Tuesday, October 28, 2014

BISCUTBALL PREVIEWS INDEX:

(Here is an index of Biscutball Previews to read on this, the first say of NBA Basketball.)

ATLANTIC:

Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors

CENTRAL:

Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavilers, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks

SOUTHEAST:

Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Washington Wizards

PACIFIC:

Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings

NORTHWEST:

Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz

SOUTHWEST:

Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs

BISCUTBALL PREVIEW #30: PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

(I am a writer for Portland Roundball Society, which means that my Blazers previewing quota has been fulfilled. SO I asked my 8 year old nephew, Ross, to write the preview for me.)

The Portland Trail Blazers are a basketball team. They are my favorite team, so  hope they win a lot of basketball games. My favorite player on the Blazers is Wes Matthews. Last year they got to the second round of the playoffs behind a buzzer beating three pointer by Damian Lillard. When that happened, I was really excited, me and my mom yelled in the living room because we were so excited. Lamarcus Aldridge is on the team. He is very tall. I hope the Blazers win so many games they they win the "Big NBA Trophy," a very cool and golden trophy they give out to the best NBA team. The b Blazers have other payers, like Nic Batum, Robin Lopez, Meyers Leonard, Joel Freeland, Alan Crabbe, Will Barton, Kris Kaman and Steve Rakes. Their coach is named Terry, which is a girl's name a lot of the time but Terry is a bod and the coach of the Blazers. I would be cool with it if Terry is a girl, because I think girls and boys should have equal opportunities in the United States and all over the world. Paul Allen owns the Blazers. He sits on the baselines usually and kind of dresses dumpily. Sometimes he is with Dan Aykroyd.  I think they are friends because they are both interested in ghosts and finding ghosts, and capturing ghosts and asking them after the afterlife. The Blazers play basketball at the Rose Garden. You can take any train to get to the Rose Garden. There is a fountain out front that children can play and have fun in. In conclusion, I hope the Blazers are good this year.

BISCUTBALL PREVIEW #29: SAN ANTONIO SPURS

ONE: The San Antonio Spurs are death. They are death reincarnate as a basketball team, and everyone knows it.

TWO: Consider their uniforms. Black, like the robes of death This one is so obvious it occurs to you every time you watch.

THREE: Death rides a pale horse. Spurs are for riding horses.

FOUR: They carry with them a sense of inevitably. They’ll be good every year, and teams will subcumb to them, sooner or later.

FIVE: A list of squads they have beat in their time as a powerhouse, only to see that squad never come back to the same level of prominence again: Patrick Ewing’s Knicks, Gary Payton’s Sonics, Jason Kidd’s Nets, Billups/Wallace/Brown Pistons, Rick Adelman’s Kings, the first iteration of the Lebron James Cavs, Deron Williams’s Jazz, Kobe’s Lakers, Lebron James’s Miami Heat. They dispatched them all, for the last time without fury or angry, they did it because they needed to be dealt with, because time demanded it and they were time’s left hand, the killer of teams that needed to be killed.

SIX: Tim Duncan. Relaxed.Focused. Some may say bloodless. Silently gliding across the court.

SEVEN: Tony and Boris are French. French dudes are way into death. Here are some literary quotes:

“I am just crazy about death” -Jean-Paul Satre
“Life is interesting, that is why I wrote like ten or so books about it. But I wish could have been dead all that time, because then I could have written some REAL-ASS BOOKS” -Marcel Proust
“My name’s Pat Modiano and I’m here to say/I am super into death in that uniquely French way!” -Patrick Modiano

EIGHT: Everyone on the team is old, and will have to retire sooner rather than later. Their faces and bodies and low minute counts are ever present reminds of the passage of time and our eventual trip to the grave.

NINE: But what if they never retire? They just go on and on, up seasons and down seasons, while everyone retires around them? A fixed inevitable point. Death, once again.

TEN:

ELEVEN: Adaptive. The NBA was clogging their arteries with post play and isolations, so they beat them with man defense. Then, when everyone started eating spread offense vegetables, they learned to give those 150 Pound fellas heart attacks too. It doesn’t matter what you do, they will figure something out and destroy you. It’s coming. It’s always coming.

TWELVE: They are constantly denied and primally feared. “It’s gotta end sometime” you say. “That roster is old. It’s a young man’s game, basketball.” “And anyway, I am gonna keep on living. Everything I want to do, I will do eventually. I’m not worried about it.” Meanwhile, as you lie in bed at night, you catalog your fears. Duncan turning your rookie big man into a catatonic. Parker killing you with another midrange jumper off a pick. Car crash. Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Manu Ginobili murders you on behalf of the Argentine government. It can come in so many ways.

BISCUTBALL PREVIEW #28: NEW ORLEANS PELICANS

(When I told him I couldn’t think of anything to write about the Pelicans, Prominent sportswriter Miles Wray suggested I write Omer Asik fan fiction. This is the fruit of that labor.)

Omer Asik stood on top of the levy that held the ocean’s mighty power an arm’s reach from his new home. He looked into the ocean, with power that could destroy.

“I have become that ocean,” he said, as he fiddled with the cloth wrapped around his hands. “I have become the wave of destruction.”

After a disappointing season in Houston, Omer got on his motorcycle and just drove into the Texas desert. He just wanted to forget. Forget Dwight, forget the bench, forget Mchale and Morey and the Trail Blazers and everything. He just wanted to be a body in the desert, a cactus, a nothing.

Somewhere in Terrell county, Omer’s bike ran out of gas. He pulled over to the side of the road and looked around. Emptiness spread out in either direction. His map indicated that the next gas station wasn’t for another 50 miles. He had a tent and three days worth of water and food, so he wasn’t terribly worried, but he wasn’t crazy about having to haul his bike 50 miles.

After ten miles or so, a truck pull off to the side of the road.

“You lost?”

“Just out of gas.”

“Lift?”

Omer wasn’t terribly scared of anyone, so he took the ride. He never went on these trips without packing, one at the hip and one at the boot, just in case. They rode for 20 miles in silence. The stranger spoke first.

“So, what do you do for a living?”

“I play basketball.” Hardly, he thought. I sit on a bench. “For the Houston Rockets.”

Not for long, hopefully.

“Oh, well, I see - you are a tall fella, that certainly do make a lot of sense.”

Silence for another five minutes.

“You are, uh, Omer Asik, right? Big Turkey?”

“Yes.” He was not fond of that nickname.

“You know, I have a friend, he’s a basketball coach. I think he could teach you something.”

Omer heard stuff like this all the time. It drove him crazy. “What, is he a free throw specialist or something? No thanks, I’m fine. I have enough coaches, I think.”

The man chuckled.

“No, he’s not a free throw specialist. He invented a whole new way of thinking about basketball.” He looked Omer right in the eyes, with a low key fury. “It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen in my life.”

When they finally stopped at the gas station, the stranger scribbled an address down on a piece of paper.

“About 50 miles southeast there. You’re going to have to go off road for ten or so miles. But, Omer; it’s going to change the way you play basketball, forever.”

As Omer stared at the ocean and thought about how he had brought himself to this place, he tried to parse out why he took that old man’s directions. Was he sold by his intensity? Was his opinion of his own game so low, so bottomed out, that deep inside he was looking for any solution? Was he just getting bored, riding his motorcycle on that endless Texas highway?

Coach Badland’s house was a shithole. One bedroom, the roof collapsing, run down ranch fences, a half hearted vegetable garden that was full of dog shit. One hoop that couldn’t have been taller than nine feet, set up above a hard patch of dirt. Badland was sitting in a deckchair outside.

“Who are you.”

“Omer Asik. Someone told me you were a basketball coach.”

Badland got up and looked at Omer.

“Yep. I is. Got a method for success. Five points. Can you do it?”

Omer, in the throes of the biggest crisis of confidence in his professional career, decided that he wanted to prove something to himself. “Absolutely.”

“Do you want to?”

“Why not.”

It wasn’t extraordinary, at first. Omer would wake up. (He slept in a tent; Badland’s house smelled like dead coyotes.) He’d spend two hours running around the property, do standard basketball drills for five hours, Mikan Drills and shooting circles and dribbling stuff. Then he would run for another hour, eat dinner, and go to sleep.

Badland was clearly once a professional coach. He was an encyclopedia of jargon and had an acute knowledge of drills and skills. Omer didn’t see anything extraordinary in it, per se, but it was one of the best training situations he had ever been in. The modern professional athlete trains in an aseptic environment to avoid injury, but it also drains them of any experience with nature, a true pushing of the self. When Omer ran in the desert, he felt himself breaking through his limits every day. He was getting stronger. More resilient.

One week in, Badland handed Omer a plastic blue ball about the size and weight of a grapefruit. “Hold this in your shooting hand while you run.”

For three days, Omer did this without noticing any particular difference.

One the fourth day, when he went to his shooting drills, he felt different. Like he had more control. He drilled 20 straight free throws at one point, as if it was nothing.

By day seven he had started to feel a new presence in his hands, as if they had grown a new sense he had never had before.The basketball felt like trillions of vibrations in his hands, which also became vibrations. He was one with the ball, in total control.

On the ninth day, he tried something. He stood 30 feet from the basket and took the basketball in his hands, close his eyes, and thought, ‘In the basket.’ The ball launched out of his hand in a perfect arc with a faint blue trail, like a small comet.

Omer couldn’t believe his eyes. He stood another ten feet away from the basket and did it again. Then another ten. Then another ten. Then another ten. Then a mile.

Then he started to dribble. Between the legs. Behind the back. He threw a bounce pass that went over Badland’s shack, hit the ground on the other side, and drifted back over the building right into position for Omer to leap up and dunk it in. He was amazed.

“Coach Badland! What is this?! What are these powers? What is that blue ball?!”

“That ball, is the spirit of the original ball that Dr. James Nasmith used to create basketball. It is the purest essence of the game. Right in your hand.”

Omer looked at his hand. It was glowing blue, the spirit of the first basketball pumping through his molecules.

“Hey, Badland. Does this ever stop?”

Badland looked at Omer’s hand. “It should, certainl-”

All of a sudden, the blue energy coming out of Omer’s hand burst into a blue flame. It got bigger. Then bigger. THen bigger.

“What’s happening?! BADLAND!”

The flame turned purple.

“My god, it’s combining with your energy! Omer, you need to-”

Before Badland could finish his sentence, a massive purple blast emerged from Omer’s hand and annihilated Badland’s shack.

“What do I do?!”

“I don’t know, this has never happened before! It’s trying to free itself! Just… point it away from something!”

Omer panicked. He thought about pointing his arm in the air, but an airplane was flying by and would see the energy bolt. So he pressed his hand against the ground. At first, nothing happened. The portal seemed to be closed. Then, all of a sudden, a rumble. And a flash. The sandy ground where there were standing headed up and turned into purple glass, as if a nuclear bomb had gone off. Omer pulls his hand away from the ground, his spirit exhausted by this release. He passed out.

When he woke up, there was a wrap on his hand. Badland explained that it was a normal piece of cloth with a symbol written on it that was designed to contain excess spirit energy. He would need to wear it for the rest of his life. A player with his talent and experience level had never handled the ball before. It combined with his personal energy and, clearly, became unstable.

“I need to wear this, even when I play basketball?”

“Especially when you play basketball. Omer, if you ball out too hard without that wrap on your hand, horrible things could happen.”

“But the spirit is still in my body? I can still use it.”

“Omer, I won’t be responsible for whatever happens if you use your bare hand to play basketball in an arena of people. Now leave. There is nothing else I can teach you.”

Omer took the wrap off his hand and pointed it at the ocean. Nothing. How unsafe could this really be? He was fine. It was fine. He would play without the wrap. He could play without the wrap. He was sure. He would learn to control it.

Monday, October 27, 2014

BISCUTBALL PREVIEW #27: MILWAUKEE BUCKS

I live in Vancouver, Washington, which is a suburb of Portland. Every year Nike and USA Basketball put on a camp and public game in Portland for high school aged preparatory and international players. It’s called the Nike Hoop Summit. You have probably heard of it. Me and my mom try to go to the public every year, because it is extraordinarily fun. Cheap tickets for awesome seats, good game, a chance to wildly project NBA futures onto 18 year olds. (I still believe in you, Dennis Schroeder! I saw you control the flow of the game against America in 2013!) It is everything you could want from a sports outing.


In 2013, there was a palpable buzz around the event. Jabari Parker, a recent Duke committee and Sports Illustrated cover-boy, would be squaring off against Andrew Wiggins (an American preps player, but on the international team by function of his Canadian heritage), a hyped-as-hyped-can-be prospect who went for 20 and 7 in the previous year.


I walked into the Rose Garden’s lower bowl that day with a black pall in my heart. Jabari Parker, I had decided, was the enemy. First, he was a Dukie and I regarded that as unabideable. Second, I had seen Wiggins rip the game apart in person last year and regarded myself as an early adopter.


I also generally align my rooting interests with the International squad at the Summit, and Parker is an American who was playing for America. If I don’t have a rooting interest in a game I prefer if the home team loses, because I think it’s more interesting to be in a crowd of mildly upset people than a crowd of happy people. Also the first year I went the kids behind me were yelling semi-racist things about Wang Zhelin and when he blocked Nerlens Noel at the rim I stood up and pumped my fist and yelled, “YEAH GET EM’ WANG.”


The game started and there was an old man behind me watching the game with younger relations. He seemed nice enough, pointing out this and that. (He shared my enthusiasm for Schroeder’s control of the game.) Around the halfway point of the game, he installed a rooting interest in one of these kids: Jabari Parker’s performance and well being.


At halftime, we went into the concourse and watched Andre Miller beat the Warirors with a layup on the TV at Schonely’s Place.


For the entire second half of the game, this kid, this sweet, silly kid, who probably wasn’t a basketball fan in particular and just wanted something to latch on to, sat in his seat and yelled, with his high pitched, prepubecent voice, over and over, in thousands of variations:


“Let’s go Jabari!”


“Let’s gooo Jaaaabaaarrriiii!”


“Let’s go Jabarrrriiiiiii!”


“C’mon JabarriiiiiI!”


“Jabaaarriiiiiiii.”


It was HORRIBLE. And it went on and on and on and on into eternity after eternity.


After the game, a US Basketball loss, when everyone was leaving, a small group of mean teens mockingly yelled, “Let’s go Jabari,” at this poor kid. I felt bad for him immediately, but I couldn’t help myself.  “You know, you probably didn’t need to yell THE ENTIRE TIME.” I forget what he said in reply. I think he looked kind of confused. I walked out of that game relishing America’s outright pantsing by the world team and set against Jabari Parker for the rest of my life.


At some point in the future I was telling my therapist about this and I started to lean into Parker a little bit.  “You know what he said in his post game interview, Gabrielle? ‘I have had a great time, but I have to go back and get caught up on my homework.’ I mean, c’mon!”


I was trying to allude to a sort of conspiracy of Parker branding himself, as an 18-Year old, as a “responsible” player who “does his homework.” The type of person I stand against and resent as a former terrible high school student who went to Evergreen and fucked around with books and plays for four years.


“Oh, that’s unfair,” she said. “I like this kid!”


Gabby was right. I was being unfair! I don’t know Jabari Parker! He’s probably a perfectly nice person. I hope he has a good NBA career. But every I watch him catch the ball in the post on a wing mismatch, the echoes will ring in my head….


“JAB-ARI!!!! LET’S GOOOO JABA-RI!”

And I will be compelled in that moment to pull for his failure. Sorry, man. Blame that weird kid and his grandpa

BISCUTBALL PREVIEW #26: HOUSTON ROCKETS

(This preview is written by Rockets guard JAMES HARDEN.)

Someone on the internet said I should stop flopping. I was just trying to drive into contact, like my hero, Bob Pettit, and do my best to get points for my team. But I guess people think the way I play isn’t fair. I really do value fairness more than almost everything. Playing the right way is the only way for the NBA to have a product that is aesthetically appealing and marketable, and I know that now.  But it’s also the moral thing to do. The right thing to do. If you want to be thought of kindly by the public, you have to stop flopping. It’s really important that people have a good opinion about you.

Oh man, guys. I just saw a video about my defense on YouTube. I feel so ashamed. I should have been trying harder. I wish there was something I could do to make it up to everyone. This year, because of those videos, I am going to double down on my defensive efforts ALL YEAR. I will need to do less on offense, of course, but that is a sacrifice I will need to make. I wouldn’t want people to keep saying bad things about my defense.

I care so much about what people say about me on their keyboards across America. It is why I wear absurd clothes all the time and have a crazy looking beard that smells like onion soup. I am not equipped to handle someone saying something bad about me, not even close.

If someone I was playing basketball with accused me of flopping, I would stop playing basketball, right there. I couldn’t handle people thinking I was dishonest.

I wish I could be more like Dwight Howard, that guy is never concerned with what people say. It’s why he always smiles, because he is so self assured that he is never unhappy because he is so deeply unconcerned with what anyone thinks about him.

When people say bad things about me, there is no where place I can even attempt to find comfort or fun. I just sit in my house, in white room I call “The Room,” white walls and carpets and everything, and I cross my legs and I let their words fester inside me and rot and poison my whole being. Then I drink a whole bottle of ipecac, and I purge it from my body, taste the acid of my own guts as a repentance for whatever I did to make them angry at me. It’s the only way I can leave the next day and be a professional athlete for a living, so I can make money to give to people to make them like me more.

I really do care so much about what everyone thinks and it’s so apparent all the time.


A photo of the author, consumed with the opinions of others. Also thinking about some fucked up sex thing he did last night that you can’t even imagine, and also the obscene piles of money in his house.

BISCUTBALL PREVIEW #23: MIAMI HEAT

(This post was giving Blogger fits, so I put it up on my Tumblr. It's great, so you should read it. Make sure to zoom out a little to get all the images in.)