Archive for September, 2009

5 Minute Roundup!

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Hey campers, up all night last night and have 10 minutes until class. Only the thought that I am 3 hours away from Chipotle and copious amounts of caffeine are even keeping me alive. Wednesday is Chipotle day. It is the most sacred day of my week.

Anyways:

-So the big news out of Cavs training camp is really not good: Delonte is missing, and nobody’s all that sure where he is. Obviously, I hope he’s okay and on the court soon, and also hope that the circus dies down a little bit. I know it’s fun to write about Serious Issues, but we really have no idea what’s going on with him right now.

-In much, much, better news, Zydrunas Ilgauskas adopted two children over the off-season. Fantastic news for Zydrunas.

-THIS SO WINS FOR TRAINING CAMP ARTICLE CRUELLY DESIGNED TO RAISE HOPES TO A RIDICULOUS AND UNREALISTIC LEVEL.

Real World/Road Rules and Kimbo on Ultimate Fighter tonight! Woo! Alright, I’m already late for class. Lates.

TRAINING CAMP IS HERE!

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Oh yeah! Basketball is being played now! In some form! Sweet! I’m expressing excitement with exclamation points! Let’s do some links to start the night off:

-I wasn’t able to make it out to Cavs media day this year, because the silly anti-blog front office wouldn’t fly me out from Los Angeles. But other people were, and they got videos that we can see for free on the interweb. Check out the Plain Dealer’s collection of videos, please. LeBron and Shaq are excited about playing together. Everyone really, really wants to win a championship. Delonte doesn’t want to talk about his arrest, LeBron doesn’t want to talk about his contract. Fortunately, Boobie is healthy and ready to prove last season’s disappointing campaign was an anomaly. All this and more, on video.

-Now, I’m generally the first person to call shenanigans on the type of training camp articles that serve the sole purpose of making every player look like he’s going to be a superbeast next season- “Larry Hughes is finally healthy this year!”; “Athletic swingman X is nailing jumpers!”; “3rd-year big says he’s adjusted to the NBA and has been working on a hook shot!” etc., etc. And I love that I don’t need one of those about LeBron’s jump shooting this year. But yes, I would feel a lot better if I saw this type of article about LeBron this offseason.

Although, to return to my calling of shenanigans earlier, the focus of the article is on The Dream coaching Hasheem Thabeet, and if Thabeet scores 15 ppg this year,  I will be absolutely shocked. These type of things will help an elite player, but they won’t work miracles on rookies who lack touch and fluidity.

-Apparently the mystery guard was former Laker Coby Karl, the scrappy, sweet-shooting, cancer-surviving, son of a beloved coach. Honestly, I’d like to meet the writer/blogger who’s willing to go on-record against this one.

-Two more pre-season stories I call absolute shenanigans on: Mike D’Antoni calling Danilo “The best shooter he’s ever seen”- okay, let’s assume he’s only talking about the guys he coached. There are tons of NBA shooters who almost literally do not miss in practice. Show up early to a game that Steve Novak, Mike Miller, or a bunch of other guys are playing in one time and see what I mean. Hell, Wally Z doesn’t miss in warmups, and we saw how that went. The top level of NBA shooters are just too good to meaningfully separate in a practice situation. And in-game, Steve Nash had some of the best seasons ever shooting from outside. Hitting 50% of your threes, with most of them coming off the dribble, and being the best midrange shooter in the league, doesn’t happen every year, or every decade, and Nash did that for a few years. Insane. Stop trying to fake-justify your pick, Mike.

-And I’m way late on this, but I absolutely award this the “pre-season article designed to destroy an entire fanbase’s soul just when they thought they wouldn’t get sucked back in again” award, or the “Hughesy”

-To end on a positive note, tweet of the day, via TrueHoop, goes to Cavs: The Blog favorite Ben Q. Rock on Cavs: The Blog favorite Adonal Foyle:

“”Just walked up to Adonal Foyle. He was talking about socialized medicine.”

Alright, campers, see you later. Basketball! Catch the fever!

Links to the present: September 25th, 2009

Friday, September 25th, 2009

Bipolar artwork.

Just when you think the 2010 stuff can’t get any weirder, here comes a horndog Russian billionaire. At some point, you really just have to admire the spectacle of the whole thing-we’re living a Christopher Buckley novel. And wouldn’t it be easier to tell us which Russian billionare’s don’t have rumored underworld ties? I have much, much, more on the delightful absurdity of this whole thing, but for right now, I DEMAND that this guy and Jay-Z get a reality show.

Free Agency season: officially over. According to Windhorst, the Cavs may be looking to add another guard, but I really don’t see who they’d be looking at with Felton, Flip, and everyone in between signed.

This week’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia-inspired tangent: I’m not sure which NBA player would be most likely to peg a cyclist blocking their car with a beer bottle, but the NBA player most likely to use a bike as their primary mode of transport and carry a steel pipe in their backpack is, without a doubt, Matt Harpring.

Best TV moment of the night: Ryan from The Office reading I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell. If you go see that movie and read this blog, please don’t tell me. The fact that that book adaptation is getting more buzz than today’s premiere of Brief Interviews With Hideous Men makes me feel icky about everything.

A Sneak Peek At LeBron’s Upcoming Scripted Movie

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Hey all, Brian Spaeth of the legendary and defunct YAY! Sports, who’s had an open invitation to post here since the beginning, has decided to share with us. Without further ado, the first guest post in Cavs: The Blog history:

LeBron James movie

A Look At LeBron’s Feature Film Project

Hey so I saw that LeBron signed a movie deal last week, and as an important movie writer and Cavaliers fan, I couldn’t help but think about how it might come out.

As such, what follows is my vision for Fantasy Basketball Camp. It needed the title adjusted, but otherwise, this is the movie I hope to see.

LEBRON JAMES’ FANTASY BASKETBALL CAMP BEGINS

At the start of the movie, Nic Cage is having hamburgers with his busy son, who is Shia LeBeouf, and the reason he is busy is because is he leaving home to have his important college experience, and also Nic’s wife is dead because of a car accident that was Nic’s fault because of his beer.

After Nic drops him off, he goes to meet his friend, who is Bruce Willis, and Bruce is at his important businessman job, and that means he has to be on his technology video-phone with Japan while he plays Nerf basketball with Nic, and Nic isn’t doing good because of all his problems, like Shia leaving, and especially his sad weiner that doesn’t work anymore, and Bruce laughs at him for having that.

Nic is not happy about getting laughed at, and he tells Bruce this, and he says it like, “I didn’t come here…TO GET LAUGHED AT!!!” and he says that last part like he might have high blood pressure, and also he punches the technology video-phone and pulls his toupee off at the same time.

That’s when their friend in Japan on the technology video-phone, who is the Iron Chef, says that his weiner is sad also, and maybe they can all go to a special basketball camp with a famous basketball player, and that will help them be cool and young again, and improve their vertical leaps. Nic is not sure, but then Bruce makes a bet with Nic about a Nerf shot, and Bruce wins the bet. That’s when the Iron Chef is like, “Game on! Hee-ya!” and they get on Bruce’s helicopter, and some of Bruce’s helpers carry the technology video-phone onto the helicopter for Bruce, because leaving the Iron Chef at home would not be cool since going camping was his idea.

Bruce is jealous of Nic having a dead wife.

When the airplane lands, there are cheerleaders in bikinis, and they give Bruce and the Iron Chef jerseys with their names on it. One of the cheerleaders, who is Jessica Biel, gives Nic his jersey, but it just has a sad face instead of his name, and that’s because Bruce told everyone about Nic’s weiner problem, and how not even the doctor’s special pills will work for that. Also Patrick Ewing is there for his camping trip, and he gets a jersey that says Hakeem Olajuwon.

That’s when the famous basketball player comes out, and he is LeBron James, and he is wearing a Yankee hat so all the paparazzi can go crazy and make up their exciting stories. LeBron is really excited to have his new friends at his camp, and he tells them that they each get one basketball fantasy they can have, and that they need to think about it, because LeBron will use sneaky tricks and special effects and quaaludes to make them learn their important life lessons.

[NOTE: I honestly haven't worked out the middle portion of this - if you aren't familiar with the process of movie writing, this Act II part is often the most difficult.]

So seeing that the Iron Chef isn’t having fun because of his new AIDS makes Nic finally know his lesson about not eating Shia’s hamburgers, and he uses his Fantasy Basketball Camp wish, and that wish is that nobody dies in the water hurricane except for Bruce, and even LeBron is like thinking maybe Bruce took those jokes about Nic too far, so he uses some quaaludes to kill Bruce, and LeBron bites his nails while he does this.

Also Nic’s weiner works again, and he starts dating Jessica, and Shia comes home from college to see that happen in real life, and not on a technology video-phone.

Brian Spaeth is the writer and star of Who Shot Mamba?, a Broadband Motion Picture debuting October 13th on Koldcast.tv. You can see the second trailer exclusively at the Facebook Page, and it’s the public’s first look at Bill Walton’s footage. Brian has also published two novels, and writes regularly at his own blog.

Links to the Present: September 22nd, 2009

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Okie doke, a few links:

-SLAM Online’s top 50 article on Shaq by the fantastic Myles Brown.

-An update on the Delonte West situation via Windhorst.

-Meta-news: Cavs: The Blog uber-commenter Colin’s roommate’s cousin is reportedly dating JJ Hickson, according to Colin. Yes, there’s something deeply strange about me reporting this as news. Twitter makes my life stranger.

-Things I think about at 3:40 in the morning: no matter what LeBron does in his next finals appearance, he will never amass the kind of universal goodwill Neil Patrick Harris did hosting the Emmys, and in general. This is not to say that Cavs: The Blog disputes Neil Patrick Harris’ overall awesomeness.

-If the NBA offseason was Mad Men, Blake Griffin’s foot would probably get run over by a ride-on lawnmower soon to shock us all back into paying attention.

-Good! Mayweather won! Now we might only be a year away from THE ONE FIGHT EVERYONE WANTS TO SEE! If all goes well!

-I realize that at this stage in my NFL life, I’m essentially rooting for the wildcat. Which USC should run. Let’s stop talking about USC. (At least it’s not like this has happened every year I’ve been here, or anything like that.)

-Alright, that’s all for now. In conclusion, more proof that Muse is much, much cooler than you or I:

On The Delonte West Situation

Monday, September 21st, 2009

If you haven’t caught the story yet, here’s a link to Windhorst’s most recent article, which outlines most of what’s happened so far and provides some nice insight into what’s been going on with Delonte over the last little while.

Basically, here’s what happened. Delonte cut off a police officer while riding his motorcycle on the freeway, and they found two loaded handguns on him, as well as a shotgun strapped to his leg. Now, carrying a gun, while not a decision I would make, is understandable. Athletes have a lot of money, many of them feel like targets when they go out in public, et cetera. But two loaded pistols and a shotgun? That’s a wee bit excessive. West’s documented issues with bipolar disorder do, obviously, escalate the concern here.

At this point, I’m going to say it’s best to hold the breaks on this situation for a while, because we still don’t know a lot of details about the situation itself (Were the guns obtained illegally? What reason did Delonte give for being armed? Is Delonte looking at jail time), and, more importantly, we really don’t know Delonte West.

Delonte’s player profile is still forthcoming, but to the extent that I have favorite athletes, Delonte is one of them. He plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played, gives his all every night, is regularly hilarious and witty in interviews, and opened up an important discussion with his admission that he suffers from bipolar disorder. But somehow, I feel strangely unfazed by this turn of events, because at some point I’ve reconciled that knowing the above about Delonte West doesn’t mean I know Delonte West. I could go on and on, and may at some point this off-season, but there’s really a whole lot more to say than that.

Now isn’t the time for a snap judgement or to rush to Delonte’s defense. Right now, I’m hoping that the facts of what happened get cleared up soon, that Delonte receives and accepts an appropriate penalty or lack thereof in the eyes of the law, and that Delonte does well through whatever may happen next.

Let’s Make A Reading List, Part 2: The Highly Recommended

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Alright. Sorry I’ve been out the past few days; my life is insane, and I was also avoiding you guys after the most awkward-situation creating game ever on Saturday. Fun times. So anyways, in lieu of actual news or analysis, here are more books that I like.

The Blind Side, Michael Lewis

I left this off my first list because Moneyball was an absolute must-include, and for some reason I didn’t want to put two books by the same author on the first list. But rest assured, this is an absolute masterpiece-in a lot of ways, it’s even better than Moneyball.

There’s not much about this book that isn’t absolutely stunning. (Disclaimer-it is about football, and this is a basketball-centric list.) Even still, it’s a masterful description on the evolution of the modern game from a vantage point that hasn’t gotten much play-the importance of the offensive line, in particular the left tackle position, in the adaptation of football from a running/deep passing-type game to the “West-coast offense,” passing-centric offensive model that almost every current offense operates under. And the anecdotes in that regard are amazing-the Lawrence Taylor intro alone would be one of the best sportswriting pieces of the decade.

And then, past that, The Blind Side goes past football into an absolutely amazing case study of Michael Oher, the ridiculously talented young tackle who really hadn’t had any sort of actual education whatsoever until he reached high school. It’s an amazing case study not just of the modern athlete, but of nature/nurture developmental psych issues. I lent this book to my psych teacher in high school, who has never watched a football game in her life, and she was absolutely floored by it. This book is a masterpiece. Plain and simple. And the fact that Oher was just a 1st-round pick in the NFL draft makes the continuing story that much more interesting.

The Rivalry, by John Taylor

The Breaks of the Game, by David Halberstam

Seven Seconds or Less…, by Jack McCallum

Three absolutely amazing descriptions of specific eras in pro basketball, from when it was a fledgling niche sport struggling to find a foothold behind a dominant star and a dominant franchise, to just before it broke out behind Bird and Magic, to the modern era. Playing for Keeps is my favorite of these types of books, but all of these books are fantastic in their own right.

The Rivalry is particularly fascinating for its character study of Wilt Chamberlain, both one of the most dominant athletes of all time and somehow the most disappointing. Like MJ just proved yet again with his Hall of Fame acceptance speech, Wilt is one of the first examples of greatness as a disease.

Breaks of the Game and Seven Seconds or Less are interesting because of how similar many of the characters are: The disgruntled second-tier star (Maurice Lucas and Shawn Marion), the flashy gunner (Eddie House and Billy Ray Bates), the injured superstar who loomed over the team (Bill Walton and Amare Stoudemire), and the brilliant architects of the whole endeavor. (Brian Coangelo/Mike D’Antoni and Stu Inman/Jack Ramsay)

Another layer added to both books is how close both franchises were to ruining themselves: The Suns gave Eddie House and Rajon Rondo’s money to Marcus Banks after the season described by SSOL, which spelled the beginning of the end for that franchise. Even more catastrophically, Breaks of the Game features Stu Inman describing his reasons for picking Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan. Even Playing For Keeps offers a profile of Jerry Krause, who destroyed the Bulls shortly after Jordan left. All three books, and maybe even Moneyball as well, describe the magic of a perfectly run franchise while unintentionally describing the impossibility of sustaining that success.

Pistol, by Mark Kreigel

Another beautiful portrait of basketball’s early era, as well as the best straight athlete bio I’ve ever read. Pistol Pete, if not one of the best to ever play the game, was certainly one of the most important, and fascinating.

God Save the Fan, by Will Leitch

Technically not blackballed by ESPN anymore! I like Deadspin. I love Will Leitch as an essayist. He details the perversities and hypocrisies of modern sports mythology perfectly, while giving ample reason to stick with these silly games anyways. His footnoted interview of John Rocker, his essay on steroids, and his brilliant and side-splitting essay on homosexuality in professional sports are highlights.

FreeDarko Presents… The Macrophenominal Basketball Almanac, by Bethlehem Shoals, Silverbird5000, Dr. Lawyer IndianChief, Brown Recluse, Esq., and Big Baby Belafonte

Yes, I claim some conflict of interest here-I got my big break getting brought in to provide content for FreeDarko’s website while those guys were busy with the book. But it’s still an exceptional piece of work-in the stats, content, essays, theories, and illustrations, it represents a level of thought put into sport that just wasn’t seen in modern sportswriting before the internet era.

Now I Can Die In Peace, by Bill Simmons

Again, a bit of a conflict of interest here, but this is the most influential sportswriter of the last decade. Period. And the “collection of essays” format, normally a cop-out, actually helps this book. You get to see the game change in real-time, from Simmons’ early non-affiliated work, handing out Godfather quotes, dropping F-bombs, and live-journaling a wedding, to trying to bring the voice of the fan to the mainstream. To ignore Simmons’ impact and deny his talent is to be a step behind.

Alright, that’s all for tonight. I’m still going to do one more of these, but I’m sure I plum forgot a bunch, so sound off in the comments. Until next time, campers.

Let’s Make A Reading List, Part 1: Absolute Essentials

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

So, as you guys may have noticed, basketball-related news has been a wee bit slow around these parts, and now that I’m back at school and living my life again, the well’s been a little dryer than it was. But all-star reader Nathan emailed me suggesting that I do a reading list, and it sounded like as good of an idea as any. Being a creative writing major and all, I read a lot of books of different genres, but here’s the thing: there are a lot of books out there. There are just so many genres of literature and books produced every year that a conversation about favorite books, even among my dorky creative writing friends, generally goes nowhere. So for this list, I’ll stick to my favorite sports books and pieces of writing, since I figure if you’re reading this blog it’s a genre that will interest you. All that follows is just one man’s opinion.

Absolutely, Postively, Must Read:

Moneyball, by Michael Lewis

The book that made me want to be a sportswriter and realize that I might actually be able to pull it off. In middle school, I honestly think I memorized this book. There’s so much that goes on in this book, and it’s so perfectly written, but the upshot of the endeavor for me was this: A lot of what you hear, a lot of the accepted cannon, is complete crap. The truth of what’s happening in sports is readily available, but most people would rather stick to their own set of beliefs than find it.

There’s so much data readily available, for free, and so many sides of every story, and yet most of it just sits there as everyone fits the events to their points of view. That’s why there will always be room for at least one more sportswriter in this world, even if there isn’t the money.

Talking about the stats stuff specifically, it’s more than a little ridiculous how much willful ignorance still exists about stats in sports, especially with how much evidence there is that they work. It’s like someone regarding Newtonian physics as a “school of thought,” following Aristotle’s ideas on natural forces, and then writing an engineering textbook. Some people consider me a “stats guy” (ESPN Feedback Mobius Strip!) around the blogosphere, especially on SLAM, which is, again, insane if you think about it. I am 20. I have not approached a math class since high school, and I wasn’t taking the good math classes there. I never made it to pre-calculus, for the love of God, and I didn’t blow the doors off the lower-level math classes. But I want to find things out, I keep an open mind, and I literally have three free bookmarks most people don’t have. And because of that, some commenters think I’m John Nash. Again, it’s insane. Seriously, read Moneyball.

Playing for Keeps, by David Halberstam

The best in the business at what he did-his sportswriting had the technical precision of someone who could have written about anything he wanted and the passion of someone who chose to write about sports anyways. Playing For Keeps is an absolutely vivid and engrossing portrait of the Jordan era in the NBA, describing every rivalry, character, franchise, and game in illuminating and painstaking detail without ever wasting a word.

The Jordan era was the closest thing I had to myths when I was a kid, and it’s probably the defining era of the NBA so far. So it’s just about a perfect subject, and how much story went on beyond the myths kids like me were hearing in 1st grade is staggering. And again, it’s impossible to overstate how freaking perfectly crafted this book is-every detail is crafted while somehow keeping a Big Picture. Players and front-office members fit into archetypes while keeping their depth and individuality. The nuances of the game for obsessives are there, as is the importance of the game for non-fans. Breaks of the Game was more innovative and is the more lauded work, but for my money, and for my generation, Playing for Keeps is the one to start with.

The Last Shot, by Darcy Frey

I’ve written like 20,000 words on this book over the course of my career, both directly and indirectly, so I’ll spare you a little bit here. It’s short, it’s enlightening, it’s amazing. I’ll just say that you should read this book before saying anything bad about a professional athlete’s character, ever.

Hoop Dreams

Not technically a book, but a must-watch piece of non-fiction nonetheless and the visual companion to The Last Shot-there are 4 or 5 moments in that unscripted documentary that have stayed with me in a way that nothing scripted will ever approach. (Update: via McMenamin, apparently Ben Joravsky did produce a book version of the documentary.)

“The String Theory,” David Foster Wallace

The eight of you who read this blog regularly probably know that Wallace is, beyond any semblance of a doubt, my absolute favorite writer of all time, so of course I think his sportswriting is among the best sportswriting ever done. Of his pieces on tennis, all of which are incredible, this one, published by Esquire in 1996 and later included in A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, is my personal favorite.

Like with all of his nonfiction writing, he mixes a massive load of technical, obsessive, brilliant observations on his subject (his descriptions of the game of tennis), brilliant little pithy observations and one-liners to keep the piece moving along briskly and wonderfully, and then, before you even realize it, you’re reading a moving essay on the plight of modern professional athletes, and those chasing perfection in general, that would be a hugely important piece of writing even if Wallace didn’t know a tennis ball was round.

Remember how I said Moneyball made me realize I might be able to be a sportswriter? This piece actually discouraged me-I just can’t imagine ever being that good, period. My only consolation is that nobody else was or is, either.

Rick Reilly, “When Your Dream Dies.”

When I was in middle school, Rick Reilly was pretty much a god to me. My copy of The Life of Reilly, his first collection of columns, is completely yellowed, frayed, curled, and destroyed, and I recommend the whole thing highly. But if there’s one piece that’s an absolute must-read, it’s this one, which is as good as sportswriting can get. Reading this made me tear up a little bit and really and truly realize how powerful sports can be, rightly or wrongly. It’s Reilly at his best. Read it.

There’s a lot more great sportswriting out there, and I’ll talk about a lot of it later on in the off-season, but for now those are the absolute must-reads that immediately came to my mind. If you haven’t read this stuff, read it, and if you have recommendations don’t hesitate to let me know.

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Links to the Present: September 8th, 2009

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

-LeBron James: Still undecided about 2010. Francisco Franco: Still Dead.

-And AI is becoming the NBA’s version of Brett Favre. You’re a 6th man now. Deal. And over on SLAM Online, the AI-related comments on the “top 50″ articles are officially starting to go into self-parody.

-Bummed I won’t get to see Sessions in LA next year, although this does mean more Bassy, which I fully support.

-The fabulous Brett LaGree on LeBron’s autobiography. My only issue is that he got a copy before I did.

-I promise I won’t link ot Eric Freeman over at Plasma Pool anymore in the near future, because it’s been brought to my attention he doesn’t actually write about basketball anymore, but his comments on QT’s Inglorious Basterds could not be more spot-0n.

-I also discovered Mad Men power rankings today. Brilliant.

-That’s all for tonight, unfortunately. Tomorrow, something good, hopefully. There’s still almost two months until the season starts, terrifyingly.

This is where I’m not

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

Hey guys, spent last night writing up Kevin Martin for the SLAM Top 50. So if you like Kevin Martin, mosey on over there and have yourself a good time.

Other than that, I don’t really know. I’ll miss Bruce Bowen, in a way. Iverson is nearing Favre territory. Weather remains charming. Until later, guys.