MODERN FISHING WITH JARED JEFFRIES

|
451653929_1280

Did you know that Jared Jeffries hosts a fishing show on the Outdoor Network? He does! It’s called “Modern Fishing With Jared Jeffries” and I watched a whole episode!

I am not the target audience for this program at all. I do like Jared Jeffries, who is now a scout for the Denver Nuggets after an 11-year NBA career notable mostly for the eight gazillion charges he took. He spent his last season with the Trail Blazers, doing good work as a good-feelings locker room leader and vet on a pretty crummy team. I went to the MLK Day game against the Suns or whoever last year and he gave a nice speech about Doctor King, then was playfully razzed about it afterwards. They also quoted him with a nice word design on the program cover, which I couldn’t find even though I usually keep them.

But I DON’T like fishing. First, when I was a kid my parents owned a motorboat (we’re classy people), and whenever we would go out on it I would have a nervous breakdown (I am also scared of roller coasters and driving a car). Second, I am a vegetarian who regards fishing and eating fish as a debased and immoral activity. You sit in open water in complete silence and peace, in light commune with nature, then you puncture that commune with an act of animal cruelty and possibly murder (depending on your adherence to “catch and release” policies.). Not for me, man. I prefer gentler hobbies like avian photography and plant potting.

But I am a journalist, so I will be objective. In the episode I watched, Jared was fishing off the coast of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. He was looking for tuna, grouper, and sardines. In the first minute of the episode, he meets a stray dog:

Jared hires a guy to drive his boat, a guy who we don’t learn that much about, except that Jared think he’s a great.

In the first five minutes on the trip, Jared hooks a sailfish, a fish that looks like it has a sail.

(Image from National Geographic)

After catching it, Jared releases the sailfish, because sailfish aren’t for eating. Sailfish are for jerking around on a hook to make it fear its own mortality, then letting it live as a sign that human beings, the kings of earth, are merciful masters.

For some reason, all of the fishing action in the show is overlaid with generic rock tracks. I thought that people went fishing to get away from the noise and commotion of modern life, and the noise and commotion of modern rock musak. Jeffries himself even says so! “It’s real relaxing, no cellphone service. It’s amazing.” Why isn’t the Outdoor Channel trying to capture the relaxing feeling of being on the open water instead of forcing fishing into the noisy buzz of modern mass media production?

Speaking of modernity, you may be wondering why this show is called “Modern Fishing.” At first, I thought it should just be called “Fishing With Jared Jeffries,” because Jared isn’t using laser beams or copies of The Waste Land. On the show, Jared only uses plastic artificial lures, which are more modern than worms or flies. I kind of can’t even imagine how these things work, they just look like giant chunks of plastic that make clicking noises and have hooks jutting off of them. Then again, I’m sure these fish have next to no concept of plastic. Do they cover them in artificial fish hormones? We do that with bug traps in the greenhouse I volunteer at. I’m sure that would work. Maybe I should stop giving these fish butchers my awesome ideas.

On the second day of the trip, Jared gets his day started by doing this:

EATING A LIVE SARDINE! They cast out a net, catch some sardines, and Jared just eats one alive as if he were a carnivorous bird! Jared Jeffries is a hypercarnivore who craves warm, living flesh! It wiggles in his mouth and everything!

Today Jared is joined by his “Good friend and fishing fanatic” Adrian Michas, a charismatic young man who also loves fishing. He was so charismatic that I thought he was actually a special guest star from a different fishing show, but nothing really comes up and they do actually have moments of genuine chemistry, so I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. Jared describes Adrian with athlete-cliche-speak, saying that Adrian “fishes hard all the time.” Seems like an odd way to describe performing a passive-by-its-nature activity like fishing, but I’ll go along with it.

A few minutes into their day, Jared hooks a fish, the name of which eluded me. It looks to be all caught when Jared says “fish tacos.” The fish then freaks out and, with a burst of panicked strength detaches himself the line. “Woo,” says Adrian. “He heard somebody say fish tacos, he said, ‘I’m outta here.’”

In this brief moment, I gained a degree of relative respect for fishermen. I still think killing fish for sport is a perverse activity, but at least there is a recognition of the animal’s agency at play. The breeding and wholesale slaughter of pigs reduces an intelligent animal that is similar to humans to a product to be manufactured and systematically killed. But fishermen regard a fish, a comparatively alien creature, as a rival and an owner of a say in its own fate. That fish didn’t really hear “fish tacos” and do what had to be done, but Adrian had enough respect for the animal to ascribe that human quality to him. Jared and Adrian also release any fish they don’t regard as worth eating, unlike runt pigs which are killed on the spot because they won’t generate profit for the farmer.

After this, Jared’s boat heads inshore to go looking for roosterfish.

(VIA)

See, looks like a rooster! Adrian gets VERY excited.

On the third and final day of the trip, Jared heads out to a fishing camp on Isabel Island. They catch a few fish, Adrian catches a GIGANTIC Cubera Snapper and talks about how he had the ultimate victory over this fish and now is going to eat him. Jared Jeffries goes through the day in this fishing outfit.

He is fishing in a Jordan Brand long sleeve athletic shirt (he exclusively wears Jordan Brand shirts in the show), a stylish thin cloth neck scarf, and a pair of low-cut Nikes with no socks. This odd fishing getup conjures a thought in the viewer: “Boy, it sure is weird that 11-year NBA journeyman and known clothes horse (“I try to be fashion forward”) Jared Jeffries is hosting a fishing show on the Outdoor Network.” I mean, a football or baseball player, absolutely I can see that. I’m pretty sure that every dumpy baseball player is issued his own fishing show immediately on retirement. We’re all waiting for “Fishin’ With Randy,” the Randy Moss river fishing extravaganza [Ed.’s note: Randy Moss is a well-chronicled lover of fishing]. But basketball is the urban sport! Hip hop! High fashion! Sneakers! David Stern of Scarsdale, New York, commissioner of basketball and member of the Council on Foreign Relations! The league is basically a money printing machine for the democratic party! Meanwhile, this show featured a commercial for a gun company that promoted the aims of the NRA, and another commercial featuring a member of the Duck Dynasty cast! Plus, Jared Jeffries isn’t even famous! I’d bet that 80% of this show’s audience has absolutely no idea who Jared Jeffries is.

But who am I to cast aspersions? In the same interview he says that his current style is “hipster right now,” he mentions that his Indiana childhood was “real country.” This show isn’t just about artificial and exotic fishing locales. It’s about the whole person of Jared Jeffries, a country-boy-turned-urban-basketball-professional who dances between both lives without shame or neurosis regarding the a niche identities that capitalism tries to impose on you. We should all be so open to that sort of broad interest, where one can geek out about fishing lures and basketball shoes in equal measure. “If you get a chance to go somewhere like this, go out, fish, have fun,” says a monologizing Jared to the camera at the end of the episode; “it’s an amazing time.” Jared Jeffries is an inspiration. Go out there and try to have an amazing time, everyone.

I give the show a C-.

GRIZZLIES 98 – TRAIL BLAZERS 81: STAY FLY

|
always

Hey, it wasn’t all bad! The Blazers still only have 13 losses! They’re still in third place in the Western Conference! What a journey this is!

LaMarcus Aldridge had 27 points and 16 rebounds! That’s a lot! And he passed Cliff Robinson for third all-time on the Blazers scoring list! Wow! Way to go, LaMarcus! If they had book fairs for people my age I would buy your poster! Why did posters sell so much better than books at book fairs? That doesn’t make any sense! Your post game looks great though! Yippee!

Damian Lillard hit two three-pointers! Hey! Those are pretty far shots! You must be strong, Damian! Wow! Wes Matthews, you had two three-pointers too! You guys rock! High fives! So did anyone else hit one? What’s that? No? Oh—well, uhh—hey! They must be really rare then! Like buried treasure! I once buried a dead hamster! I put it in a shoebox! It’s probably still there! I don’t know!

Nicolas Batum! You had that cool runout dunk! That was fun! You jumped really high! The Eiffel Tower is really high too! It’s French like you too! Magnifique! Other than that I didn’t really notice you, but maybe that was good! You’re invisible! Like Kevin Bacon in Hollow Man! Except he went crazy and killed some people! Bad example! Let’s move on!

Robin Lopez’s hair makes me smile! Hooray!

C. J. McCollum is still young! He was born in 1991! I bet he doesn’t even remember watching the animated Ninja Turtles TV show! Wow! I am older than C. J. and much less accomplished! :(

Mo Williams—umm—well, I think you—wait—uhh—hey, the world continues to spin! The sun has not yet burned out and left us floating alone in the dark, lifeless vacuum of space! Good stuff, my man! Keep it up!

Thomas Robinson had 3 rebounds! Everything else on his box score line was zeros but rebounding is what he does! He’s a specialist! Way to know your role, Thomas! Your muscles look big too! I like your tattoos! I’m afraid of needles!

Meyers Leonard was the only person on the team with a positive plus/minus rating! What an amazing feat! They don’t give out Nobel Prizes yet for that, but here’s an ice cream cone! It’s strawberry! Enjoy! You rock, Meyers!

Dorrell Wright and Will Barton got in the game for a couple minutes! What fun!

Joel Freeland led the team in field goal percentage! He made one shot and missed one shot! That’s 50% you guys! Wow! Tell us what the view looks like from that mountaintop of human achievement! Maybe you should have played more than 6 minutes! Whatever! Keep shooting, Joel! Your shot chart is half full!

GRIZZLIES @ TRAIL BLAZERS PREVIEW: BREAKFAST IN BED

|
funklawler

Tuck the kids in early tonight y’all, because at seven o’clock in the evening, the Memphis Grizzlies (22-20) are bringing their brand of XXX-Rated, grimetime basketball to the Memorial Coliseum in service of taking down your Portland Trail Blazers (infinity minus Suns and a couple other stupid teams).

The Grizzlies are 16th in both offensive and defensive rating, putting up 105.7 points per hundred possessions and surrendering 105.9 points per hundred possessions. “A BEARly over .500 team with a  -.2 Net Rating, this should be a boat ride through Breezyville!” Don’t you dare! These numbers are defective! The Grizzlies went 10-14 when Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies’ best player and the NBA’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year missed 24 games. Since Gasol came back on the 14th of January, they’ve gone 5-1 and have resembled their ideal, defensively oriented selves, including holding the Rockets’ 7th ranked offense to 87 and 81 points on a home and home.

The Blazers are darlings. Basketball fans all over the world are watching and saying things like, “Oh, the shooting!” and “Oh, the passing!” and “The wins, the wins!” and “Well they might not play a whole lot of defense, but it sure makes for good games!” This disgusts me. Get off my wagon! You weren’t with us when Raymond Felton was flying the plane into the ocean!

The Grizzlies do not engender that kind of love in the average fan. They play at the slowest pace in the league (literally, they’re 30th) as a way of reducing possessions and giving their offense less chances to miss. Like King Lawler before them, they emerge from Memphis and barnstorm across the country, forcing their enemies into bad shooting/turnover ridden nights and occasionally choke slamming a dude.

I crave this. Watching the Blazers outscore the other team with their beautiful offense has been great and all, but there’s a special joy in watching teams outright embarrass their opponents by making their finely tuned NBA offenses operate as if it were a high school squad. It’s an ugly, borderline rabid dog with mange problems, but it’s YOUR dog. And the defense is fun to watch; take a moment to watch that big fat spanish guy make those swift rotations, it’s a genuine treat!

I don’t have a good idea about what’s going to happen tonight. The defense I’ve discussed could very well hound the Blazers into a turnover laden night. The Grizzlies’ offense involves a lot of bygone staples like big man post ups and offensive rebounds, the Blazers have been having some trouble lately on that score. After three years they’ve just now added a shooting guard who can shoot threes stably in Courtney Lee.
I love watching the Grizzlies and I’m looking forward to this one. I accidentally openly rooted for them and got a stink-eye when I was in attendance at the game in Portland last year. This time I will probably root for the Blazers and stress out when some stifling play forces them into an untenable, out of character shot.

WARRIORS 103 – TRAIL BLAZERS 88: PICK A BIGGER WEAPON

|
primitive-beasts-and-cavemen

If there was a moment to point to as the exact time when the game began to unravel for the Trail Blazers, it would be at the 7:26 mark of the third quarter, when LaMarcus Aldridge turned from his left post home into the lane and was immediately called for an offensive foul that was probably an undeserved makeup call for a no-call at the other end that the crowd disagreed with. After the whistle, Andrew Bogut gave Aldridge a little push, Aldridge took exception and whipped a quick bounce pass attack at Bogut’s well-stockinged shins, unpleasantries were exchanged, and the referees opted to assess double technical fouls to the Australian and the Aldridge. Whereas the last meeting in Oakland saw Bogut turning on commonwealth brethren Joel Freeland and lighting a fire in the aptly-titled Blazers, the event on Saturday provided the tinder for a Warriors run, turning what had been a 62-59 Golden State lead at the time of the incident to a 76-67 lead at the end of the quarter. Nine points can feel like ninety though when Mo Williams is throwing drop passes to his imaginary friends and LaMarcus Aldridge is unconscious in the bad way and Thomas Robinson’s post moves look like inhospitable jungles into which Bear Grylls would be dropped against his will for a new Discovery Channel show called “Bear Grylls Is Really Gonna Die This Time And We’re Not Fucking Joking” and meanwhile I’m looking over at Meyers Leonard’s glistening mug on the bench like, “Oh hey, kid. It’s been a little while now. How are things?”

But it doesn’t happen like that, really. Moments don’t hold that kind of importance. It’s all a continuum. Outcomes are created by what led up to them. Life is a process, and so is death – the 48-minute decomposition of a basketball team. The Blazers lost because they fell behind by too many points in the fourth quarter (as many as 19 with about 6 minutes left). They fell behind by too many points in the fourth because their third quarter performance looked like Wile E. Coyote trying to assemble a bench from IKEA (scored 12 points as a team on 3 for 19 shooting). Their third quarter performance was awful because the bench fell apart (assembled by Mr. Coyote, as mentioned earlier) and the usual stars never found their form. The bench was naturally shaky and the stars never found their form because the Blazers were playing the second game of a back-to-back on the road in a hostile arena against a dynamic Warriors team, featuring Andre Iguodala who missed the first meeting of these teams. Then, sometime before all of that, the first lungfish crawled out of the primordial sea and stood on two feet and became Robin Lopez.

Joel Freeland was hitting his jumpers though! Keep shooting, Joel! Big ups to you! Lots of hugs!

TRAIL BLAZERS @ WARRIORS PREVIEW: SCARLET BEGONIAS

|
depositphotos_12662318-Watercooler-Talk

(Corbin is wearing a collared shirt and a sweater and a tie he is posting up near the water cooler during break time and speaking to several co-workers. He is shifting uncomfortably, because he doesn’t like talking to his co-workers, but his therapist says he needs to try harder on causal relationships and small talk. She suggested trying to talk about basketball, one of his passions and, frankly, fixations.)

So, you guys like the Trail Blazers (33-11)? Yeah, totally, yeah, I’m a pretty big basketball fan. I have League Pass and everything. Oh, well with League Pass, you can watch all the games on TV or on your laptop or your phone. Yeah, it’s a lot of basketball. You know who they’re playing tonight? The Golden State Warriors (26-18). A road game, yeah. The last time they played? Lemme think… the Blazers won, I think 113-101 on November 13th?

Yeah, no, Dan Nelson doesn’t coach the team anymore (Corbin doesn’t correct them, he’s been told that when he corrects people he comes across as discourteous.) It’s, uhh, Mark Jackson? Yeah he played for the Knicks? He was an announcer for a while he said “Hand down, man down?” … It means that if you don’t put your hand up when you challenge a shooter, he will make the shot? Yeah it’s not really obvious what the meaning is.

Oh my god, Steph Curry, you guys heard of him? He just shoots these crazy threes off the dribble like it ain’t no thing! Yeah really nuts, he makes a ton of them. He might be the best shooter ever. No, yeah, even better than Reggie Miller, or Larry Bird or John Stockton, uh, actually Stockton… you know nevermind, he’s a better shooter than John Stockton, trust me. It’s hard to really guard him, he’s so good, sometimes he just hits insane threes and there’s really nothing you can do!

Excuse me? We should just let him take threes? Well, you shouldn’t really do that for any player, threes are really valuable shots. Well, I know that two-point jump shots are closer, but the extra point obviously makes a three more valuable. Well, maybe there was a time when that was the case, but NBA players are much better shooters now. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have rolled my eyes when I said “Obviously,” I’m sorry. (Corbin breaks eye contact and begins looking at the floor)

Huh? Uhh, no, David Lee isn’t that good at defense, he’s good at REBOUNDING, which is (animated hand gesture) A LOT different than defense. If you ask me, our best chance tonight (Corbin wouldn’t normally say “our” in reference to the Blazers, he is trying in vain to ingratiate himself) is to really run the offense through LaMarcus and try to get him to plow through Lee the whole game if they don’t switch bogut onto him, since he’s such a massive weak spot. Because, and y’all probably didn’t know this  the Warriors are fifth in overall defensive rating in the NBA at 102.4 points per 100 possessions. Their offense is only 12th in the league at 106.6 points per 100 possessions, which, the way people talk about the team like it’s this offensive juggernaut or something, most people probably didn’t know that they’re really leaning on their defense this year. Oh, those’re pace adjusted stats, they were invented by Dean Oliver, the pioneering basketball statistician and writer of “Basketball on Paper,” I have a copy at my desk, I can loan it to you guys if you want. You see, the Warriors have excellent defensive personnel like Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala, who cover up for not so good defensive players like Stephen Curry and Lee… DAMMIT Jeff, I’m sorry Jeff, I shouldn’t say dammit at work, but it just really gets my goat when someone says rebounding is the same as defense.

I’m a little worried about this game because the Blazers are going to be on a road back-to-back in a pretty hostile road arena. So what if they’re professional athletes? They still get tired if they play a 48 minute basketball game, then hop on an airplane, sleep in a weird bed in a completely different city, then wake up and practice and do everything else they have to do that day THEN play a basketball game! I’ll bet you couldn’t do it! Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply I thought you were out of shape Donnie, I know how hard you’re working.

What, NBA Players aren’t overpaid, that’s ABSURD. They have a skillsets that are worth a lot of money and they are entitled to a significant piece… no, I don’t like college basketball, that’s barely basketball, all they do is foul each other! Pros should spend two years in college? God, that’s so stup… You know what, I just can’t do this today, I’m sorry Gabrielle (Corbin’s therapist). I will try to talk to you guys about something else tomorrow, something begin like Church or whatever. (Corbin takes a piece of birthday cake and heads back to his desk to read the new Baseball Prospectus for the rest of his break.)

TRAIL BLAZERS 115 – TIMBERWOLVES 104: SORRY MA, FORGOT TO TAKE OUT THE TRASH

|
KanKaKee park bench 1

The trailer promised two impossibly majestic extraterrestrial monsters slamming into each other and hurling meteors from the sky with impeccable accuracy and the result of their battle would be a striking commentary on the validity of democratic ideals in determining honors for professional basketball players and the winner would be crowned with diamonds, a lot of diamonds, and the loser would begin a downward spiral of rampant drug use or passive-aggressive tweets or maybe both.

But nothing was destroyed. LaMarcus Aldridge remains standing as a serene monument of the post-play ideal and friend of forest critters tall and small, as does Kevin Love, the murky villain from the Land-O-Lakes by way of Lake O. They each played admirably enough – 15 and 12 for Love, 21 and 6 for Aldridge – but in the truest of arguments in favor of populism, this game was decided by the tired and poor and huddled masses yearning to breathe free, who spend most of their basketball careers sitting on padded folding chairs, wearing all manner of warm-up gear, and making snide comments about other players’ failed dunk attempts.

Mo Williams contains many Mo Williams, probably too many for your liking, unless you make ends meet by running a little side hustle designing and producing colorful infographics to show all of the different Mo Williams and how their wildly opposing natures somehow coexist within the singular Mo Williams exoskeleton held together only by two shooting sleeves and a headband and an irrational sense of self-worth. But hey, Mo gonna Mo. Sometimes he’s gonna be out there throwing around-the-back passes to lucky fans in the fifth row and going on ill-fated expeditions in transition that lead to malaria and 1-on-4 contested pull-up jumpers with 20 seconds on the shot clock. But other times, he’s gonna be out there like he was on Saturday night, joining the starters for some runs in which he seems to be convinced (and somehow convinces the viewer) that the starters are lucky to be in the presence of Mo Williams and not vice versa, then switching right into Leonard Bernstein mode as conductor of the bench unit and turning its energetic chaos into positive, libertarian socialist basketball that leaves the opposition in ruin and asking themselves things like when they should give Shabazz Muhammad a shot. Roll Tide.

The Wolves bench is a frighteningly dark abyss filled with mythical creatures in varying states of decay. It makes a person think and feel things that he or she wouldn’t normally think or feel. What follows are some such thoughts, juxtaposed with reality. Chase Budinger, man! He looks bouncy! The Spurs should pick him up! Budinger scored 6 points on 2-7 shooting. Ronny Turiaf is BACK! He could be the solid NBA center that Spokane and the island of Martinique always believed in! Turiaf had 2 points and 0 rebounds in 12 minutes. I always liked that Dante Cunningham! He hustles! Hustle is good! Cunningham had 0 points on 0-4 shooting. NO NOT JJ BAREA ANYTHING BUT JJ BAREA NOOOO! Barea had 0 points on 0-4 shooting in 11 minutes. What hardships have become you, Alexey Shved? I cry for you and only you, Alexey [sobbing]. Shved had 5 points in 6 minutes!

The only reason the Wolves lingered for as long as they did was the play of their starters. He of the mutant jump shot, Kevin Martin, scored 30 points on 11-22 shooting. Nikola Pekovic, the first steam engine in Serbia, added 23 points and 11 rebounds. Also, Corey Brewer and Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love, as mentioned earlier, all brought various homemade side dishes to the potluck. But while the Blazers starters did not play poorly by any stretch of the imagination, they merely held their own. It was the bench unit, carried by Mo Williams and powered by the energy of Thomas Robinson, that made the runs that constructed the house of victory.

Before we wrap this up though, the second quarter of saw Ricky Rubio throw a three-quarter court chest pass lob to Corey Brewer for a dunk. Think on that.

TIMBERWOLVES @ TRAIL BLAZERS PREVIEW: SEVEN’S TRAVELS

|
Bookshelf

Tonight in the Rose Quarter, the Minnesota Timberwolves (21-21, Offense: 109.1 Points Per Hundred Possessions, 8th in NBA. Defense: 104.1 Points Per Hundred Possessions, 9th In NBA) are playing God’s own Portland Trail Blazers (32-11), with storylines here, storylines there, storylines everywhere. Personally? I’m not interested. Statement game this, statement game that. Give me, as a reader, objective truths and hardcore analysis. But the people demand what the people demand. Here are seven short stories about tonight’s game.

ONE: Sergeant Aldridge and Sergeant Love stand at attention to their commander, The American People. “Sergeant Aldridge,” said The People nearly in unison. “Your platoon has been brave and strong in victory. But you are a great soldier, not an elite soldier. You should be more like Sergeant Love here, who, even though his platoon has lost more battles than yours, is better at individual soldering than you’ve been. More personal kills and more trenches dug.”

One extraordinarily handsome American, CORBIN SMITH, spoke from the morass. “Anyway, the fact that Sergeant Love’s squad has had trouble claiming victory in close battles is a matter of luck. Those sort of battles are generally won or lost merely by luck. They’ve killed far more enemy soldiers than they’ve lost! And the poor late-battle execution is hardly Sergeant Love’s fault!”

The American People pin a star-shaped medal on Sergeant Love’s lapel. He thanks them. “Anyway, this isn’t the only medal they give. I’m sure you’ll get one in a week or so, LaMarcus,” says Corbin. Sergeant Aldridge appears to take all of this in stride, but one wonders if he is resentful.

TWO: A Bear and a Wizard meet in the forest. The Wizard has been tasked with protecting a series of beehives hanging from a branch 10 feet above the ground. The Wizard does what he can to stop the bear, he is taller and keep him from the beehives here and there. But the bear is strong and ornery, and he gets his share of honey. The Wizard eventually realizes that the bear is not terribly fleet of foot, so he recruits a fellow wizard, a Frenchman, to trick the slow bear and distract him while he takes some of the beehives back. He doesn’t get all of them, but he manages to keep the village from losing too much of their honey.

THREE: “Ricky, there are a lot of intense psychological issues that your problems could have their roots in. A deficit of self confidence, perhaps, but that’s certainly not a common thing in a professional athlete like yourself.” Carl Jung took a puff from his pipe. “Tell me about your dreams, Ricky. Uh huh. Yes. Interesting. You say that you see five switches. Four of the switches are easy to pull, even when you can hardly see them. You pull and people cheer. But then five pixies begin slapping your hands when you reach for the switches. There’s one switch left, but it is rusted and awkward. You try to pull, but it just stays stuck. You try to pull from distance, you try to pull with strength, but nothing seems to work. Dr. Jung thinks. “Ricky, I do not have easy solutions for you. You may have to completely revamp the way you approach life, but you’ve been alive so long that it could be very difficult.”

FOUR: Bad Wes, the baddest kid in the seventh grade, leans against the Bi-Lo foods on 99th Street, drinking a Coke and smoking a cigarette. The police approach him.

“Do you recognize that young man, Bad Wes?” They gestured at Kindly Kevin, a shy young man who seemed to do everything a little different than everyone else.

“Yeah, I seen him.” Said Bad Wes, taking a drag off his cigarette.

“Well, he says you beat him up after school today!” Now, Bad Wes was a bad kid, but he had done no such thing. “I didn’t do that shit, officer, and if you want me to say anything else to say I want a public defender!”

“No lawyers or judges in this world want to listen to someone like Bad Wes, so we’re taking you straight to jail!” Kindly Kevin laughed under his breath, amused at his cruel trick. He was, in reality, Konniving Kevin.

FIVE: Imagine ten quinces sitting on a bench in Downtown Portland. One quince is excellent, three other quinces are pretty good, one quince is not good, but it would do for now. The other five or so quinces are terrible. Now imagine those quinces again, but in Minnesota instead of Portland and it’s happening one year later.

SIX: Corey Brewer started his football career with the Minnesota Lupins, and he ran and ran and ran, until he arrived to play for the Dallas Gibsons, where he sat for a second and was given a ring for his good job sitting. Then he ran to the Denver Rocks, where he ran like an antelope and seemed free and wild. But his heart called him back to Minnesota, where he catches the football from the quarterback of Love and scores touchdowns for the Lupins. When he plays against the Portland Lewis and Clarks tomorrow, Batum will need to play shutdown corner to keep him out of the endzone.

SEVEN: Damian Lillard was sitting on his back porch when a swan landed in front of him. “Oh, hello there,” said Lillard.

“Damian! I am a representative of the swan community! We have decided that you are our favorite player!”

“Wow, that’s splendid! Why, if I may ask?”

“Everything you do on the court is a subtle expression of the ideals of swanhood. You fly on occasion but not in excess and certainly not when swimming would suffice. You were a late bloomer as an NBA prospect just like how we are ugly children at hatching. You hold yourself with confidence and dignity at all times, the ever present condition of the swan.”

Before Damian could respond, the swan flew into his flower bed and ate a slug from under his hydrangeas.

TRAIL BLAZERS 110 – NUGGETS 105: GIANT STEPS

|
MCQ-cloudcity

The Trail Blazers offense is malt liquor, really. All the pushing of tempo, quick three-pointers, pick-and-pops, early posts – it’s just the cheapest, quickest way to get drunk. It’s accessible, the stuff of many a team with little ambition and nothing else to do but get loose and let fly. Sitting there on the end of the shelf at the corner store, next to the cheap beer and weird Bud Light concoctions and fellow malt liquors, nothing at first glance would seem to distinguish the Blazers offense from any of those other poorly crafted routes towards skid row. But see, there’s just something about it. It’s cooler in an ironically unironic way. It may not have the best quality ingredients or the most complex flavors or have been aged as long as some might like, but does have that quiet, self-aware confidence, a vibe that begins and ends with the pitchman.

On Thursday night, in Portland, at the Moda Center, with Billy Dee Williams (!!! [!!!!throw some more exclamation points in there!!!!!!]) in attendance, against the mighty Nuggets of Denver, LaMarcus Aldridge did well to sell his own brand of malt liquor, titled Colt 44 for the career-high 44 points that he paired nicely with a side dish of 13 rebounds. It was an easy, non-confrontational 44 points. It wore a muted sweater as it sat in a non-descript living room that could have been his home or a hotel lobby or a rented condominium anywhere, it doesn’t matter really where because his game knows no location. Yet despite his obvious confidence, it felt tight and demanding early on, subject to the same rules as any other. But don’t forget about him, and again, don’t forget about him.

Only when it progressed did the game loosen and bring a bit more into view. A flash of life, albeit largely inanimate life, appears to watch from over his shoulder. A picture hangs in the background, blurred and partially obscured from view, but later may reveal a masterpiece. A tough, compact, assertive hand on the wing swoops in to handle the load for a short time. You never know when friends might show up.

As it reaches its conclusion, he’s no longer seated, but still doesn’t look harried. In the background, the picture comes fully into view. It’s a sort of mysterious Eastern landscape, like the rural Chinese countryside or the islands off of Thailand, an image of tranquility. By now, the jazzy, possibly European piano music that had gone unnoticed due to its mastery of blending in to the scene, all of a sudden feels critically important to the setting. A teammate is there too, a visible and remarkably attractive option, but understands the moment and remains seated, happily conceding the stage to the star. The evident greatness on display may not be necessary, but why take chances?

The power of LaMarcus Aldridge works everytime.

NUGGETS @ TRAIL BLAZERS PREVIEW: FAREWELL ANDROMEDA

|
anonymous_sunglasses_invisible_man_desktop_1680x1050_hd-wallpaper-917117

In the Rose City tonight, the hometown Portland Trail Blazers (31-11) are facing the visiting Denver Nuggets (20-20). The Nuggets have had a pretty wild year. They won 57 games last year, then lost to the Warriors in Steph Curry’s superstar Bar Mitzvah. So then they also fired their coach (Of the Year) and let their hot-shit GM walk to Canada to play mind games with the Knicks there. They seem pretty directionless on an organizational and personnel level, and play as such night to night, turning in an unlikely win here and a weird loss to a bad team there. They’re currently 11th in Offensive Rating, registering 107.4 points per 100 possessions, and 18th in defensive rating at 106.8 points per 100 possessions. These teams last met on November 1st in Denver and the Blazers won 113-98 behind 20+ points from LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, and Wes Matthews.

This NBA off-season, there were two free agents about whom one would say, “Well, someone has to pay them, unfortunately.” They were Nate Robinson and J.J. Hickson. Nate, of course, is a muscular young man who is shorter than the average professional basketball player and attended the University of Washington and yells a lot. I find him absolutely exhausting and I once had to embarrass myself and pay WAY too much money to use U-Dub’s swimming pool facilities so I don’t care for his work [Ed.'s note: Corbin does not speak for the feelings of PRS leadership regarding Nate Robinson]. He had a “pretty good” year for the Bulls in Derrick Rose’s absence last year and I guess he earned his contract or whatever.

J.J. Hickson you know. He averaged the emptiest possible 12.7 points and 10.4 rebounds per game for the Blazers last year in a season that drove Blazers intelligentsia up the wall. Hence, his poor defense at the center position you likely already know about. If not, Dane Carbaugh at A Young Sabonis discusses his defense here or here. He is bad at defense, particularly at center, the highest leverage defensive position and the spot where the Blazers generally played him. With Lopez in Hickson’s place, the Blazers are a point per-100-possessions better on defense, and have leaped from 26th to 22nd in overall defensive rankings (Not great, but better!).

He is also bad at rebounding, or as bad as you can possibly be while getting ten rebounds per game. Last year he stole so many rebounds from teammates that he negatively impacted the team’s overall rebounding rate on the court. With Hickson’s 20.7 total rebounding percentage (A measurement of the percentage of total rebounds a player retrieves), the Blazers were 23rd in in overall defensive rebounding percentage at 25.3% and 19th in defensive rebounding percentage at 73.3%. This year, with Robin Lopez’s 14.4% total rebounding percentage, the Blazers have improved to 2nd (!) in team offensive rebounding percentage at 29.3%, and 16th in team defensive rebounding percentage at 74.6%.

The majority of these extra rebounds aren’t going to Robin, they’re going to LaMarcus Aldridge, who is posting a career high in both total rebounds (11.6, more than two more than his previous high!) and rebounding percentage (17%). In interviews, Aldridge has explicitly given credit for his rebounding spike to Lopez, who sets big wide box-outs and clears space for his teammates to pick up extra boards. It’s a subtle, off-ball action that makes the team and Lopez’s teammates better.

But casual fans don’t notice it. Most people who watch basketball, or any sport, focus on on-ball action; dribbling, posting up, grabbing a rebound, assists, setting up in a shotgun, running through the line of scrimmage (you have no idea what the defensive line is actually doing). It’s not immoral, or even “dumb.” It’s what our brains naturally do! You focus on what’s happening at the center of the play and attribute success solely to the person who touches the ball. The hardest things to understand for players and coaches and viewers alike, is what happens away from the ball: defense and team rebounding and screening and running around screens and every other big thing that makes a basketball team work.

So when Blazers fans on message boards and blogs and Twitter and dads at barbecues across the Portland-Metro area caped up for Hickson against the eye-rolling basketnerdz, I got it. In addition to their natural and understandable on-ball biases, they were also subjected to a Pravda-style propaganda programme from Blazers Television. “He’s a double-double machine!” “Oh man, another double-double, he is double doubling the doubles out of doubles!” “He’s like a chicken, but he lays two eggs that also lay two eggs!” It was disgusting and misleading to impressionable young rebounding children out there learning to play ball on courts from Salem to Kalama.

Thankfully Olshey is not an average fan or someone who likely watches the CSNNW broadcasts, and didn’t resign him at the inflated rate he would demand by his raw production. Hickson even shaded Lopez’s rebounding in the press. He plays for the Nuggets now, who are markedly worse this year than they were the last. The Blazers should beat them, Aldridge should take advantage of Hickson guarding him, and other players should take advantage of him guarding the paint.

Hey, completely unrelated to the broader piece, but important for a Blazer-centric Nuggets preview: Andre Miller is STILL out! There was a big ol’ fracas about him getting a DNP and having his really long games-played streak broken what seems like months ago, and he still hasn’t returned to the Nuggets! Look, I’m not saying the Blazers should trade for Andre Miller, but A: I like watching him more than other backup point guards we have; and B: he did sign his current Nuggets contract while wearing Blazer shorts, which maybe makes him the truest Blazer who ever lived, certainly more than these other dudes we have. They shouldn’t trade for him. I swear I’m not saying that. It would be a bad idea. If they trade, they should get a defense-first wing, I’ve said it in this space before. But Claver is just sitting there…

PRS RADIO: THE RIP CITIZENS – REMEMBERING MEMORABILIA

|

This week the Citizens break down the 2-1 Texas Three-Step & a heartbreaker in OKC before looking ahead to a week against 2nd tier Western Conference teams. Topics include the 3rd unit meltdown in Dallas (and Stott’s questionable coaching), getting superstarred by Durant, and the thorn in our side known as Patrick Beverly.

Discussions this week include the upcoming trade deadline and what acquisitions the Blazers can/might make, what Nic Batum’s All-Star chances actually are, and – with the return of the collectible caricature glasses & old Starter jackets – what other NBA memorabilia we’d like to see resurrected.

All that, plus a neck-and-neck prediction race, what ‘chopped and screwed’ music is, Mike Rice’s city-hating campaign, and Chilly Willy’s all-cartoon starting five to take on the Toon Squad.

If you don’t want to bother with this SoundCloud gadget, you may find the iTunes subscription option a helpful one.