Magic Basketball Weekly: Sloths and the Nuggets | Magic Basketball

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Jan 06

Magic Basketball Weekly: Sloths and the Nuggets

Sloths are my favorite animal. They have been for years. Science has shown them to be both the cutest and most bro-some of all God’s creatures. Let me hit you with some sloth facts: They grow moss on them, because they chill so hard. Sometimes, if their babies fall out of a tree or something, they just completely let it slide, because getting out of your tree would harsh everybody’s vibe.

Once, when I was at a party, this completely awesome bro came up and asked a group of my friends — he was totally earnest, and even seemed a little bit worried — if he was chilling too hard. Sloths are the James Joyce of chilling too hard. They have stretched the art form of chilling to its natural limit, and have achieved a sort of referendum on the very idea of chilling at all.

So, naturally, when I saw this adorable sloth documentary popping up on every girl I know’s Facebook wall, I was thrilled, right? Wrong. I am not looking forward to adorably disgusting sloths becoming the new lolcat. I do not want to see a bunch of sorostitutes capering about with their sloth desktop backgrounds, or see a million “Daily Cute” Twitter blasts with pictures of sloths. Keep your pandas, internet cutesy people. Take your otters. But leave me my sloths. I liked them before you. I was the first person to appreciate the cuteness of mossy, negligent animal parents. That’s right, I’m hipster trolling you about sloths. I was into them when, like, nobody knew who they were, and you’re just about to get their sell-out album.

Which is exactly how I feel about the Denver Nuggets. Listen, the Nuggets are adorable. They have a young, small point guard and an old sort of fat one who would make an excellent buddy cop movie. They have a cleaner-shaven, European Val Kilmer playing small forward. Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried even sort of look like sloths (come with me on this, I’m not taking no for an answer). And they play such fun basketball. Oh god, they’re so fun. And, like sloths, the whole world is waking up to how awesome the Nuggets are. I’m not happy about it.

I’m not happy about the Nuggets becoming one of the hot topics for the season. Do I want to hear people for eight months yelling about how, if you adjust for pace, their defense is way better than conventional wisdom suggests? I do not. Do I want to read advanced shooting percentage breakdowns that take into account the Denver altitude? I do not. I want them to keep being the only team my girlfriend likes — because she likes the word “Nugget” and pronounces Nene’s name “ninny.” I want them to continue to play 40 players every game. I do not want their glorious ragtag weirdness to be scrutinized for effectiveness by every corner of punditry; I just want to let them keep being rad.

Like sloths, it is up in the air whether the Nuggets are the most “effective” animal when it comes to keeping your babies in trees or winning playoff games, but also like sloths, the Nuggets are willing to continue being awesome regardless. So the Nuggets are like sloths. I hear what you’re saying, though: “But the Nuggets are fast, and sloths are slow!” And to you I say, shut up. This is important to me.

GAMES OF THE WEEK

On to my favorite games of the week. I’m pretty sure that every week I’m going to pick a few of my favorite games that happened and briefly tell you why. First up:

Bobcats 118, Knicks 110
I am totally one of those people who believes the league is better off when “flagship” franchises are relevant. For this reason, I have enjoyed the Knicks return to newsworthiness. “Relevant,” however, does not mean “good,” and there is nothing I like more than a large market team with blowhard fans signing a new defensive anchor and then getting torched by an overweight French power forward playing at center. I love everything about it — I love that everybody forgot what a bad fit EVERY PLAYER in New York is for Mike D’Antoni, I love that everybody forgot that they have no backcourt whatsoever because they signed an aging-ish free agent center, and I love that every win means they are winning the Atlantic, and every loss means that Manhattan might as well just People’s Temple themselves. Also, I like that the Bobcats, who have been the most aggressively unlikable team in the league since joining, have very quietly hired a super-smart GM and have some fun young weird players.

Blazers 103, Thunder 93
I’m as big a fan of the Oklahoma Lovefest as anybody, but the Blazers are one of my current League Pass darlings. I’ve always admired Gerald Wallace, the dude who balls so hard he once collapsed a lung AND THEN PLAYED WITH IT, but if you haven’t seen LaMarcus Aldridge lately, you have to change that. Not only does he sort of look like Scooby Doo, but he’s playing with a focus that maybe no other post player in the league is. Against OKC, he spent the entire game going straight to the rim, and mostly dunking on suckers. Suckers like Kendrick Perkins.

Magic 103, Wizards 85
See, you thought I was never going to actually touch on the Magic. You know what? I’m still not going to. Orlando was good this game, and they played to their strengths, but my God are the Wizards a train wreck. They’re the Black and Decker of suck: they have a bunch of tools who do the same things they did last season, but they look just different enough that a bunch of people still buy them. There’s no changing the fact that John Wall is going to be awesome, but if I were a Wizards fan, I’d be really worried that the young players on this team are going to go completely bananas before they can develop.

MAILBAG

And now, readers, I will turn to your mail. Every week, I’m going to try and respond to the choicest missives from our loyal audience. There’s pretty much no limit to what I’ll talk about — life problems, basketball questions, liquor, music, books, liquor — if you wanna chatsies about it, I’m game. So email mbnhoops[at]gmail[dot]com with pretty much whatever you want. This week, I’m going to respond to ALL THREE OF THE EMAILS WE GOT. I love you guys, but step it up next week. To the inbox!

Reader Noah:

“I have a cure for the Dwight drama: (1) Get League Pass and (2) Play Fantasy Hoops.

Frustrated about the lockout, dreading Dwight’s ‘decision’ and mired in football mediocrity this November, I made a change. Instead of walking away from the court, doubled down and bought a franchise off a buddy in a 5 year+ fantasy hoops league. Best. Call. Ever. I traded in pondering what happened to Jameer Nelson’s testosterone levels for celebrating Antawn Jamison’s quietly efficient season (he was always Vince’s better half). I have no idea what will happen to the Magic in 2012 and beyond, but I can control if I want to roll the dice with Marreese Speights second chance in Memphis.

In a shortened season, there is no excuse not to play fantasy. Do it.”

Noah, I couldn’t agree more with you about League Pass. I’m new to it this year, and aside from some usability concerns, it’s awesome. My favorite thing is hearing all of the local color commentary guys from around the league, who are just a sure fire bet to say utter nonsense stuff like four times a game. In Oklahoma City this week, they talked to some ostensible wrestler for the entire second quarter, I think.

As far as fantasy goes, I have to disagree with you. I played fantasy basketball once, and I hated it. The same is becoming true of fantasy football. There is just so much information available to everybody that “skill” as a fantasy owner is sort of removed from the occasion; it’s just not that hard to read a dozen of the seventy billion fantasy articles ESPN runs every week, and that means the difference from one owner to another is basically dumb luck. I don’t have anything against contests of luck, but if I’m going to allow myself to become murderously competitive over something, I want to at least feel like rational behavior is rewarded. I just don’t feel that way about fantasy anymore.

Reader Allesandro:

“Your thoughts on a trade for Russel Westbrook and K Perkins involving Dwight and Jameer.”

Allesandro, thank you for writing. I want to say this as lovingly as possible, but I hate that trade. Not only do I hate it, it seems like one of the least likely scenarios to me.

First of all, Dwight would never re-sign in OKC. It’s a small, sleepy place where players have to be into the idea of community in order to like it, and Durant owns that town, and we know Dwight wants to be the dude for whatever team he signs with.

Second, you’re never getting full value back for Howard, but I think you have to get an interior presence — or a pick that could be an interior presence — that answers your post personnel questions for a long time. I like Perk, but he’s a role player type, not the sort of dude a dynamic team can count on as a major piece.

Finally, I am as big a Westbrook fan as there is, but I don’t see him as being the kind of guy you rebuild around. In fact, despite what everybody says, I see him as the perfect second fit for the Thunder. You’ll never need to worry about his willingness to carry the load, and once he learns how to dial it back a little bit, he’s going to be an explosive triple-double threat who can carry a team any time the first option doesn’t work out. Further, I think Westbrook is confident enough that he would be a straight up gunner in a lot of situations, but I really do think that playing with Durant will eventually be a compelling enough reason he settles into his role a little more.

Reader Carlo Simone:

“Right now I think my main concern is the same one that everybody has with the Magic. What is going on with our starting backcourt? Richardson and Jameer both have had flashes of greatness but no consistency whatsoever. I’m thinking the main issue has to do with role changes. Turk has resurged to his old form with the Magic for the most part and that changes Nelson’s role obviously. I think Jameer just needs to move back into the shooting PG role he had years ago and be less of a playmaker that he’s tried to be in recent times. Jameer has always been a good shooter and I just think he needs to get into a rhythm where he’s looking for his shot more than setting up teammates.

As for J-Rich, I really don’t know what we should do with him. Stan has obviously tried to get him involved with post ups and other plays being called for him early in games. While this can work initially (last game against the Wiz) he tends to fade as the game progresses. This is disturbing because J-Rich is generally a pretty good clutch player. He’s also had some trouble finishing at the rim a few times which is also disturbing for a former dunk champ.

I’m more confident that Jameer will pick it up because he’s always been a resilient player but what about J-Rich? Do you guys think there is a way to get him involved which will maximize his current skill set?”

I’ll start by saying that if even if we had more than three letters this week (srsly, guys, write to us) I would have posted Carlo’s email, because he always says nice things about us in the comments. That’s all it takes, y’all. Compliments.

Addressing your actual question, Carlo, this is something I’ve been thinking about a lot. I think the best answer is to move Richardson to the second unit. Redick is the sort of player who plays great defense and excels at exploiting the seams in a primary offense, but can’t always create for himself. That sounds to me like a 28-32 minutes/game starter. Richardson, on the other hand, doesn’t fit all that well, but can get his own buckets in a number of ways if he’s given the leash. That sounds, to me, like the ideal second unit scorer. I think Richardson would feast on a lot of second-unit defenders, and be able to play a little more freely, while the team gets a little more Redick. All good things.

As far as Jameer, I’m not too worried. We know him by now to be a pretty good point guard who does not come close to elite. I think he’ll acclimate to the team using Hedo as a facilitator more and start looking for his own shot. I really like his toughness and intelligence, and while he’s fairly limited, I think he gets his role. Or he will, anyway.

OUTRO

If you’ve made it through all 2,200 words, then God bless you. I’ll be doing this every Friday, and I promise to incorporate even more asinine variety in the future. Holler at mbnhoops[at]gmail[dot]com with any sort of thing at all, and we’ll do this again next week.

Danny Nowell is a contributing writer for Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.

3 comments
CarloSimone
CarloSimone

I have watched the sloth cuteness documentary to which you refer. You can keep them, as I find them kinda creepy. As for the Nuggs, they really are adorable and I wish them well with the scrutiny.

I'm glad I could give you guys some props because you really are talented writers. I'm not actually a nice guy in real life, only in sports blogs. Kinda like the inverse of everyone else on the Internet.

As for your solution to the backcourt, it makes sense to me but I wonder if you have to consider Jason's psyche. A guy like Rashard (who I miss greatly) would probably be ok moving into a backup spot but I don't know about J-Rich. We may end up just tanking him as a usable asset at all.

Greg_Michelle
Greg_Michelle

@CarloSimone I agree about JR's psyche as well, but at some point (if he keeps playing like this) we're going to have to take that risk. But it's becoming increasingly evident that starting him is not going to lead to a championship level team.

I really, really, hope that someone cures Jameer of his "mononucleaic" like play, and soon!

Greg_Michelle
Greg_Michelle

Brilliant article! Very fun. Good job Danny. (mark me down as + 1 in the complimentary column).

Agree with you on the Westbrook trade. Disagree on the Washington game as being fun to watch. I love a Magic blowout as much as the next dude but it's no fun when you can tell the other team isn't trying.