AP Photo/John Raoux
Nothing like a little 24-hour news cycle drama to clear out the old sinuses dear readers and I, like most, took a great deal of joy in the chaos of yesterday.
It seems clearer each week that the NBA has staked out this bizarre entertainment niche where the on-court product is cross-pollinated with long-running soap operas and after some months of initial panic over this fact, I’ve settled into a comfortable rhythm of punch-drunk bemusement. Around the time of “The Decision,” I was a manic moralist, decrying the evils of invasive coverage and the propulsive inanity of the stories. Now? I’m a total glutton for this nonsense and I have very little justification other than the fact that it’s so uselessly captivating.
It has been interesting to see, though, that observers’ reactions to the league’s drama cycle split almost entirely on media, or maybe technological, lines. People decrying the narcissism of the athletes or the ubiquitous cataloging of athletes’ feelings seem to have accumulated around print media — even print media with a developed online presence — while the gleeful peanut gallery seems has congregated around “new media” (we really, really need a better term than that).
I know this seems totally banal at first but I guess my question is: why? It has been noted that Twitter and the NBA have a special kind of symbiosis, and Twitter certainly seems to drive the melodramatic market the NBA now seems to occupy exclusively — I can’t think of one story from this week I didn’t learn first from unconfirmed reports on Twitter — but why is the NBA the Twitter sport and why do the people on Twitter seem to have such a different relationship to league business?
I suspect a reason for the NBA to have become the most “melodramatic” of the major sports — and it is arguable whether this is true, but I certainly believe it to be — is that the athletes, as many have noted, are the most visible as people. This is a theory about NBA appeal I’m very drawn to, the idea that we’re so much more physically exposed to NBA athletes that it’s easier to fit them into human stories.
Another idea I found myself pondering was the connection between Twitter, black American culture, and the NBA. Certainly the NBA is the most visibly black of the major sports, and as one SXSW paper noted, Twitter and black culture seem to have developed a unique bond. As has so often happened in sport (and pop culture generally), I wonder if black cultural change is driving the way we think about the NBA.
Of course, that’s just one reason the Twittercycle might be what it is to the NBA and it’s something I need to think about further but it seems clear to me that the real high points of excitement in the NBA universe now include, and might be entirely, moments that take place off the court.
Let me hear your ideas for why the NBA seems to have staked this territory out so much more than the NFL or MLB and what all you see coming down the pipe as a result.
GAMES OF THE WEEK
Suns 91, Clippers 87
Remember when the Clippers were every single person’s favorite team? Remember Lob City? Remember when nobody knew how grating Blake Griffin was or that Chris Paul has made a career out of playing unimportant games in cruise control? Remember when we didn’t care much that Vinny Del Negro was coaching and we thought that not even he could screw this up? I remember those days. Pour one out.
Side note: I can’t decide if I’d rather see Mike D’Antoni coach the Clippers team with Chris Paul or the Blazers with Batum and Aldridge. The Portland guys are EXACTLY the sort of gazelles that MDA needs to feel like a champion, but sweet bleeding Jesus CHRIS PAUL.
Bucks 105, Nets 99
Good God, to be a Nets fan today. If Kris Humphries goes for 31 and 18, you’d think that the hand of God was willing that team to victory but it sure does look like the Nets are poised to become the new Most Stupid Franchise.
Think about it. The Clippers are good now. But the Nets are about to become the second team in a huge market, they have a ludicrous owner who whiffs on EVERY free agent target he tries for, and they’re super awful. The Clippers were New York to begin with, right? Shouldn’t Los Angeles’ second team now be the Nets and we let the Clippers be the Brooklyn team? Shouldn’t the most hopeless team in the league always have to be called the Clippers?
Knicks 121, Blazers 79
It really can’t be overstated what bad shape your team is in to make the Knicks look like they’re firing on all cylinders right now. In related news, did you guys hear Mike Woodson say he’s going to focus on running the offense through Carmelo and Amar’e? How great. The Knicks have needed a way to gin up some excitement this season and Woodson is so right that everybody needs to see more of the “superstars” and less of the sloppy young point guard shouldering the load … right?
After the game, Carmelo said “Everybody felt comfortable out there tonight. Ya’ll saw it out there, everybody was smiling, having fun.”
Ah, Carmelo, the great barometer of his teammates enjoying themselves. After watching him murder the joy out of every other Knick for the past month, I think we can safely read this comment as “Give me the ball all of the time and I won’t make your life hell.”
Editorial note: We’re looking into renaming this section the “Carlo, Greg, and Brian chat.”
Glad you’re back. I didn’t send in anything last week either, so it’s all good. I had this whole essay ready in my head about how NBA Jam (the original, arcade version) is the greatest video game ever, but then I lost track of it because I went and got married.
Anyway, can you name a video game better than NBA Jam?
Actual basketball bonus question: there were rumors about the Magic dealing for Beasley. Would he have fit with the team? I’m inclined to say no, but he is a “shot creator” and probably would have made life easier on the second unit.
Brian, NBA Jam is awesome, but I have to say that it’s not even close to the greatest video game every played. In its category, I don’t think it trumps Street Fighter. It IS, however, one of the more enjoyable parts of the wave of 90s nostalgia, which is one of the most bogus cultural trends there are. I say we keep fetishizing Starter jackets, the Pixies, flat tops, and nothing else. And that we put a stop to the revive-every-decade-twenty-years-later trend. The 2000s really, really sucked for a while and I don’t want Michael Ian Black talking about terrorist attacks on VH1 anymore than you do. We have eight years to stop this momentum and to stop pretending to like gelly shoes as well as snap bracelets. And Lisa Frank. God, so much of the 90s was so stupid.
I can’t tell you how much fun adding Beasley to this mix of players would have been. If that had happened, I would’ve assumed that Otis Smith was doing what I will call a “Shutter Island” thing, even though I never saw Shutter Island. Does that make sense?
How should I feel about Dwight Howard? At this point I’m so disillusioned with everything that has been this spectacle that I’m numb to it all. I think I feel the worst for Ryan and JJ. For all the talk about what the Magic don’t have or what Otis has done to this team, it’s overshadowed the fact that those two guys are legit ballers. It stinks, and I hope after Dwight is gone they win the hearts of Magic fans in the same fashion that Darrell Armstrong did.
I hear you, but let me say this: you should be joyous without hesitation. We know that Dwight can play through drama, as he’s been scorching the Earth lately so it’s not like he’s going to be shipping the rest of this season in. And don’t feel bad for J.J. or Ryan. They are legit ballers. I think people know that.
Personally, while it may be painful, I think the Magic may be in a position to really use Redick’s contract next year by shipping him to a contender. Who WOULDN’T give something up to get that guy through the playoffs on an expiring deal? And the Magic can use space and picks, because I really think that’s what Dwight is going to want short of a superstar teammate.
Long answer short: be real glad. The Magic gave themselves enough time to maybe save this situation long-term. Which is a total reversal of what I thought would happen.
Reader Carlo Simone:
So Dwight’s gonna stay another year. Fantastic. It seems puzzling to me that he chose to waive his early termination option though. Clearly he hasn’t committed to Orlando for the long term yet. He has to be thinking that is a possibility though or he wouldn’t have given the Magic this opportunity. My question is this. Do the Magic look to make moves immediately, or do they “roll the dice” (roll my eyes) and see if they can win it big with Chris Paul and Dwight signing in 2013?
I was going to write this to Greg but it works here, too: Dwight would not have decided to stay another year if his loyalty to Orlando wasn’t genuine and I think he ultimately made the decision he ultimately felt he wanted.
I think the Magic should be really aggressive about trying to unload their bad contracts and that they should be willing to part with Anderson or Redick if something excellent comes up. If, for instance, they could get a pick, some young wings, and space for those two players and Hedo’s contract, they do it.
If you want to keep Howard long-term, you have to recognize that his prime has several more years and you need to be positioned for more than occasional runs to the Eastern Conference Finals.
We’ll do it again next week, you three (kidding (not kidding)). Seriously, people other than Greg, Carlo, and Brian, holler at us. mbnhoops[at]gmail[dot]com. See y’all next Friday.