Saturday, June 30, 2007

Bobcats Not Keeping it Brevin, Waive Goodbye to BK

This was probably a year too late, but then again I didn’t think they were ever going to do it, so maybe I should think of it as infinitely early. The Bobcats bought out one of our originals, feisty point guard Brevin Knight. Knight was a personal favorite of mine for his ruggedness and his utterly unimaginative swearing (I can recall at least three separate incidents in which he was fouled hard on a drive, after which the camera picked him up telling an opposing player, “F---ing f--- you, mutherf---er!”). But the guy just could not stay healthy. He hasn’t played 70 games a year since his rookie season, and the last 6 years he’s appeared in just 45, 69, 66, 32, 24, and 55 contests.

This leaves me with two questions: a) who’s his replacement going to be, and b) why didn’t management get a PG from the draft at the 22nd pick instead of Jared Dudley? At the time, Aaron Brooks and Gabe Pruitt were still available, as was that Koponen dude from Finland. Heck, I think even JamesOn Curry would have been decent, at least as a backup. The timing on this one was weird, but then again, MJ and the boys suddenly seem empowered. “I think we’ve got a great makeup and a chance to make noise in the East,” Jordan told the Observer this morning, “That’s what a Jason Richardson brings.” Yup, it’s certainly what this Jason Richardson brings—any time MJ starts using proper nouns like pronouns, you know he’s feeling good about life.

So who do we get now? Depending on how much Gerald Wallace demands with his new contract, we might be able to lure in Chauncey Billups or Mo Williams. Or how about Mike Bibby, especially if we can sucker the Kings into going for Sean “Kneeless” May and one of the Hansons? As much as an atrocity it would be to have to cheer for Bibby, because we didn’t draft Joakim Noah, I feel like I could deal with it. I also see Daniel Ewing just got his pink slip from the Clippers, and Jordan’s probably lost more in a poker all-nighter than it would take to sign him.

Totally unrelated side note: last night I was cruising Chapel Hill, and I saw this beat up old car with a vanity license plate that read “SABBATH.” So when I pulled up alongside, I jokingly gave the driver the devil horns and shouted “Ozzy rules!” Bad move. First of all, there was, like, a family of five in the car, not some bearded dude in a trucker hat and a Judas Priest t-shirt like I expected. There were also all these crucifix stickers on one of the side doors and even a Bible facing the back window that I didn’t notice the first time. All too late I realized the license plate meant “Sabbath” as in, “On the 7th day, the Lord rested,” and NOT as in, “'War Pigs' is one of Black Sabbath’s greatest songs, and it’s too bad Ozzy left them in order to snort lines of ants.”

It’s weird, that whole metal/religious overlap. Chuck Klosterman once observed that some of the subtitles of the popular religious fiction Left Behind series would have made some stellar metal album titles (e.g., “The Destroyer is Unleashed” and “The Beast Takes Possession”). And then you have songs like “Creeping Death” by Metallica, which is really just a retelling of the story of Passover. Anyway, lesson learned; I won’t automatically assume like that again…

Friday, June 29, 2007

Bobcats Acquire Richardson, Smith’s Scorn

The Bobcats traded a 19-year-old—who by all accounts isn’t NBA-ready—for a 26-year-old shooting guard with career averages of 18 points, 5 rebounds, and 1+ steals per game. Obviously, they were among the biggest losers of the draft last night. At least, that was the opinion hollered by Stephen A. Smith, the Ann Coulter of NBA broadcasters. Chad Ford also criticized the move, albeit it in a slightly more humane manner, calling it “a chance to overpay Jason Richardson.”

With all due respect to Ford, and with NONE to Smith, I don’t see the downside on this one. Richardson’s due roughly $12 million a year for the next four seasons, which will happen to be the prime of his career—you think that’s overpaying? First, we had more cap space than an 8-1/4 fitted Yankee on Mini-Me. Second, wait until we find out what the Nets (or whoever the suckers are) shell out for an over-the-hill Vince Carter, or what the Sonics plunk down for Rashard Lewis, THEN we’ll see how much we overpaid. Plus, with the exception of last year, J-Rich has never played fewer than 72 games a season—the guy’s durable. We needed a 2 badly, and when Seattle shipped Ray Allen to Boston, it became obvious we weren’t going to be able to get Lewis.

I’m not quite as ecstatic about Jared Dudley at #22, unless we’re trying to come up with our own version of The Hanson Brothers, because we’ve got Morrison and Herrmann already as backup 3’s. So now I’d trade one of the three if possible. I’m not sure which one, but I can tell you this much: he’ll have a stupid haircut. With about $19 million remaining to play with, we shouldn’t have any problem re-signing G-Dub, then maybe tossing some dollars at Matt Carroll, after which we’ll still have room for somebody else. Package one of the Hansons and take on the contract of a center who doesn’t succumb to exhaustion before the season even starts, and we’ll be in business!

Not to sound too giddy, but I’m happy about this draft. And frankly, I needed some good news. I’ve spent the past week trying to find a therapist for a loved one who’s suffering from depression. If you’ve never tried this before, I don’t recommend it. So far, every prospective therapist seems to be either a) not covered by my insurance, b) not taking any new patients, or c) on vacation. After about the sixth failed attempt, I started getting depressed myself; I needed to see a therapist about not being able to see a therapist. And then, to top it all off, my dog Lincoln ran away from me during our evening walk and bounded straight into this swamp near our house that he adores. It’s ridiculous, because he makes a beeline straight for it anytime he gets loose, but once he jumps into it, he can’t move. So he ends up just standing there stupidly like that horse in the The Neverending Story until I can wade in to fetch him. Thus, still covered in doo-doo brown from hauling him out when the draft started, I was in no mood for a stupid pick or a terrible trade. In other words, thank God I’m not a Celtics fan.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Charlotte Bobcats 2007 Draft Preview

Okay, now that it’s official and Bonzi Wells is staying in Houston, I can proceed with this draft preview. I can also proceed to come down off the ledge, because lately I’ve had terrible nightmares in which our “big” free agency pickup ends up being Bonzi. These dreams were akin to that digital girl’s in the Final Fantasy movie, only with giant “Bonzi” armies coming at me and threatening to rip out my screaming soul instead of aliens. As a longtime Yankees fan, I’ve already been tormented enough by fat, underachieving guys named “Wells.” So bless you, Bonzi, for staying in Houston.

(PS—I love how diplomatically put it in the release: “The temperamental Wells hardly played last season, sidelined with various injuries and a rift with coach Jeff Van Gundy.” “Various injuries?” I guess “acute laziness” and “chronic obesity” are considered injuries then. “Rift?” It’s not like he and Jeff Van Gundy were having an argument over what the national health care system should look like. This was only a rift if you consider a disagreement over whether or not a player should be allowed to miss practice repeatedly because he’s hung over in his hotel and scarfing down packs of Ding Dongs and Ho Hos to be a “rift.”)

Moving on, so how are we going to handle Thursday? Here’s what we’ve got: the 8th and 22nd picks in the draft and about $30 million in cap space. We’ve got good-to-great starters at point guard (Raymond Felton), small forward (Gerald Wallace), and power forward (Emeka Okafor). We’ve got a fair-to-good shooting guard (Matt Carroll) who really should be coming off the bench. And we’ve got a bad-to-horrible center (Primoz Brezec) who really should be the World’s Tallest Sword-Eater or something in a traveling East European gypsy carnival.

We’ve also got a bunch of spare parts: Walter Herrmann, a shoot-first, defense-almost-never backup 3; Adam Morrison, a shoot-first, miss-often, defense-somehow-even-less-than-Herrmann backup 2/3; Brevin Knight, a backup point guard with starting groin injury potential; Sean May, a Bonzi-Wells-in-training but with maddeningly great ability for the third of a season he DOES get around to playing the 4; Jake Voskuhl, a hard fouling specialist to backup Primoz Brezec (or, really, “replace” is probably the better word, particularly after Primoz picks up his 3rd foul just five minutes into the game and then loses a jump ball to Nate Robinson). We’ve also got Jeff McInnis as the backup-backup point guard, and Ryan Hollins as the backup-backup center, but if this rundown was sung to the Gilligan’s Island theme song, you’d say their names like “the Professor and Mary-Ann”; they’re basically bit players in this zaniness.

So how will this go down? Well, I gotta say, this mock draft I did with the SB Nation was almost as instructive as it was dorky, because it allowed me to see how things might shake out. I think I learned some crucial information, and now I feel kinda like Donnie Darko, using knowledge gained in a parallel universe to go back in time to save the actual universe (hopefully, this doesn’t also require getting impaled by a gigantic falling airplane turbine, especially with some song by Echo and the Bunnymen or Joy Division playing in the background—that would be horrible).

First, I think it’s a safe bet that Messrs. Oden, Durant, Horford, Jianlin, and Conley will already be off the board by the time the pick comes to us. But someone from the pool of Jeff Green, Corey Brewer, Joakim Noah, and Brandan Wright will still be around. If it’s either of the first two, I would take them unequivocally (especially Brewer). At this high up, we have to draft according to the best player, NOT according to need. Green and Brewer would both be quality fill-ins at the 3; Brewer might be a starter right now at the 2, and Green can take over when (not if) Okafor pops something in his legs and has to sit for a quarter of the season.

And yeah, I’d probably take Noah if he’s around too. I know, I know, I’ve been crucifying him on and off for the past few weeks, and yes, he’s annoying every time he opens his mouth AND he looks irritatingly like Angelina Jolie in A Mighty Heart, but he’s performed well in all of his workouts. Plus, he might be able to play the center, and I want another dose of Brezec at center for a year like I want a dose of the clap. And again, Okafor’s a threat to miss 10 games in a row or more at any time, and someone’s going to need to step in.

However, I would NOT take Brandan Wright if he’s the one left at #8. He’s rawer than a California roll and was frighteningly unmotivated last year for long periods of time, despite UNC Coach Roy Williams turning various shades of purple on the bench. If Wright is the only one left, I would look to trade this pick for one in the mid-teens and a competent backup PG or C. And with that ensuing mid-round pick I’d shoot for a Spencer Hawes, an Al Thornton, a Julian Wright, an Acie Law, a Thaddeus Young, or a Nick Young…or a Brandan Wright, for that matter.

As for the 22nd pick, ideally I’d like Javaris Crittenton or Gabe Pruitt to still be there, because, seriously, let's face it: something on Brevin Knight is going to blow at any moment. He’s like a major household appliance on the last year of its warranty. This is also assuming that we haven’t been able to land Chauncey Billups, Mo Williams, or Smush Parker thru free agency at a reasonable price (and, hell, even if we CAN get Parker). Morris Almond keeps being tossed around, but I really don’t know anything about the shooting guard factory that is Rice University. Someone mentioned BC/Boston County Correctional Facility’s Shaun Williams too, but I’d rather avoid a guy who seems to live his life as if it were a game of Grand Theft Auto. And frankly, I’m hoping he goes to the Nets and combines with Marcus Williams and three others to someday form the League’s only All-Juvenile Delinquent squad.

So there you have it. There’s plenty to be excited about come Thursday, and it’s also going to be tough to screw this one up…but not impossible.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Final Mock Draft Update

All right, so here’s a final recap of the quote/unquote “action” from the mock draft. With the 8th pick, I ended up taking Al Thornton. Brewer was gone, Yi was gone, N-Sync had a song called “Gone”…basically everyone worthwhile in my opinion was gone by the 8th pick. So I took Thornton, figuring he could play at the 2 (or at least he could play DEFENSE at the 2—if only we could somehow combine Thornton with Adam Morrison, “Voltron”-style, then we could have a complete Super Shooting Guard. Although come to think of it, Morrison wasn’t really all that great on offense either, so never mind.). This would allow G-Dub to focus on the 3 (particularly the part that involves landing on both feet after he dunks, a subtle art that I’m convinced he forgot about last year because he had his mind on too many other things), and Mek at the 4. Assuming we’re going to sign some high-priced talent like Rashard Lewis or Vince Carter (who’s really just high-priced, period) at the 2, Thornton would be an excellent role player off the bench.

As for the center? Well, how does this one grab you: I traded our 22nd pick (and let’s face it: at this point, you’re choosing among guys who have more distinguished criminal experience than college experience) to the Wizards for Brendan Haywood. Haywood’s not only stronger than the incumbent Primoz Brezec, he could probably eat Primoz like a 7’ party sub. Plus he’s a good ol’ UNC boy and comes with built-in hostility for division rival Etan Thomas. Oh yeah, and the Wizards also wanted the old but worthless Othella Harrington for reasons that are totally beyond me—perhaps they need someone to mentor all of the other DNPCD’s on how to properly wear suits on the sidelines. Charlotte doesn’t have any second round picks, and I’m glad about that, because save for the 4 or 5 guys who randomly morph into perennial All-Stars five years later, make everyone feel stupid, and spawn a bunch of “Why did so many teams pass on this guy?” articles, it’s a total crap shoot. So that’s how I handled it, and unless you’ve got a flux capacitor and 1.21 gigawatts of electricity, it is done…

As a somewhat satisfying footnote to all this, Joakim Noah didn’t get selected until 14th, by the mock Suns, who moved up—apparently we’re not the only ones who find him ridiculous/annoying/marginally talented. I’m not sure what it is about Noah (maybe it’s the way he kept screaming, “Keep hatin’ us!” during the Final Four, despite the fact that I don’t know a single hoops fan who didn’t have Florida as the odds-on favorite to win it all), but I’d love to see him take the Brady Quinn Plunge when the actual draft happens.

It’s funny, but as much as I enjoyed making fun of this thing, it’s hard not to get into it. In fact, I actually keep catching myself thinking of Thornton and Haywood as real members of the Bobcats. Even if (or really WHEN) they end up playing for other teams, I’ll always feel some sort of “special bond” with them. This sort of thing has happened before with me. For about three years, my sister dated this guy named Wells, and for whatever the reason, I didn’t know what Wells’ last name was. But the kid’s family happened to be loaded—we went over to dinner at their place in California, and it was like a Columbian drug dealer’s fortress, complete with haciendas and forested seclusion. So because I was too embarrassed to ask anyone what his last name was, I just invented my own by coming up with the “richest” sounding name possible, eventually settling on “Worthington.” And for literally, like, a year, I referred to him as “Wells Worthington.” Inevitably, I did this out loud and my sister was like, “Who? That’s not his last name. It’s…” And the weird thing is I can’t remember what she said it was (I think it was something like “Turner”), because “Worthington” had become so ingrained in my head. Shortly after this they broke up (to my father’s everlasting disappointment, because he’s been shamelessly trying to pimp my sister and I off for years to the wealthiest people he can find), so it was never really an issue, but I’ll probably always think of that family as “The Worthingtons.”

Anyway, I hope everyone’s enjoying the 4 weeks or so of the NBA off-season. This Kobe thing has gotten really bizarre. I still can’t understand why the Lakers were so attached to Andrew Bynum before the playoffs began. It was like a debilitating addiction--like trying to convince a dude with lung cancer and a trach ring to put out the freakin’ cigarettes already. Now they’re just about going to have to move Kobe, which might not be the worst thing in the world but is certainly going to be a PR disaster with the LA fans.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

We Are...ON THE CLOCK!!!

All right, everyone, Blogcat's in your area, about cause mass hysteria: it’s Charlotte’s pick in the mock draft. The bad news is that Corey Brewer is gone (he went 7th to Minnesota). The neutral news is that Yi went 5th to the Celtics and Brandan Wright went 6th to Milwaukee.

TIMANG, I’m not really interested in trading the 8th pick—not with all that cap space that we have. I feel like we can sign players and we don’t need to trade anyone. I told Mike from Bullets Forever that I’d be interested in Brendan Haywood for the 22nd pick, and for some odd reason he wanted Othella Harrington also. This is like when I was trying to sell my house, and this dude offered to buy it, but only if I guaranteed I would leave him this little statue of a frog that was in my garden that I bought 5 years ago for, like, 35 bucks.

So with Brewer off the table, that leaves us with Jeff Green, Julian Wright, and Al Thornton. There’s also the it’s-too-good-to-be-true-pinch-me options of Spencer and Noah. I gotta tell you, I’m sort of leaning towards Thornton, and here’s why: he’s 6-7 and he’s capable of playing the 2, and I don’t need to remind anyone of how spotty that shooting guard we got last year has been. In fact, that’s another reason NOT to get Spencer as far as I’m concerned: how embarrassing would it be to get burned on draft picks by the state of Washington two years in a row? Washington is good for Brandon Roy, flannel, apples, settings for ET and Poltergeist, and that’s about it.

So anyway, we could have Ray-Ray, Thornton, G-Dub at the 3, Mek at the 4, and (kill me now) Primoz or a vastly improved Ryan Hollins (presumably after Jordan and Tim Grover have spent the summer torturing him at Hoops the Gym and constantly screaming at him, “You’re worthless, you’re less than nothing, you play center like old people…”) OR Brendan Haywood if I can pull that trade off. And before you yell at me that we’re going to try to sign either Lewis or Carter for the 2-guard, a) that’s not a given, b) I don’t really want Carter that much, and c) I’d be more interested in using that cap space to get Billups. Thoughts? We’ve got 24-hours on this one, so summon your inner Jack Bauers.

By the way, you’re absolutely right, DVDBUMPUS, it is getting crazy. My email is blowing up like I lost all of my spam controls. Check out this one from Dave, the Portland Trail Blazers representative:

“Anyone want Zach Randolph and change for a later lottery pick? I don't know what the Blazers would actually do but my reader base would kiss me twice and thrice on Sunday if I could get them Jeff Green.”

Ummm, what is he talking about? To the good people of Portland: this isn’t actually happening. You could virtually trade Zach Randolph for the 6oth pick and the entire cast of What's Happening? if you wanted, because this isn't real (plus Rerun is quite possibly in better shape than Z-Bo at this point, and Dee might make for a very shrewd GM). You know how in the 50s or whenever it was that Orson Welles went on radio to try to get people afraid that aliens were actually attacking the planet? For the most part nobody believed it. Well, this is like the exact opposite: people are going crazy for something that they actually know for a fact isn’t happening.

Okay, let me know what to do, people. Pick your cliché: The ball’s in our court. It’s our move. It’s a perfect storm. It’s like groundhog day. It’s like a video game. It’s like a virgin. And once again, you can continue to follow this virtual action at:

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Mock News Update

Holy crap, not one but THREE people commented on my last entry! I was getting so worried that no one ever read this thing that my next blog was just going to be, "Echo!"

Anyway, quick update of fake news on this fake draft: the fake Trail Blazers fakely selected Greg Oden (no surprise), and the virtual Sonics took a Durant hologram. Then the pseudo- Atlanta Hawks--and I swear I'm NOT making this up--selected Al Horfod rather than a point guard. Makes me wonder if it's actually the real Hawks front office calling the shots on that one.

Then, in a bit of comedy, the imposter Grizzlies first CHEWED OUT the Hawks blogger for taking Horford when they (virtual Atlanta) didn’t need him and replica Memphis did. And in a bit of mock draft revenge, Memphis selected Conley. I’m kind of glad Conley’s off the table because something truly bothers me about the way he and Oden keep insisting how they want to be on the same team; I can picture one of them (mostly Conley) pulling a Vince Carter later and insisting on being traded to whatever team Oden's on.

Then I got this trade proposal from “Bullets Forever” blogger Mike (a name that continues to crack me up, because they were really only the Bullets for about 25 years), which I will relay to you word-for-word:
MIKE: Do you have any interest in trading for Antonio Daniels? How does an offer of AD and Darius Songaila for Sean May and the 22nd pick sound?

ME: I say no, but let me put it to my web page for due diligence.

MIKE: Would you consider AD for #22 and Brevin Knight?

ME: I don't think so, man. AD's a year older, costs $1.1 million more, averaged 2 points, 3 assists, and 1 steal LESS per game than Brevin, plus I'd have to throw in a 22nd pick for him? Am I missing something?
I love it! He gives me a crappy offer, and when I reject it, he turns around and gives me a WORSE offer.

All right, so I’m getting a couple of theories here. KAPZX and Dwyan both are anti-Joaquin Noah. In fact, KAPZX hates Noah so much that he suggested an amendment to the draft rules wherein I could send fake agents (whom I visualize as looking like Agent Smith from “The Matrix”) over to Georgetown University and try to talk Roy Hibbert (“Miiiiiisster Hibbert…” the agents would say) into re-entering the draft. I love the idea, but I don’t think that’s going to fly with Dungeon Master Mike (especially when I just basically laughed in his face over the AD-BK trade proposal).

I totally agree about Noah—he’s probably just going to be a more expensive Anderson Varejao. We should always be suspicious when big guys are described as “high-energy” because it’s generally a euphemism for “uncoordinated spazz.” AIRBOBCAT likes Yi, although he probably won’t be available by the time it's our turn. So it sounds like we should be drafting according to skill and not need, in which case, I would agree that Brewer is probably the best available player at #8. No one seems to know anything at all about Spencer, and that probably applies to most of the state of Washington as well. So my new tentative plan is that unless Yi is available at #8, I’m probably going to go with Brewer—agreed?

More fake updates to follow, and here is the link to the SB Nation web page that lists the picks and the rationales by each selecting team (or types of crack smoked, if you’re the Atlanta blogger):

Monday, June 11, 2007

Draft Mockery

I’ve got some exciting news! Well, actually, it’s not really all that exciting, nor is it particularly newsworthy, but at least it’s something: I’ve been selected to represent the Cats at the upcoming "SB Nation Mock Draft." Many of the details are still being worked out, such as where, when, how, and—most importantly—why, but a bunch of us bloggers—presumably because we’re all too old to play Dungeons & Dragons with each other—have decided to conduct a mock draft. In case you happen to have a life, a mock draft is when people (by “people,” I mean “guys who should be focusing more on their real-life wives and children, or at least on a job that pays actual money”) war game the draft by picking college players according to their teams’ needs. It will be quite possibly a revealing sneak preview of the strategies used by actual teams in the upcoming draft. It will also be quite possibly the dorkiest thing I’ve ever done.

As you probably know, Charlotte has the 8th and 22nd overall picks. We also have a clever dwarf-warrior sidekick named Thor-Gan with 15 Hit Points and enchanted chain mail armor, so we’re in good shape. According to the rules put forth by “Bullets Forever” blogger/Dungeon Master Mike Prada, trading will be allowed as long as your team doesn’t exceed its cap limits, although I’m not sure if we’re to allowed cast any spells. There were a bunch more rules listed, but I haven’t read them all yet, because a) this isn’t something you can actually “win”, and b) I’m pathetic enough to forget about a) and start getting really into it.

Anyhow, I plan on selecting Charlotte’s picks under the following assumptions:

1. Our two biggest needs are a PG and a true center. Last year, Raymond Felton was great at drive-and-kicks, except he frequently left out the “-and-kicks” part, resulting in a mini mosh-pit under the hoop and a turnover. Brevin Knight, meanwhile, went from leading the league in assists and steals the year before to leading the league in groin pulls. He and Roger Clemens ought to put on a benefit concert that raises Groin Awareness.

The 5 might even be more important, unless you’re comfortable with the thought of another year of an emaciated Primoz Brezec running around like Olive Oil being chased by Brutus, and Ryan Hollins, who's a constant threat to get his head stuck in the basket.

2. We will re-sign Gerald Wallace and Matt Carroll. We will land one high-priced free agent to shore up the 2. We will spin in circles three times clockwise and then three times counterclockwise before we defecate (if we are my dog Lincoln).

Thus, here’s my loose game plan: get Mike Conley at #8 if he’s still available, otherwise take Joaquin Noah. If both of them are gone, Spencer Hawes, maybe? I really don’t know anything about him because I never saw a single U. of Washington game last year. Plus I don’t trust that name: “Spencer”; it doesn’t sound tough and it makes me think of Spenser: For Hire, and the last thing we need is some mercenary-type who gets involved in kooky mysteries every week. At #22, I’m looking for either Acie Law, Javaris Crittenton, Sean Williams, Gabe Pruitt, or DeVon Hardin to be open.

So if anyone has any advice for me, please send in your comments (except if it’s something stupid and obvious like, “try to get Oden or Durant if either is still around”). And if you know of any good ways to raise my Constitution and Charisma levels, send those in too, because I'm getting pretty low on both.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Idle Hands Now Devlin's Workshop

I regret to inform you that televised Bobcats games (at least, those 30% or so they bother to broadcast) will no longer feature Matt Devlin on play-by-play. This comes as a tremendous blow to those of us who’ve suffered through the last three seasons, in which Matt’s relentless cheerfulness and game show host haircut were the only things we could count on. That mischievous grin, that playful banter…Ingratitude is more strong than traitor’s arms, and this was the unkindest cut of all.

USA Today writes that Devlin’s firing was “another shake-up for the struggling franchise,” although I’m not sure why any of the Bobcats’ problems would be considered Matt’s fault. Unless management thinks Matt’s been so mesmerizing on play-by-play that fans were intentionally staying home just to listen to him. Or maybe Coach Bickerstaff suspects Matt’s been secretly sending Sean May orders of Krispy Kremes, knowing full-well that Sean would be no match for their powers of tastiness. I don’t know, but to me this reeks of scapegoating. Matt’s a private in this Abu Ghraib.

So I was feeling so bummed out about Matt’s pink slip that I decided to write a song to cheer myself up. I have fun with music from time to time. For instance, once in college—just for kicks—I sent an email to my father about how I was feeling all depressed, and that I’d written a poem I wanted him to read that described my feelings. Except then I just cut-and-pasted the lyrics to “The Unforgiven” by Metallica. This was not a good idea as it turned out, because of course my father wouldn’t know who Metallica was if James Hetfield walked up to him and set his hair on fire.

So my father got all terrified that I was suicidal (not to mention confused, especially by lines like, “The old man then prepares to die regretfully/That old man here is me,” considering I was only about 20 at the time). What ended up happening is my poor father, now scared out of his mind that his only son was on the verge of blowing his brains out hundreds of miles away from home, yelled for the rest of the family to gather around the computer, and then recited my poem in what I imagined to be a quivering, panic-stricken voice. Fortunately, my younger sister was there, and about two lines into the “poem” she said, “Wait a second, he didn’t write that.” Needless to say, my father was kind of pissed once it was revealed to him that my poem was nothing more than a ridiculous power ballad by a bunch of burnt-out metalheads. It was a pretty mean thing to do, I suppose, and I felt so bad about it that it took me nearly two years before I could tell that story to others without falling out of my chair.

ANYWAY, this song is I believe what the kids today refer to as a “mash-up.” One of the best songs ever written—right below “American Pie,” in my opinion—was “Hot in Herre” by Nelly. I can’t listen to that song to this day without getting practically misty eyed over that glorious spring/summer of 2002. I’d been thinking of a way to make a parody of that tune, when what do I see is coming up on AMC? Ben-Hur. Bingo. This little exercise gave me a whole new appreciation for the work of "Weird Al" Yankovic, because I could only make the chorus sound like the actual "Hot in Herre" lyrics, while he can do it for all the verses and the chorus--the man's a genius.

Also, this one might have a limited audience, as I’m guessing most people who are familiar with Nelly are probably not fans of Charlton Heston movies, and vice versa. But anyway, Matt Devlin, this one’s for you, and if you can’t catch a gig with any other teams out there, at least there are always game shows (in particular, I’d like to see someone revive Press Your Luck, as I imagine modern day digital technology would vastly improve those animated “Wammy” sequences):

“Hot in Ben-Hur”
Messala, my boyhood friend
Said we’d be brothers until the end
And it’s no problem that I’m a Jew
“For we Romans like you for you”
They’ll never treat me like a knave
And the last thing they’d want is me enslaved
Now he must leave and see other lands
But we’ll be close no matter how much Rome expands
Messala’s back, says “you’re still a Jew, I see
Sorry, old pal, it’s off to the galley”

The galley’s hot, Ben-Hur
Best take off all your clothes
I am so rowed-out, I want to take these chains off

Starved and abused, but I refuse to submit
This strange man with long hair just won’t let me quit
He tends to my needs, overlooks my vice
Guess that’s why my story’s subtitled “A Tale of the Christ”
Now I’m back, strong and proud, revenge all I see
Messala, you’re a dead man, to hell with “love thine enemy”
This movie’s so odd, it’s only fitting, I guess
To settle our differences on chariots

This arena’s hot, Ben-Hur
So take off down the course
My temper got so hot, I wanna run Messala over

Done with Messala, but still feel irate
Now I’ve gotta deal with that clown, Pontius Pilate
And if that’s not enough, what’s this I see:
Mom and sis have contracted leprosy
I want more revenge, but they say let them be
They’ve been listening to that Nazareth hippie
Too big for his britches, Pilate demands
A crown of thorns for him, and nails in his hands
But wait, I know him! It’s He who saves
And too late I see his message: “forgiveness pays”

Jesus is hot, Ben-Hur
So take him off the cross
It is raining so hard, but the leprosy wore off

Friday, June 01, 2007

No Time Like The Present

I would love to wax poetic about LeBron James’ single-handed heroics last night, and I almost feel like I have to. It would be a disservice to the basketball community if I failed to acknowledge what was so obviously a harbinger for a new era. Thus I would love to say that I sat there transfixed by his dominance, shouting so loudly that even my dog Lincoln momentarily stopped eating my diploma to look up at the TV. Two separate sources,’s Bill Simmons and The Basketball Jones, have insisted that we’ll never forget this once-in-a-lifetime masterpiece, as well as where we were when it happened. The good news is that I won’t forget, but the bad news is I won’t forget only because they’ve essentially ordered me not to.

Do you know what my most prevailing thought was while LeBron LeMaggio poured in his 25 straight? It was, “Dammit, I’m not going to make it to the gym in time.” It’s a Metallician sad but true; during the fourth quarter I had first dusted off and then been slowly putting on my workout gear, because I’d decided to make my biannual trip over to the fitness center last night (like many people, I have a membership that I never use, but I pay the yearly fee anyway just so I can legitimately tell others I belong to a gym). But because the game went into multiple overtimes, the place was going to close before I could get there. Maybe next month I’ll try again.

Anyway, I’d been feeling guilty all day long that I’d let such a transcendent moment slip past without giving it its proper reverence. It’s especially troubling considering that for two years now, Nike has been preprogramming me to marvel at LeBron’s genius with their “Witness” campaign. So far, though, I’ve witnessed LeBron about as competently as that little Amish kid in the movie "Witness." But my guilt has been tempered by two things. First, this isn’t new for me; I’ve let much bigger events than this one pass me by cluelessly. For instance, the mother of them all for my generation, that Challenger explosion in 1986? No memory of it. I was in the third grade too. By all accounts I should have been one of the millions of horror-stricken children watching that disaster live on TV, because apparently every public school in the country had assembled in their respective auditoriums to see the event. But I swear to this day our class did NOT watch it on TV, and the reason I’m so sure about this is because I DO remember one of the teachers letting us watch the video for “The Super Bowl Shuffle” during lunchtime once (and then turning it off when she realized that the reason a referee’s whistle was blown twice in the song was to bleep out the word “ass”). As for the Challenger, I don’t remember even discussing it with my parents that night during dinner, or even reading about it in the next month’s issue of Highlights: For Children. In fact, other than that “Super Bowl Shuffle” mishap, just about the only other thing I remember from the third grade at all was the controversial banning of Garbage Pail Kids cards from class. I seem to remember something about fractions as well.

But the other reason I don’t feel too bad about not genuflecting during LeBron’s star-turning performance was because of the erratic, disparate way in which it unfolded. I went back and checked: LBJ hit the first of his salvos, a 17-footer, with 6:05 left in the fourth quarter. He didn’t get his next one, a layup-and-1, until a full 3 minutes later, during which time the Pistons had stretched the lead out to 88-81. And on top of that, he missed the subsequent foul shot. Then Drew Gooden missed a foul shot (but got the other one, hence that one other missing link point out of LeBron’s 29/30 finish), LeBron drilled a trey, and then LeBron missed TWO MORE FREE THROWS (!). Remember, what was the storyline coming into this? “The Cavs keep falling short at the Palace.” It’s been beaten into our heads so much, that was all I could think about at the time: these missed free throws (they went just 2/9 from the line in the 4th) are going to be the story of the game. Even when LeBron next made that thunderous dunk to give Cleveland a 1-point lead with 30-seconds left, Chauncey Billups almost immediately drilled a 3-pointer to snatch the lead right back for the Pistons. Billups’ shot further scrambled my perceptions, because earlier in the day Bill Simmons’ had posted a column arguing that Chauncey should be forced to give up his “Mr. Big Shot” nickname. So all I could think of was, “Man, Bill’s gonna owe Chauncey an apology.”

These long stretches of LBJ point-free play continued in OT: a minute here, a minute-and-a-half there, nearly three minutes in the second frame. And by then, as I said, I was busy feeling guilty over my gym procrastination.

So in the end, yeah, I’ll savor this one, and I’ll definitely remember where I was when it happened. But I’ve had to do it retroactively. The problem with the present is you don’t know what’s coming next, and therefore it’s impossible to construct a proper context for it until later. And the other problem is that people have trouble retaining more than one conclusion about the same event. For instance, if the Pistons come back to take games 6 and 7, will we really consider this series to be LeBron’s “coming out performance”? Probably not, because then the key takeaway will be that for two years in a row, the Cavs failed to put the Pistons away despite having a 3-2 edge. And even if the Cavs do defeat Detroit, what if the Spurs then bury them in 4 or 5 games? We’re probably back to either the “Tim Duncan Is an Underrated All-Time Great” storyline or the ever-popular “Are the Spurs a Dynasty?” theme.

This is why it’s important for me to have critics who can tell me how to think about things. I don’t mean this facetiously; I really think a good critic—be it of movies, sports, whatever—is an underrated commodity. Without them, I would have thought Pulp Fiction to be just a quirky little movie, rather than a brilliantly innovative conflation of humor and violence. I would have considered the album Nevermind to be a catchy, semi-coherent hard rock album with limited guitar work, rather than a symbol for an entire jaded generation. So although it’s tough right now to tell how these playoffs are ultimately going to be remembered, I’m sure someone will let me know when the time’s right. I just hope it’s not while I’m trying to go to the gym.