiver puppies as an act of contrition.)

First off, a link to myself: I missed y’all last night because I was up until the wee morning hours writing up this post on the WNBA for SLAM, so check that out if it catches your fancy.

And now, onto the absolute truckload of Cavs-related news that’s come out in the last few days:

-I know I’m waaay late on this, but LeBron’s Sunday Conversation was not the most confidence-inspiring thing I’ve ever seen. “No matter what happens, Akron will always be my home,” sounds a lot like “No matter what happens, we’ll always be friends.” It’s not the end of the world, but those who thought that this possible departure was all “media” conjecture will be hard-pressed to justify those comments. I stand by my party line on this whole issue, which is that his decison will be almost entirely a function of how close the Cavaliers get to a championship this year, although I truly don’t believe his mind’s made up. At this point, the only people I think are wrong about the “LeBron 2010″ issue are the people who believe they’re absolutely right about what decision he’s going to make.

And now, a bunch more things:

-The Cavs have officially signed Danny Green to a two-year deal. I love it, I think he was a steal, and I think he’ll be a rotation-quality NBA player for a long time.

-Wall Street Journal conjecture on whether or not Shaq and LeBron will work together off the court. With two personalities that big, it’s honestly a fair question. And it’s not one that’s going to be answered by how they act for the cameras.

-The inspirational Lance Allred is an author. Obviously, he’s a guy you simply have to wish the best for.

-Finally, Brian Windhorst on the possibility that backup center Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ gigantic expiring contract could be moved at the trade deadline. Definitely something to think about, although the Cavs would really have to be bowled over to risk that much flexibility in the Summer Of Doom.

-Unfortunately, I’m afraid that’s all I really have for you guys tonight-it’s been a crazy week for a bunch of reasons, but I’ll do my best to roar back for you with something fantastic to send you into the weekend with tomorrow. My apologies again: my promise to you is that if more weeks like this end up happening now that I’m back at school, I will look into bringing a 2nd writer on board. But for now, I’ll do my best to satisfy you all by my lonesome. Until tomorrow, campers.

A Few (more) thoughts on Michael Beasley

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

There’s just an absolute put-load of news, both Cavs-related and otherwise, that’s gone on in the last few days, so let’s do our best to catch up.

The story of the day, and maybe one of the stories of the off-season, is the news that Michael Beasley has checked into rehabilitation, apparently for reasons relating to depression. There are also questions regarding substances, particularly Beasley’s use of marijuana, but I feel like a focus on that aspect of the issue is losing sight of the disease in the symptoms. (Although I will be the first to admit I am no doctor.)

So Beasley allegedly has depression. Now what? The issue is one that requires a degree of cogent analysis I’m unable to provide after one afternoon, but here are a few quick things:

-Adande hit the nail on the head when he said it’s time to stop pretending the age limit cures all ills and is the right thing to do for these kids 100% of the time. The evidence against the age limit’s ability to make these long-term life improvements is fairly staggering in the NBA alone, and that’s before you factor in the Maurice Clarett fiasco with the NFL’s age limit. The rule doesn’t make legal sense, it doesn’t make moral sense, and I’m still not convinced it makes basketball sense. That leaves economic sense. Fun.

-This case is interesting to any Cavalier fan who remembers Delonte West’s struggles with depression last off-season, which he was fortunately able to overcome, because both guys were thought as “goofy” guys instead of true problem children. Just how I’m not quite sure yet, but this is definitely a new kind of head case-we’re so used to judging “difficult” personalities in the NBA in terms of the damage they do to those around them that we’re not sure how to react to a player who trespasses most of all against himself.

-Boy, the whole Derrick Coleman thing just got a little creepier, didn’t it?

-America has understood the notion that depression happens to celebrities since Marilyn Monroe’s suicide. Famous artists and depression are synonimous to the point where it might be a chicken-egg question. Why is depression in famous athletes such a leap? There are complex answers to all of these questions, and one would hope that someone takes the time to find them in the wake of this story.

Well, that actually came out to around 400 words, so I’m just going to link to a few more takes on Beasley and hopefully get up the Cavs-related stuff sometime tomorrow afternoon.

Here’s a picture of what kicked off some of this mess, an image of Beasley showing off his new tattoos while two bags of what may be marijuana are visible in the background. (Sources allegedly say that the hulabaloo over the picture had nothing to do with Beasley checking into rehab, as he was already headed there before the picture was released.)

Peninsula is Mightier published the disturbing “final tweets” without appearing all that sympathetic, and does seem to think the tweets were, in fact, a response to the photo controversy.

An extremely interesting post from Hot Hot Hoops on the Heat and social media, put up just before the Beasley controversy broke.

And although I’m aware that most of you probably come here from TrueHoop and linking them is somewhat superfluous, if not downright nepotistic, this post on John Lucas’ role as Beasley’s mentor is worth a read. (And just to clarify, I am actually more hesitant to link it because it comes from TrueHoop than I would be if it came from anywhere else.)

Alright, that’s it for tonight. Until tomorrow, campers.

Profiles In Profiling: JJ Hickson

Monday, August 24th, 2009

Before we begin, a link: The nice young lads over at Hoops Addict emailed me and asked very nicely to link to an interview they did with Cavs assistant coach Michael Malone. It’s worth a listen, so check it out, and remember that the email is johnkrolik@gmail.com if there’s ever anything any of you guys would like me to take a look at.

The entire LeBron era, I’ve dreamed about how scary this team would be offensively with one of two players next to LeBron. A true drive-and-kick point guard could allow LeBron to work a lot more on the weak side and absolutely destroy defenses that aren’t set up to stop him, like he did in international play. The other kind of player that could be absolutely destructive with LeBron is a true pick-and-roll monster like an Amare Stoudemire, Pau Gasol, or David West-LeBron is almost literally unstoppable running the screen-roll if the strong side doesn’t load up, so that would allow someone with an amazing weak-side game to run wild.

In fact, it’s a little amazing that the Cavs have had as much screen-roll success as they have with the “roll” men they’ve had so far-Andy V can’t shoot and doesn’t really like to dunk, Zydrunas and Joe settle(d) for an 18-footer 80% of the time, and Drew Gooden was wont to go on prolonged slumps if one of his spirit animals was in emotional distress. And there was Ben Wallace.

But for a few extremely brief, shining moments last season, it looked like JJ Hickson just might have the talent to be that monster “roll guy” somewhere down the line. I’m prone to hyperbole in these player profiles, but this is something I said during the season and honestly still believe-in terms of pure athleticism and skill, JJ Hickson is the most offensively talented big man LeBron has ever played with.

Hickson was a relative unknown coming into the draft and was considered by many to be a reach at 21, but quickly showed that he had a ton of potential with some great summer league performances and some nice flashes in limited rotation minutes around January and February. He was even seen as a guy who could land a huge trade-deadline player for the Cavs, but the Cavaliers refused to include him in a package for any player other than Amare Stoudemire himself, and he wasn’t enough of a prize to fetch Stoudemire from Phoenix.

After all that hulabaloo, Hickson only had 1 more 10-point game after the trade deadline, and the arrival of Joe Smith unofficially signaled his exit from the rotation. Late in the year, he suffered a back injury which caused him to miss the playoffs and this year’s summer league.

Hickson’s main gifts are that he has soft hands and unbelievable springs-according to Windhorst, JJ Hickson can get up even higher than LeBron when reach gets factored in. But more impressive than JJ’s sheer amplitude is how quickly he gets off the floor-he doesn’t need to bring it down, step, or bend his knees, he just catches and goes straight up. Those skills alone make him dangerous playing with LeBron James-if he can find weak-side seams and get the catches, he can dunk all day where Varejao would flip up a reverse lay-up, Zydrunas would slooooowly bring the ball down and set it in, Joe Smith would up-and-under before trying a chippie hook, Drew Gooden would do Lord Knows What, and Ben Wallace would do something that was not supposed to happen.

And it’s not just JJ’s athleticism-while filling in for Anderson Varejao and/or Z over the course of the year, JJ would seemingly flash a new trick every game, be it a clean-looking 18-foot jumper, a new up-and-under fake for a dunk, a jab-step move out of the Malone post, or a pretty hook shot to score with his back to the basket. Simply put, JJ has all the tools.

Problem is, so do a lot of folks on the ends of benches. For all of Hickson’s talents, he still has a lot of massive holes in his game at this stage of his career. And remember, his career-high is currently 14 points. He has a nice stroke on his shot, but only made 30% of his jumpers last season. He loved to take the ball right at the rim, and 60% of his shots came from “inside,” with a third of those being dunks, but his forays lacked nuance-a full quarter of his layup attempts were blocked. He got to the line a fair amount, but only shot his free throws at a 68% clip when he got there. His post game is often rushed and ugly, and his footwork can get careless around the basket. He’s not a passer.

But what keeps Hickson off the court more than anything else is his Gooden-like tendency to completely blow defensive rotations. In Mike Brown’s defensive system, which is based on sound show-and-recover defense from bigs out on the perimeter, defensive mental lapses are simply not forgiveable. Hickson has defensive talent; he’s probably the most talented shot-blocker on the team outside of LeBron, and has extremely light feet for a guy his size. But he needs to know where he is more often than he currently does if he wants to be in the rotation when the important games roll around.

Hickson’s developmental prospects are a bit of a Catch-22. The Cavs need Hickson to be a role player if he’s going to be useful, giving more effort on defense and focusing on playing a weak-side catch-and-dunk game offensively to take pressure off of LeBron, Shaq, or Mo on the strong-side. But he’s not ready to be part of the main units yet. And as a “big fish” in garbage-time or the D-League, Hickson tended to focus on his strong-side offensive game, posting up as the primary offensive option a lot, not playing with anyone who could draw strong-side attention, and ignoring his defensive responsibilities.

A team builds its strategy around the strengths of its star players-what makes a role player valuable is their lack of weaknesses. JJ Hickson is worlds more talented than your average role player, but he also has too many weaknesses to be effective as a solid 25-minute complimentary player at this stage of his career.

Given the weak finish to his season and his lingering back injury, the front office seems cautiously optimistic about Hickson. After Ben Wallace and Joe Smith were allowed to walk, Hickson is officially the backup power forward. But the Cavs have hedged by signing Leon Powe and giving Mike Brown more unconventional lineup options should Hickson fail to improve-if LeBron slides over to the 4, Moon, Parker, Ilgauskas, and even Jackson, Green, and Kurz could get minutes from Hickson.

If the Cavs weren’t so close to a championship, Hickson would be a fabulous player to watch develop, hopefully sort out the kinks in his game, and live up to his all-star potential somewhere down the line. But as it stands now, the Cavaliers have no time for upside. If Hickson wants to make an impact in a Cleveland uniform, he has to get busy livin’ or get busy sittin’ right from the beginning this season.

Second-Favorite Team: Super-Extra Special Double Director’s Cut!

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Full disclosure: The bloggers of the TrueHoop Network were recently comissioned to talk about their “second-favorite teams.” The aggregation of these efforts should be up on TrueHoop sometime over the next few days, barring unforseen complications. But in the meantime, we’ve been encouraged to post the “full” versions of our posts on our sites. So this is me, doing that. Enjoy, and have a good weekend. (As with everything I attempt to cut-past from Gmail, the formatting sucks and I can’t fix it, because God hates me. Sorry.)

I’m going to have to hedge on this one. If I’m going to engage in illicit fandom with a team, I want them to have a sense of unified purpose. Basically, I want the entire team to be composed of players who share the same basic objectives and characteristics, but still compliment each other enough so that they don’t make each other redundant. And I definitely favor offensive, fast-break, post-positional small-ball clubs over “traditional” ones, although I do appreciate a team like the Spurs, who are so committed to Pop’s vision and really play as a larger unit on both ends.

This year, it feels like there are a few clubs who were one move away from grabbing definite “2nd favorite team” status, but as it is there’s a bit of a pile-up going on. If the Thunder had drafted Rubio or Steph Curry, it almost definitely would’ve been them. (Nothing against Harden, who was probably the right pick but he’s a prototype 2 and doesn’t make for as fascinating a dynamic with Westbrook as Curry or Rubio would’ve. I also really wanted to see a Roddy Beaubois-Westbrook backcourt, so I’m mad they traded him.) The Warriors were so close to actually making an Anthony Randolph/Amare Stoudemire starting frontcourt a reality, which would’ve sealed the deal for them. I love CP3, but the Hornets’ constant fire sales are a turn-off. My dark horses would be the Clippers and Raptors-if they can make it work, they’re going to be a lot of fun to watch.

Under duress, I’d go with the Warriors, even though a little bit of the magic left with Baron. And last year, the team felt like a random collection of shoot-first guards, developing big men, and a coach drinking a bit too much of his own kool-aid. But Monta/Steph Curry is definitely intriguing, Captain Jack is still there, and of course, there’s Anthony Randolph. A Randolph/Amare frontcourt would’ve been about the most amazing thing ever, but alas. Nevertheless, the Warriors still have a lot of unique talent and that insane, go-for-broke mentality, so there’s still a soft spot in my heart for them. Even if I’ve gone from “We Believe” to “We’re Cautiously Optimistic.”

Links to the present: Wednesday, August 19th

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

A roundup of what’s happening, internet-wise, on this here Wednesday:

Shaq vs. got a LOT of ink around the internet. (I guess that doesn’t make sense.) But anyways, a lot of people had thoughts on it.

-Here’s Lang Whitaker’s take over at SLAM.

-And here’s what Scott from Waiting For Next Year had to say.

-And it wasn’t just basketball guys who had thoughts on the proceedings. The Onion AV Club, as did the always-excellent Troy Patterson of Slate. Patterson also weighs in on the cultural phenomenon Shaq has become, and is definitely worth a read.

-The consensus of every review: it’s entertaining stuff, but there is just no good reason why this show should be an hour long.

-And while you’re over at Slate, this article, on the deterioration of Peter King’s relationship with Brett Favre, is the type of thing guys like me just have no power to resist.

-I’m compelled to link to three great takes on the “Brendan Haywood issue” by Kelly Dwyer, Kevin Arnovitz, and Tom Ziller. I’ll mostly let the pieces speak for themselves, but my two cents is that I like that instead of acting shocked…shocked! that there’s homophobia in the NBA and villifying Haywood completely, they see this as a place to start a necessary discussion.

-Pickup basketball with LeBron.

-And according to Windhorst and Mary Schmitt Boyer, the Kurz negociations have hit a snag, but Danny Green appears close to signing. See y’all in a bit.

Shaqenfreude, Part 2: The 1st “Shaq Vs.”

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Before we begin, a link: fantasy uberguru Eric Wong of rotoevil.com and 82games.com has asked me to direct your inquiring eyes to his Cavaliers fantasy preview, and I saw no reason not to oblige him. It’s for fantasy, so take it with that particular brand of salt, but Eric has no rooting interest, and when he’s wrong about stuff, he loses money. And Eric’s made a lot more than he’s lost. So I’d say his thoughts are worth a read.

But onto more pressing business, “Shaq vs.” had its inaugural episode Tuesday night, and I was watching in a professional capacity, because I have a duty to all of you. Also, I was bored. Without further ado:

-The first thing to notice about “Shaq vs.” is that Mike Goldberg, the UFC guy, does all the commentary, which gives the whole endeavor an extremely weird feeling.

-The show comes from a high-school football stadium in Western Pennsylvania, or “football country.” I’m going to assume he meant America.

-The idea behind the show is that Shaq will challenge the best people in their respective sports at their sports, because that will prove something, somehow.

-Shaq’s 1st opponent is Ben Roethlisberger, the 2-time NFL champion Steelers quarterback. He has done nothing notable since winning the super bowl.

-The “rules” of this contest aren’t revealed to the viewers until around 15 minutes into the show-up to that point, we get Shaq’s shtick and some of Shaq palling around with Big Ben in his house.

-The less said about Shaq’s discourse with Big Ben, the better.

-The rules are that Shaq will get three tries to score from the 20-yard line, while Ben gets three tries from the 40-yard line. Basically, this show is exactly the same as Pros vs. Joes, except it has Shaq and actual current pros and I’m forcing myself to watch it.

-Shaq plays Ben at HORSE and “deliberately” loses. Shaq’s plan is to “get inside Ben’s head” and get the advantage that way. Not to be mean, but taking away Big Ben’s cerebral game might be kind of like game-planning to take away Shaq’s perimeter game.

-There are clips of Shaq’s “challenge” press conference with Ben, featuring media members who more or less embody despair. Hooray.

-THIS SHOW IS AN HOUR LONG?

-And of course, there’s a color guy. He’s sort of a cross between John Leguizamo and Vince from ShamWow!

-And there’s a sideline reporter. Of course there’s a sideline reporter.

-I’ll skip right over the part where Shaq “steals” Charlie Batch as his coach and get to the part of the show I found actually interesting. Shaq’s 40-yard dash is terrible, but the coach seems genuinely impressed by Shaq’s time at the lateral agility drill, which should come as no surprise to anyone who’s watched Shaq over his career-it’s Shaq’s quickness for a guy so freakishly large that’s made him a Hall-0f-famer. (Worth noting: A Hall-of-Famer AS A BASKETBALL PLAYER, NOT A VARIETY SHOW HOST.)

-At the 35-minute mark, I officially have no clue why anyone would watch this show voluntarily. Although we have learned that Ben is “The most competitive person he knows.” Awesome.

-41 minutes into this show, Shaq and Ben actually start playing football. Thank the Lord.

-Shaq gets touchdowns on his first two possessions by firing all-or-nothing bombs into the end zone, while Ben works down the field for his first two scores.

-On Ben’s 2nd possession, Shaq jumps off the sidelines and picks off a Big Ben pass, then takes it to the house for no reason. The play is, obviously, ruled moot. At least everyone is taking this seriously.

-On Shaq’s third possession, Shaq gets to a 1st-and-goal from the 6, has a wide-open man underneath for the score, then pump-fakes and tries to throw a corner fade, which gets picked off. I sense some shenannigans about.

-Big Ben scores on his third and final possession for the win! What are the odds? Actually, I’d feel a lot better if this show was scripted.

-It still hasn’t fully sunk in for me that Shaq is going to be the starting center for the Cavs next season, like Betty Draper not really being able to wrap her mind around Don’s extra-curricular activities in season 1 of Mad Men. Willful semi-ignorance is bliss right now.

-Well, that’s all I can really muster in terms of meaningful analysis of Shaq Vs. right now. I don’t know how you guys felt, but ultimately this goofy man is the Cavs’ starting center, so it’s probably best to just trust that he knows what he’s doing. Until tomorrow, folks.

The Kurz of Cleveland and Other Stuff Too

Monday, August 17th, 2009

Before we go any further: you should really read this excellent post by Eddy Rivera of Third Quarter Collapse. It’s on whether or not the Magic should retire Shaq’s jersey, and it’s an interesting look at what Shaq can bring to a basketball franchise in both the short and long term. The comments and poll results are worth a look as well.

The big news of the weekend over in Cavsland is that the one and only Rob “dangerous” Kurz has been signed to a non-guaranteed contract and will try to secure a roster spot at Cavs training camp this year.

All I can really think of by way of commentary at the moment is making puns (“I’m trying to Kurz my enthusiasm for this signing!”), so I’ll let commenter “Chris” lead us off:

“I think you should comment on how Ferry is basically saying we need someone on our team just like……….. Danny Ferry! Both long white dudes with no inside game that love to shoot the three ball. Ican totally picture F erry looming in his office dwelling on what’s missing on our team….. “HEY! they don’t have anyone like ME yet!”

striking resemblance:
kurz: 6-9 / 232 lbs. 3pt%: .395
ferry: 6-10 / 235 lbs. 3pt%: .393″

Okay, that’s freakishly similar. Top-notch work, Chris. You win nothing.

Kurz is good at two things: having a head that’s far away from the ground and making three-pointers. Past that, he’s not giving you a whole lot to get excited about. Kurz is obviously an excellent three-point shooter, and with a 53.6% mark on “inside” shots, he’s actually a decent finisher around the rim for a sniper.

The main issue with Kurz is that three-point specialists are expected to do nothing other than score efficiently, and Kurz didn’t score efficiently last season. His 51.3% TS was below the league average, and Kurz only shot 38.9% from the field. (A reminder: Kurz shot 39.3% from deep.)

The culprit here is that Kurz seems to love taking assisted mid-range jumpers, and sucks at them. 93% of his jumpers were assisted last season, and he only had an eFG% of 42.2% on jumpers. When you consider his eFG% on three-pointers was right at 60%, that’s a pretty inexcuseable figure. To be effective in the NBA, Kurz has to learn that inside the three-point line is no-man’s land, and just sit in the corner and wait for the ball.

As Kevin Arnovitz noted in his Las Vegas Twitter feed, it’s hard to judge Kurz’s contributions to the Warriors last year, seeing as to how he was mainly used when Don Nelson wanted to punish somebody. His +/- and opponent PER numbers are pretty terrible, but the Warriors are such a wonky context it’s impossible to draw any real conclusions from that situational data-it’s like trying to find the best actors in Southland Tales.

Arnovitz also noted on TrueHoop today that Kurz is “a better defender than advertised.” Saying a sweet-shooting 6-9 white guy who’s only played for Don Nelson is better than advertised defensively is kinda like saying Marlboro reds are healthier than advertised, but I’ll take what I can get.

The most heartening thing I can really say about Kurz right now is that Steve Novak took a while to find a groove in the NBA, and now he’s the most lights-out frontcourt shooting specialist in the league today…or he will be, when somebody signs him. So get excited, I think!

Overall, Kurz is a guy Brown can plug in every few games when seeing power forwards get left alone and brick mid-range shots drives him crazy, and he needs his curiosity sated for 7 minutes or so. Kurz gives some lineups some flexibility, puts a little more pressure on JJ Hickson, but will likely not see significant minutes. Until tomorrow, folks.

Why Don’t We Just Stay In and Make Power Rankings: Commercials!

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

By the way: don’t forget to check out the link roundup I made Thursday, mainly because I actually made a link roundup.

Boys and occasional girl who clicks on the wrong link, I’m going to level with you. It’s a long off-season. And during the off-season, a lot of times things don’t happen. And when nothing’s happening, it’s high time to start arbitrarily ranking things for no particular reason. So we’re going to start doing power rankings of things that tangentially have to do with basketball on a completely random and irregular basis here at Cavs: The Blog, and hopefully you enjoy it.

(By the way, like “Shaqenfreude,” I thought I came up with this on my own, but another THN blogger beat me to it by a good while. In this case, Clipperblog did non-basketball power rankings years ago, and there may have been people who did it before that. But I’m doing mine anyways. A hat-tip also goes to Kissing Suzy Kolber’s fake mock drafts. LINK RATED R.)

The topic of tonight’s power rankings is commercials. There are two main reasons why we’re starting with commercials-first, this Nike Hyperize commercial, featuring Mo Williams as Fog Raw, has unofficially kicked off the year in ads. (I liked it, although I felt it was inferior to the Dr. Funk/Roswell Rayguns/Funk Ship campaign of a similar vein from a few years back.) Second, Mad Men comes back on Sunday, and that show pretty much makes advertising seem like the most awesome thing ever invented. That show also rules.

The topic is somehow basketball-related because during the playoffs, when TiVo was simply not an option, we all sat through a lot of commercials. I mean, a lot. And my ulcer and I came to appreciate great commercials, because they would occasionally give me 30 seconds of peace while I was in the middle of a prolonged panic attack. Likewise, there were some commercials that made me want to drill a hole through my own skull. But tonight, we celebrate the very best commercials from the past year.

Honorable Mention: Six Flags, “Colonial Fair”

Why: Me and my friend were watching TV one day, and this ad just came on, completely taking us by surprise. We almost died laughing. There is something just so bizarre and random and weird and glorious about the whole endeavor here that absolutely killed me, especially considering I had no expectations for it. I fear its magic may not translate for everybody, and have been told this a number of times, but I’m giving it an honorable mention anyways.

Number 5: Nike, “The Chalk”

Why: Another example of why they’re Nike and everyone else isn’t. A perfect song choice with a 1997 song from a “British Indie” band, beautiful and classy black and white photography, using a flagship’s on-court acts to form a cult of personality around him, a random shot of ‘Lil Wayne, great shots of kids playing basketball, and it drives home one of the few true trademarks in professional sports. Just about a perfect sports ad. And yes, I admit I may be biased on this one.

Number 4: Dos Equis, “The Most Interesting Man in the World.”

Why: Kevin Arnovitz, unedited, on this ad: “Here’s what I want to know. How did they get the Jai Alai footage? Is it the same guy with less makeup on? Is it a younger guy who they hired because he looked like the guy? Is it footage of the guy playing Jai Alai when he was younger? Did they know he used to play Jai Alai when they hired him? How much of a backstory did they have written out? Holy crap, that ad is amazing.” And it is. Seriously, did you ever see anyone with a Dos Equis before these ads started playing? And I love that it took, what, 3 years for somebody to make Chuck Norris jokes into an ad campaign?

Number 3: Heineken, “Let a Stranger Drive You Home.”

Why: You can talk about this ad for what it is: perfect song choice, one great reveal (the cab driver singing), the good mood, the casting, the message. But it’s more remarkable for what it’s not. How many ads for beer and/or alcohol actually show drunk people? It’s like these companies think that it’s a state secret that drinking makes you drunk. And they’re still having a good time! They’re not pounding shots of vodka and playing chess out on a yacht on a beautiful European sea, putting their arms around a model and staring pensively out at the dimming light of the horizon, or whatever it is people do in most ads for alcohol. And beer ads are generally about the idiotic things men do to get beer.

This ad is remarkable for what it isn’t-idiotic, base, misogynistic, a crock of crap, or anything else. And it actually still has a responsible message. A good-natured beer ad with drunk people-who’d have thunk it?

Number 2: Snickers, “Patrick Chewing”

I’m a big fan of this absurdist Snickers campaign in general. And this is absurdist advertising at its most glorious. I mean, how do you break down Patrick Chewing? PATRICK CHEWING! If you don’t smile every time that ad comes on, you steal from the elderly. As good as the punch line is, and the fact that it’s Patrick Ewing, I gotta say that it’s Ewing deadpanning “What’s up, Ryan?” that makes this ad. It’s absolutely perfect. There’s really not a better way to spend 17 seconds than that ad. (Ha ha.)

Number 1: Nike, “Fate”

Why: I mean, come on. Again, this is why they’re Nike and you’re not. Do they want to talk about the new removable strap? No. Do they want to make a cheap joke? No. They’re going to bring in David freaking Fincher and have him teach a freaking class in worldless storytelling with two flagship athletes. Numbers two and three were bits of escapism; this ad demands attention.

And for the song, he finds a great remix of The Ecstasy of Gold by Ennio Morricone, considered by many to be the greatest piece of music to ever accompany a scene in a motion picture? Again, are you kidding me?

And the ad itself is amazing-about 20 images of 2-3 seconds each, each telling a piece of the story, not one shot wasted-again, it’s just beyond my pay-grade. I’d rather have this on my resume than Zodiac. And I liked Zodiac. (And from what I hear from people who saw Benjamin Button, Fincher could’ve stood to learn a lesson about the value of brevity from this ad.)

So that’s my list-comment, argue about rank, tell me I’m an idiot for finding that stupid Six Flags thing hilarious, and of course add your own nominees. I leave you now for the weekend, and next time I post it’ll probably be from USC. It’s been a fun summer, campers.

Profiles In Things That Contain More Things: August 13, 2009

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

First off: Baah. Life got in the way of posting last night, but I’ll have the aforementioned new feature up by tonight barring unforseen complications. Although I don’t want your hopes to be up at this point-it’s a trifling and inconseqential new feature. In the meantime, here are a few links:

The Onion AV Club’s Scott Tobias’ review of “More Than a Game,” via Twitter:

More Than A Game (’09, Belman, B-) A case of being there with a camera at the right time. Sweet, but papers over controversy for inspiration”

So that’s the first opinion on the film I think I’ve seen from somebody who’s not normally involved with sports. Tobias apparently just did an interview with LeBron as well, so that’s something to look for in the coming days.

-More Powe Reaction from Celtics Hub, this one comparing Powe’s departure to Ryan Gomes’ and attempting to rationalize the Celtics’ decision to let him walk.

-via CelticsBlog, Ainge is saying the Celtics offered Powe the same deal that the Cavaliers did. Powe says Ainge may be misremembering the details of the situation. If the Celtics really did make the same offer, which I doubt, that would a bit of a watershed moment for Cleveland free agency, no?

-Good article over at Raptors Republic about Chris Bosh and his lack of a post-up game, especially because of Cavs fans’ similar laments regarding LeBron’s lack of a post game. I’ll talk about this more in some bigger posts later in the summer, but for now I’ll just say that hand-check rules have a lot to do with all of this, and that the Barkley/Malone “post” may be just as deadly as the low-blocks in today’s NBA.

-Charley Rosen doing what he does best in a post on the NBA’s best defenders, mixing  extremely solid Xs-and-Os type analysis with some statements sure to ignite discussions. Rosen, of course, will probably never be Cavalier fans’ favorite writer, but he’s always worth a read nonetheless. Notable remarks from this article:

-Delonte West is praised as “perhaps the most nasty-minded defender in the league.” The purists, the kids, the jocks, the geeks, the motorheads, everyone loves Delonte West.

-Anderson Varejao is mentioned as a guy who’s not great as a straight-up defender, but is fantastic as a weak-side guy, which is true.

-There are some backhanded compliments for LeBron, which is to be expected, considering how hard Rosen’s always banged on the “LeBron can’t defend” drum. His point about screen-and-rolls is interesting, especially because LeBron will probably be playing a lot more at the 4 this year. And LeBron does seem a lot more comfortable going under screens. However, I’m not sure what the “balance” comment was about: LeBron pretty much never bites on up-fakes, and I sure don’t remember him getting blown by all that often.

-More baffling is the paragraph where Rosen calls out Dwight Howard as an overrated defender. Yes, a lot of blocks doesn’t make a great defender. But the Magic were the best defensive team in the league last year. If Howard isn’t all that defensively, how did the ball stay out of the net so much? Howard was the centerpiece of that defense, and there weren’t really any defensive studs surrounding him. Maybe he does like to gamble, but questioning his defensive value because of that feels like losing the forest in the trees. For me, the most compelling argument for James and Howard’s defensive value wasn’t shoe contracts and awesome blocks, but because they were the leaders of 2 of the 3 best defensive teams in the league.

-And finally, Eric Freeman is a guy who was a contemporary of mine at FreeDarko, writing under the name “Ty Keenan.” He’s extremely talented, but has been out of the blog game for a little while. Now he seems to be doing his thing writing about culture for a website called The Plasma Pool, and the stuff has been extremely good so far. So check him out if you’ve got some time and are in the mood for a good read. Until next time, all.