All right, just like Sean May and Adam Morrison, my car’s back to near-functionality, and I’m ready to talk Bobcats basketball! But one thing before I do: you want to know an interesting conversation to overhear? An insurance company rep haggling with an auto-mechanic. This is what happened after I took my broken-in car to the nearest shop for repairs. The insurance company miraculously agreed to pay for the damages, so I put them on the line with (not kidding) Vinny from Brooklyn Auto-Glass to discuss an estimate. What followed was a Federer/Nadal-like virtuosic dual between two of the most bloodthirsty rivals anywhere. It was spectacular, really: two warriors at the top of their game, just going all-out in an epic showdown. Advantages were gained and lost. Several times when it looked like one of them had broken the other’s will, he would summon everything he had for a stirring comeback. And when Vinny finally hung up the phone (in a tough but fair fight, he was able to secure payment for the broken window, but alas, the insurance company wanted me to take the car somewhere else for a new radio), I nearly stood up and applauded the superhuman efforts of both competitors. It was almost worth the robbery.
Anyway, let’s talk Summer League…and that’s about all we can do, because we certainly can’t watch Summer League. If you haven’t tried to stream the games on NBA.com, don’t bother. Unless you’re writing a thesis for some goofball New Age journalism class about the “Importance of Broadcasters on Sports and Society” or something, it’s pointless (and if you ARE, you’re wasting your money—either drop the class and take physics or do something even more practical: sleep in). For these downloads, the screen is tiny and cannot expand, there’s no audio, and there’s no graphics—save for an illegible little “scoreboard” that hovers over the unrecognizable players like the ghost of a 1983 Speak’N’Spell.
(Side note: Is it me or is the NBA really dropping the ball when it comes to internet/podcast platforms? I don’t even like baseball, and yet I get more baseball podcasts even during their offseason than I do at the height of the NBA playoffs. And the League’s actually regressed in this area—last year you could occasionally download the NBA Fantasy show and random clips of their XM-radio broadcasts; this year there was nothing other than The Basketball Jones, MSR, and Chad Ford talking about a) the draft, or b) Joe Dumars—although to be fair, at least when the playoffs rolled around, Ford switched the subject to…Joe Dumars’ draft picks. And none of this content was NBA-sponsored; it’s totally frustrating…)
So this leaves us relying on second-hand accounts of our team’s progression, especially that of DJ Augustin. This can be problematic, however, given the wildly diverse impressions these games seem to be creating among pundits. Over on ESPN, Maurice Brooks opened his Liveblog by echoing one of the more inexplicable sentiments concerning our pick of Augustin: “I didn't think Charlotte needed another point guard.” We didn’t need another point guard?? We had Raymond Felton and Earl Boykins (who we’re probably not keeping)--that's it!! By my count, that’s only about a point guard-and-a-half. Meanwhile, we’ve got about 8 swingmen and 4 seven-footers who can’t rebound. We needed a point guard like John McCain needs sun-block, and this made me immediately suspicious of any more reports by Brooks.
On the other hand, the Charlotte Observer’s normally even-keeled Rick Bonnell has lately been leaning to the Matt Devlin/cornball-optimistic side, which hasn’t exactly reassured me of his objectivity. From a purely statistical standpoint, I’d say Augustin’s debut has been conservatively decent: 14 points and 2 assists in Game 1 vs. the Clips, 15 points and 2 assists (plus 5 turnovers) in Game 2 vs. the Hornets. Yet he’s “shined” and is “standing tall,” according to Bonnell’s recaps, leading Bonnell to conclude that, hey, “maybe size doesn’t matter.” Maybe not, Rick, but you might want to cut down on all the Pixar movies before you watch these games, especially after your syrupy, coming-of-age piece on Alexis Ajinka in the Sunday column that could’ve doubled as the script to the next American Tail cartoon.
(Side note 2: In that article, Bonnell writes that it wasn’t until Ajinka was 12 years old that a cousin told him he might want to consider taking up basketball. I ask you, how could that be? Presumably, Ajinka was already well over 6 feet at the time and a great athlete, so did he really need a cousin to point out to him that he may have a future in basketball? Had it really never occurred to Ajinka (or at least his parents) sometime before? I don’t mean to single out Ajinka on this either, because it seems like I’ve read this line a lot when it comes to basketball players who were reportedly “late-bloomers,” and I’m always skeptical. Either these guys are disturbingly un-self-aware, or the writers of the articles are embellishing things a tad. I don’t know about you, but we had a kid who was almost 6-feet tall in the second grade, and not a day passed without at least one person (including the teacher) “helpfully” pointing out to him that he should be a pro basketball player someday.)
Anyway, as if there weren’t enough angst already surrounding the rookies, Emeka Okafor’s contract/possible departure to the Clippers, Morrison’s and May’s injuries, and Larry Brown’s impact, Bonnell was also busily debunking trade rumors. Gerald Wallace and May for Carlos Boozer is NOT happening, folks, nothing to see here. Phew! Okay, great. Nothing like squashing rumors I didn’t even know existed...We need the regular season to come back soon—if nothing else, it’s easier to follow…