Did you know that I am a certified Master Gardener? I almost am, anyway. I have to complete 50 hours of community service (I think I’m at about 27) and finish nearly all of my bookwork, which I didn’t do barely at all when I was actually taking the class back in the fall. I was wicked depressed, what can I say.
I have to get the reading done before the end of March, so I’ve been killing the handbook lately, knocking out two chapters a day whenever I don’t have anything else to do. And I’ve been trying my damndest to connect all of this to the Portland Trail Blazers. The metaphor is for the WRITER, of which I certainly am one, as the SPADE and SHOVEL and the HANDFUL OF ORGANIC FERTILIZER are for the gardener: a TOOL to make THOUGHTS GROW in the readers’ MIND.
PLANT FACT: Trees need good soil and drainage to thrive.
BLAZERS APPLICATION: This year coach Terry Stotts had created a healthy soil for the Blazers players, a soil filled with the nutrients of passing and three point shooting and the drainage of Aldridge and Lillard’s tough shot-making. BUT: are there enough trees in the soil? This recent stretch of centerless play has shown that perhaps some of the non-playing players on the Blazers have something to contribute. Should Stotts give Will Barton a planting, and see how much he grows? Would Dorell Wright and Victor Claver improve the team’s windscreen, and lower the house’s energy bills? Don’t we already know how tall Mo Williams is going to get? Is there another tree Sotts could plant that could maybe provide more shade?
PLANT FACT: Homegrown strawberries DOMINATE store bought ones in the taste department.
BLAZERS APPLICATION: It’s good that the team stuck with Batum and Aldridge through the bad days because it’s even sweeter now that the team is winning with homegrown talent.
PLANT FACT: Beneath “grass” as we think about it, there is a second layer to our lawns known as “thatch.” Thatch is a collection of stems, roots, and leaves that develops at the soil surface, a buffer between the grass and the growing grass and the soil. A thin layer of thatch is important for impact absorption and insulating soil from cold temperatures, but too much thatch means a thatchy, ugly lawn.
BLAZER APPLICATION: LaMarcus Aldridge is thatch. He is the team’s best player, absorbing the impact of poorly developed possessions and cool temperatures of high level defense possessions. But the team risks ugly brown spots in the offense when they rely on him too heavily. His True Shooting Percentage this year is only .513, a career low and not a terribly high figure in comparison with the rest of the league. All four of the Blazers other starters have higher True Shooting Percentages.
I’m not suggesting that Aldridge is “overrated” or any inflammatory nonsense like that. His place on the usage curve is just a little high. He and the team would be more efficient if the team did just a little dethatching, maybe take out those black spotting long-two-turnarounds or a few of those mossy long twos to get a little more air and water permeating the soil of the team’s offense so we can have the healthiest green grass they possibly can.
IMPORTANT SIDETRACK: Speaking of grass: I am trying to promote a new idea for basketball courts across America and the world. Grassketball. It’s basketball, but you play it on an immaculately maintained grass court, like Wimbledon, but for basketball. You ever watch Wimbledon? Those balls bounce pretty damn high on that grass. I imagine you start with a few exhibitions, then eventually establish a separate Grassketball league in the summer, so basketball can finally compete directly with baseball like we’ve always dreamed. Perhaps everyone is required to wear white, like at Dub-dons? Guys who take a lot of charges would be called “Greenbacks,” because of all the grass stains on the back their shirts. Just keep it in your heart.
PLANT FACT: Over-watering plants drowns the roots and runs nutrients out of the soil.
BLAZERS APPLICATION: Mo Williams is water, and he has to be applied more responsibly because precious nitrogen is running out of the offense when he runs screen and rolls.
PLANT FACT: Pests like aphids and slugs can harm or kill your plants. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) can help.
BLAZER APPLICATION: The other team are insects, and their scoring occasionally ruins the Blazers’ blueberry plants. IPM lays out six principles for controlling animal pests:
1. Establishing an acceptable pest level. The other team is going to score from time to time, they’re professional basketball players. Don’t focus on denying them shots on every turn, or you will contaminate local groundwater with all the pesticides you use and all the fouls you rack up.
2. Preventative Cultural Measures. Pests feast easily in an environment that isn’t well maintained. Remove diseased plants, responsibly prune your trees, hide poor individual defenders on one-dimensional spot up shooters.
3. Monitoring. Observe and record the pest activity in your garden and observe the other team’s strategies and schemes in the film room.
4. Mechanical Controls. Kill bugs yourself (your rose trimmers should show slugs who the boss is), set out bight yellow pheromone traps, set good strategic traps on guards that can’t handle double teams, and play lock down on players on the perimeter. The Blazers’ perimeter players need to cut a few more slugs to improve the team’s 19th ranked defensive rating. However, it’s not always effort: sometimes the sharpness in the snippers simply isn’t there.
5. Biological Controls. This includes ladybugs or other beneficial predators to devour pest insects from the outside or microscopic fungi and nematode sprays to give them diseases on the inside. You have to play aggressive on defense with insects. Get The Ladybug, Earl Watson, in there to goon them a little. Some trash talking nematodes to get in their heads. Defending the paint, and your blueberry crop, is all about attitude.
6. Responsible use of synthetic pesticides. When all else fails, you need a little chemical pesticide or an elite defensive center to do the dirty work in the garden or the court. The Indiana Pacers’ league-best defense is good because they follow the first five principles of integrated pest defense, but they great because when all of that breaks down and great goes to ear their blueberries right out of the rim, they just spray the opponent with half a bottle of DDT Hibbert.
Robin Lopez does great work on box outs and good work on stopping some action at the rim. But he doesn’t have the chemical potency of DDT, the ability to move side-to-side and cover guards on switches, really get up straight for blocks or blow up screen and rolls the way the league’s nastiest pest controllers do. If the Blazers someday really want to get into the bug killing business, are they going to have to dispose of RoLo’s admirable but limited work and find a bug murdering, groundwater contaminating, honey bee killing, go-to-the-doctor-because-my-eyes-hurt-from-getting-revenge-on-every-last-goddamn-bug-in-my-garden pest spray of a center?*
(*Absolutely never use DDT. It kills honey bees and contaminates groundwater. Only use chemical pesticides responsibly and only as part of a broader IPM strategy.)
PLANT FACT: Perennials are plants that go dormant every winter and re-emerge every spring.
BLAZERS APPLICATION: The NBA is a perennial plant, except active in the winter and dormant in the summer. Not a perfect metaphor.
PLANT FACT: Compost, the decomposed and worm/microbe eaten and poo’d out detritus of organic material is the best soil amendment there is.
BLAZERS APPLICATION: When Gerald Wallace, whom I adored, was traded to the Nets for the pick that became Lillard, Wallace became detritus, eaten by the worms of the NBA and turned into rich, fertile Damepost. I am a little uncomfortable with this one because Gerald Wallace is not dead and I don’t want to suggest composting people is a good idea. Do not stick the bodies of your loved ones or elderly wing defenders into compost bins.