Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
Ugh, Shaq. By now, you’ve almost certainly read his latest stupid attempts to needle Dwight Howard, saying it would be a “travesty” if Howard left Orlando. Which is immediately ridiculous, because, you know … Shaq did that.
I’m not the first person commenting on this story, but this latest little whine has taken my Shaq hate to new levels. I’ve never enjoyed Shaq because I can’t stand his constant insecure posturing, his disingenuous media manipulation or his inability to coexist with anybody taking even a modicum of attention from him. But for some reason, I really think the casual fan is still fooled by Shaq’s act — I find it impossible to believe that anybody in 2012 thinks Shaq is actually an enormous jokester who just can’t help shooting straight, but it seems as if a lot of folks still think that. It’s baffling.
I find Shaq’s fascination with Dwight doubly frustrating because it’s just so obvious how threatened Shaq feels by Dwight, which is ridiculous. Look, I love Dwight, and he’s a more balanced player than Shaq ever was, not to mention an even more incredible athlete than young Shaq, but he’s clearly not currently as effective as Shaq was in his prime. Again, I am definitely NOT saying that Dwight isn’t an historically effective player, but good God, you guys remember what Shaq was capable of, right?
For him to spend his retirement trying to distance himself from every talent who also draws media attention is pathetic, and it makes me wonder what the appeal of Shaq’s persona is. Seriously — what about Shaq as an image or personality has grown his fan base? He doesn’t “just win;” he constantly ran his mouth and was frequently out of shape or clearly not trying. His biggest single advantage — being an enormous human — isn’t something you can seem to cultivate by scheduling post-loss shooting sessions in opponent’s gyms.
In fact, it seems like Shaq is at least as insecurely image conscious as LeBron, as periodically lazy as Rasheed Wallace and as preternaturally gifted as any one ever. Isn’t that the recipe for people seriously hating an athlete? Didn’t he play for like 13 teams in the last 3 years of his career? Isn’t he the single worst and least funny television analyst on an otherwise entertaining and insightful show? What is going on here?
I guess I’m willing to fall back on the standard explanation of the viewing public conflating decency as a human with the ability to win basketball games, but it seems like Shaq would’ve done more than enough to undermine that. I’m actually a little puzzled by this. Why don’t more people hate Shaq?
Bonus footage of Magic Shaq stomping on Tokyo, shaping whole worlds in the chaos of his wake.
GAMES OF THE WEEK
Clippers 74, Blazers 71
It’s a real possibility that Chris Paul is the perfect basketball consciousness, and that other teams win only because their victory fits into Chris Paul’s preordination of the league future. He had a total of no points through three quarters against the Blazers and then single-handedly outscored them in the fourth quarter. It was like when Uncle Phil showed up and hustled the living mess out of those pool players that Will had lost a bunch of money to. Chris Paul is like Uncle Phil betting on a second game after looking like a chump and then being like “GEOFFREY, BREAK OUT LUCILLE.” Lucille, for those who don’t remember the episode, was Uncle Phil’s two-piece cue that Geoffrey apparently kept in his cummerbund in case the need ever arose to hustle some suckers.
(Brief aside: The Fresh Prince of Bel Air really was an excellent show. I mean, seriously — if there was a legitimately funny sit-com right now that was lighthearted but serious about race, class and family, nobody would shut up about it. Sure, it’s a little corny and overexposed, but I’m not sure it’s remembered as being as good as it actually was.)
Timberwolves 102, Bobcats 90
At the start of the season, I figured Charlotte might be headed for better days. Rich Cho, as I’m sure you know, is a super smart dude who hails from a patient tradition of management, and they were able to score two young players in last year’s draft. Now, I know they wouldn’t be GOOD, but this is miserable. Kemba and Bismack haven’t really underperformed, but they sure haven’t overperformed, and the Bobcats are the least fun bad team I can remember. I want to think they have a patient plan, were prepared to take their lumps, and will improve, but good grief this is awful. Change their name and move them to Seattle.
Spurs 113, Raptors 106
It’s happening again. Get ready for a million stories about how you can never really count out the Spurs. I’d be really, really sick of it if I didn’t want to see Tim Duncan get one last really good playoff run in. I STILL don’t think it’ll really happen this year, but can you believe the Spurs are this good right now?
“What’s the one rule in the NBA you would change, add, or interpret differently?
For me? Flopping! I. Hate. Flopping. I hate any action that requires the most suspect part of the NBA (it’s officiating) to have to play a larger role in the game’s outcome. Flopping should be a technical and a fine (and the fine should be for conduct detrimental to the league). It stinks and I’ll give you the perfect example that proves it. Women’s soccer. Only sport in the world where the women’s version is better than the guys (aside from beach volleyball). Why? No flopping!”
Drinking game suggestions. Drink whenever:
– Dwight screams “HEY!!” at the ref because he thinks he’s been fouled.
— Richie Adubato get’s a call wrong during the commentary (seriously where is Matty Goukas gone to?).
— Glen Davis over sells … anything -– a gathered rebound, a pick, a fadeaway J — in fact just start drinking whenever Glen Davis is doing anything on the court that isn’t playing defense.”
Ah, Greg. Glad you asked. I answered precisely this for a HoopIdea NBA 411, which you can see here.
For those who can’t or don’t want to watch, my answer is the bonus foul. I hate that teams are so heavily incentivized to stop game action in crunch time. Why should the losing team — the team who has been outplayed over the course of the game — be able to stop the clock and, if they foul the right guy, increase the odds the winning team doesn’t score?
It’s ludicrous! It’s become so entrenched as a strategy that people say things like “Gotta hit your free throws,” which of course is true, but it makes the game so much worse. Plus, we know that players like Dwight Howard or Rajon Rondo — extremely athletic, long-limbed, huge hands — are built well for the comprehensive skill set of basketball but remarkably poorly for free throws. Why penalize them and keep them off the court or passive during the game’s most electric moments?
I say, you commit a foul while trailing with less than two minutes in a quarter, ball to the sideline, offense retains possession. It’s not perfect, but it eliminates the ability to get the ball back by fouling.
The trouble with penalizing flopping is in making a clear distinction, and ye gods, I can’t watch any more replay than it already exists. It’s just too difficult, I think, to consistently legislate the difference between flopping and trying to take a charge.
Now, as for your drinking suggestions, I like them, even if they may be pretty lethal. That’s the sort of thing we need to try and hit — specific, but not minutiae. You can catch those things while you’re, you know, dual-wielding camouflage cans of High Life and only half-paying attention. KEEP ‘EM COMING READERS! MORE DRINKING GAME RULES!
“So the NBA picked 4 guys for the dunk contest. That’s fine. I maybe would have gone with 6, but it’s not a huge deal. What I find odd, however, is that they picked 4 guys who have almost no personality or name recognition to the casual viewing public. Wasn’t that part of the problem back when players like Gerald Green were winning the dunk contest and no one really seemed to care? Here’s hoping the dunks will speak for themselves!
Anyway, who do you think will win?”
I hear what you’re saying, Brian, but I like that they went with four young guys with low profiles (for those of you who don’t know, they went with Derrick Williams, Paul George, Iman Shumpert and Chase Budinger). Those four guys can all really dunk, and have enough to gain reputation-wise by really bringing it.
I’m hoping that by not including guys who are pre-established brands, the contest will be decided on creativity and competitiveness; I don’t think anybody will feel compelled to get out of a phone booth or jump over a Kia, which is a good thing. There is a middle ground, of course — it’d be nice to see a Rudy Gay or Russell Westbrook — but I’ll bet this will be a good contest.
For the record, I’m picking Williams. Do you remember that Duke game in last year’s tournament? That guy can really bang.
Reader Carlo Simone:
“Obviously the big story in the NBA right now is Jeremy Lin. He’s playing some great basketball and this story has been magnified by his obscurity beforehand, the fact that he plays for New York, his race and the awkwardness of Carmelo’s impending return. I’d love to hear your take on Lin and the coverage of his story. Also, as a side note tell me that a buddy cop movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jeremy Lin wouldn’t be amazing? Imag-LIN the puns! They would be LIN-finite!”
Carlo, I swear to God I almost redacted those Lin puns at the end, but I refrained out of respect to your weekly contribution. I’m so pro-Lin, and I think the coverage has mostly been pretty good. I haven’t experienced, personally, anybody saying something really hair-raising about how “he’s totally good for an Asian,” and I think the media has done a mostly balanced job of discussing how Asian-American men get the short stick on good masculine images in the media. This is one of those stories where I really can’t find a bad thing to say.
Contrasted with, say, Tim Tebow, Linsanity wins out on every front. He’s not a self-styled “culture warrior,” he doesn’t have a history of success and hype, and he’s actually good. Tebow has been watched by a large and adoring audience for years, purposely makes himself a political talking point while acting innocent about it and sucks at football.
Did I just take a mostly unprompted opportunity to slam Tebow? Yep. Hate that dude. Although, seriously, he’s the player I’m most seeing Lin compared to.
Perhaps my favorite thing about Lin is that while he may be “stereotypical” in his work ethic and demeanor, his game is not very disciplined or cerebral — as Jay Kang pointed out really eloquently at Grantland, he plays like a New York point guard. It’s been a long time since a story like this has come along, and I suspect it will be a long time again. Long live Jeremy Lin!
That’s a wrap for this week errbody! Send all your important, life-altering queries to mbnhoops[at]gmail[dot]com, and I’ll answer ‘em next week, same time and place.
Danny Nowell is a contributing writer for Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.