Washington Wizards v/s Orlando Magic February 4, 2011

First thing: 90% of this game was terrible. It featured a thousand foul shots, a brief period of hacking, a nightmarish Lillard performance, a Bad-Lamarcus game for the ages (As opposed to a “Bad LaMarcus game”) and a bunch of Austin Rivers. It was not an enjoyable mesh. Whenever theres a game between two Western Conference teams, the people on Twitter wiggle around and say “Oh man this should be a series.” This should not be a series. It was be a bad series. I would not want to watch that series. Well, I would, but I would not be happy about it.


Second: Yo, the Blazers 100% should have lost. I often say this, because these close game drive me absolutely crazy. But, THIS TIME, I really, mean it! If it weren’t for a cosmic skip in DeAndre Jordan’s brain the Blazers would have lost! There were two legs and two hands away from losing, but DeAndre’s brain went  to “what is bone marrow made of?” when it should have been thinking “Dunk right now, with your whole body, both halves of it.”


Aldridge wasn’t very good tonight. With Griffin out, he got matched up with Jordan. This was good for the Blazers in the abstract, because the goal should have been to draw Deandre away from the Basket, open the rim, move the ball, get to the rim. But in the first half, Aldridge execute the second part of the equation. He took shots with a hand in his face. He was better in the second half, doing some driving and posting and stuff, but he really mucked up ball movement tonight. More weakside passes! Get that pumpkin flying!


Also, Big Baby guarded the shit out of him when he got the chance. Davis, wither by design or chance, employed the Chuck Hayes defense: be so heavy LMA can’t move you, and make your hands active that so he loses ground if he tries. If linemen ever start playing basketball as a matter of course, Lamarcus’s career will be over.


The Blazers’ bench let a Hedo/Big Baby pick and roll work. They should have lost the game, right there, and disbanded the Blazers. “Everyone plays for the Hops now. You will play baseball as a punishment for letting Hedo and Glen Davis do that to you.”


Reddick was really good tonight. The Blazers kept losing him around pindown screens. DeAndre, in particular, was setting some REALLY nice ones. Afflalo and Wes were both getting window-bugged. Mark Jackson, on the ESPN broadcast, was blaming Lopez for the number of uncontested two pointers he got in the game. This is not strictly true. It’s more a matter of scheme. Lopez’s role in the defense is to drop back into the paint. The Blazers concede or softly contest long twos as a matter of course. Tonight, Reddick and Paul, who was magnificent, took advantage. If the game was normal, it would have worked.


Lillard was very bad. He got blocked by Spencer Hawes, and it was not the worst play he tried in the game. That was the flurry of desperate heaves at the end of regulation, when Deandre was getting hacked. If he was 35, it would have been the sad final gasps of a Hall of Fame Career, the burning bus on the side of a road. “Don’t look, Children. That was once a majestic bus, a beloved bus.” But he’s only 24, so it was just him forcing it. God bless him for hitting the boards instead. I didn’t think Lillard had 18 boards in him.


The Blazers started overtime with a small lineup. The Clippers responded by putting matching up with Austin Rivers. The Blazers wept and rejoiced, because Austin Rivers is very bad. In the third, the Clippers set him a massive two man screen and all Rivers could do is dribble to the foul line and pass out. He is not a very good NBA player, and his dad is he coach and GM and he went to Duke. There is so much to dislike about him that he has become an obscene work of art.


Lillard was half an inch away from dunking on Austin. I would have died from drowning in tears of joy.


Batum was good again tonight! Hooray! THREE lobs in overtime, saved Lillard from a field-goaless game, hit a game tying three pointer, playin’ nice and Batummy. He is the Blazers’ most unconventional and interesting player when he is healthy and engaged.


Blazers hacked Jordan i the fourth. I generally do not think hacking works. (50% foul shooter = 1 point per possession = a successful offensive possession. Also your opponent gets to set ther defense, and that’s no good.) But, Deandre is not normal bad at shooting foul shots; he is very, very bad at shooting foul shots, so he is a special case.  It didn’t close the gap in the moment, because they didn’t score on Lillard’s weird terrible heaves. But it did keep them from scoring for two or so minutes, so it worked defensively.


Hedo made one of the worst gambles I have seen in my life on that Batum three pointer.


What should you do when you commit a backcourt violation? Could you jump in the air and flick it back over the halfcourt line? Basketball announcers talking about football is the nadir of sports dialogue. I am not one of these anti-Chris Paul fanatics, but I got a giggle out of him going into the film room at halftime and asking to see a travel he got called for/didn’t think he committed. Jumping around and screaming at Deandre for, in fairness, a mistake that cost them the game, was also very silly. If I were Mark Jackson, I would have not mentioned that Chris Paul and Deandre Jordan knew all my sets in the playoffs. The mechanical camera above the hoop is really cute. Blazers got some really bad spacing on some horns sets late in the game. Small lineup in overtime. Curious to see when that does or doesn’t happen.

I give this game a C+.



Sunday afternoon at three o’clock is a terrible time to have a basketball game. It is a time reserved for:



-Late Brunching

-Cuddlin’ with your lover

-Movie watching

-Attending an outdoor performance of a play by Williams Shakespeare

-Day hiking, if you’re an “Active”

-Doing something for your child

-Watching baseball



All of these activities are relaxing/connecting. Basketball at its best is anxiety inducing. It takes you into a hall of your own perception. It makes you into a horrible golem. You shouldn’t have watched this game, if you did. I only did because the aggressive gnome ESPN sends to people’s houses to beat them up if they don’t do their work still hasn’t been told that we are not TrueHoop affiliated any more. When I was on vacation, they attacked my family in my absence. Do not believe ESPN when they tell you they got rid of the gnomes. They are tormenting human beings, and they are too scared talk on the record about it.


Everyone who went to this game should have been at church.


This was a stand issue win. The Blazers went wire-to-wire, but they didn’t dominate. DeMarcus Cousins didn’t play. I wish he had because he is one of the league’s most charismatic and entertaining players. Also because, as the season goes on, my death wish is getting bigger and bigger and I would have enjoyed watching him grind the Blazers into hummus.


The Blazers lost major ground on their lead twice, when they were fielding an all-bench unit. I don’t like the all-bench unit, because the Blazers’ bench players are not good enough to constitute using one. Throwing the ball into Affly on the post isn’t create space for a shot. Why is Kamandroid doing all this posting up? And why cant he catch a perfectly adequate post entry pass? Who, besides Affly and maybe Geenius if he’s in, (Geenius should play more) playing defense here, exactly? Oscar Meyers: why is he so enigmatic?


Aldro three watch: he took two and made none. Ben McLemore had a new haircut. I hope he is feeling good about his decision. Robintron UNLEASHED a FEROCIOUS post up spin move on Mclemore in the first quarter. I think we have learned that the


The Bow and Arrow is dead. It did not catch on on the bench, so it could not feed. Wesselmeyer is just doing it real quick like. He is struggling to remember. He thought it was his celebration child, but he put it out on the porch and it’s freezing and he is feeling a guilt but it’s not really a child, it’s a celebration, and he should let it go.


Lillardoor pops his wrist at the end of the game. It wasnt even that close.


Derrick Williams slipped past the Blazers in transition four times. I counted. I didn’t count anything else that happened in this game. He did most of his running on the bench only unit, which is comprised of four slow dudes and Affly, who is not fast.


Hey, buddy, you want a Pizza? Stick the pizza in the oven and shove it in yr family’s face. They need to eat and you need to feed the, you are the patriarch. Buy it with money Reject the charity of others. Charity makes you weak and soft, like bread. If you get too much help from a neighbor you will be eaten, by a beast or an enemy.


The Blazers scored 20 points in 6 minutes at the end of the 2nd quarter. It was hard to notice, because that particular point of the game was an insane slog that no one liked. This whole game was a slog. Slawg slog slug. What if basketball were played in eighths instead of quarters? Sixteenths? Two minnutes intervals? One minnute intervals? 48 minnute long intervals, 48 opprotunities for buzzah beaters.


Meyers and LMA went for the same rebound, then they were like “Hey, alright!” because they’re such good friends. Everyone is good friends. We are all good friends.


Darren Collision was also not playing in this game, because he was having hip surgery. I was buying a new bed today and they said you can get hip damage from sleeping on your side. Lopez dribbled five times in transition. He did not go full Horford and just take it to the rim, because he is a coward, a yellow belly, a shame-based man.


This game barely happened. I swear I saw Lopez dribble on the baseline, and they didn’t call it out of bounds. I think even the refs were kinda like “Hey let’s get out of here, so we can enjoy the Sacramento sun.”


I will bet that NBA refs have a lot of opinons about what the best duty-free stores are.


Casspi got flat tired by Wes on the fast break, and they called a clear path foul. I don’t think I have ever seen that before, but it is technically right, I think. Flat tires are no joke, man. I saw one get get his achillies torn when someone flat tired him in middle school. They both work at the Target in Hazel Dell now.


My favorite play of the game was Wes’s Block on McCallum. First, it was totally unnecessary, the Blazers had already won. Second, it was earthy, and woody and floral, like a quince. I would make a mean pie out of about ten of those blocks.




Back after a long All-Star break, we break down the crazy trade deadline and how the Blazers are preparing themselves for the playoffs (i.e. Arron Afflalo is a bonafide closer). We also discuss how a longer break changes the season, look ahead to a difficult schedule, and say goodbye to Will Barton, T-Rob, and Claver.

Then, we decide who we’d want to announce our All-Star event, add a former Blazer to the coaching staff, and hearken back to our 10 yr old greatness.

All that, plus gifts we’d give to the new Blazers, octopus cake, and a Conan O’Brian/Will Ferrell broadcast team.



The first thing you could say about this game: a lot of things happened! So many incidents, events. A lot of things happened! It was like a Song of Ice and Fire book, all condensed into two and a half hours.

You’d would think, or I would think, I thought, the Thunder would probably come out a little flat, because, you know, two overtimes and an airplane ride last night.  What did not occur to me when making this estimation was that Russell Westbrook is a human battery. He took the team, broken and beaten, and he reached out with his hand, and he fused with their bodies, as you would in a Cronenberg film, and gave them heaping servings of his life force and drove them like a horrible tank.


Westbrook was an absolute terror in the first half. He was also a terror in the second half, but he was an ABSOLUTE terror in the first half. The Blazers were deploying a really really terrible scheme against him in the first, not packing the paint enough and letting Lillard get beat off the dribble and the pick. Westbrook was living large at Rim Mansion, the mansion at the rim of the hoop, where the basketball goes in.


In contrast, the Blazers could NOT make shots at the rim. For instance: there was a fast break in the second quarter. Lillard shot the ball high to get it over Ibaka and missed. Then, Lopez grabbed the rebound, and missed a second time. Then Aldridge grabbed that rebound, went up, and was emphatically blocked by Ibaka. The ball sailed to the other end of the court and became a fast break attempt for the Thunder.


Oh, the Thunder, who, once again, should have been tired, ran all over the Blazers in the first half. By all rights, the Blazers 100% should have lost this game.


In the third quarter, the Blazers game out in a more aggressive, paint cloggy/Westbrook stoppy defense. It worked, for a while, and the team brought the score to within six.


But then, the saloon door swung open and Mitch McGary, a bottle of whisky in one hand, a cigar in his mouth, an old timey poro in the other hand, walked on in and started railing on the Blazers.


Why did McGary have a career game? I don’t know. No one knows. It was written in the stars. That is the only explaination for that real life, honest to God Dream Shake in the first half. He drove, he took passes from Westbrook and laid it in, he made some really beautiful passes of his own. You see a dude like McGary and you expect some grinder sandwich, but in reality he is this soft-hands Boris Diaw type. I gasped and fell off my bed (I watched this game in a bed.) when he tossed up one of those hook shots; his wrist action was perfect, like something out of a Degas painting.


At one point, Westbrook and McGary had themselves a big ol’ chest bump and a shared “YEAH! YEAH!” Are these men kindred spirits?


The Blazers came back within six again in the third, and lost that lead as well. A change needed to be made, for the sake of victory.


Sometime after Lopez ate an Ibaka pump-fake whole and allowed him to drive right at the rim and dunk, Stotts took him out of the game for good. He wasn’t getting it done at the rim tonight and if the Thunder were playing small, Afflalo would make more sense as a matchup.


The game ended with Lillard/Matthews/Afflalo/Batum/Aldridge. I would be interested to see how often this, or something like this, happens in subsequent games. Afflalo is the best Blazers bench player since, well, Nic Batum. He might be the best wing on the team, from a whole-career perspective. It might not be a optimal to nestle him on the bench in end of game situations.


In the fourth quarter, Westbrook’s legs finally gave out. He stopped attacking the rim, where he had been mutilating the Blazers all night, and started missing long two pointers instead. See, look, it actually happened, it’s documented:


The Blazers took the lead in the fourth behind shots by Afflalo and Aldridge, both of whom were very good tonight. The game seemed over after Westbrook overshot an attempt at the rim, Thunder, down one, less than a possession remaining. Afflalo made two foul shots, Thunder down three, no time outs. Westbrook has the ball. He is streaking towards the basket. The Blazers decide to foul. Wes lunges at Russell, who predicts the contact, and, more impressive than anything he did with points, rebounds, or whatever, was the first player to ever get a shooting foul called behind the three point line when the other team is trying to intentionally foul.


If the universe had a defined order. the player to get this call would have been Chris Paul, who tries to milk this cow CONSTANTLY and NEVER gets the call. I could see him in front of his television, cursing god and the heavens, tears shed, another man got the gift I have been seeking my whole life.


Then, Paul would have missed the first shot, like Westbrook did. Fate, PUNISHING Chris Paul for his greed! Instead, fate punished Westbrook for no reason in particular. He makes the next two (probably should have tried to miss the last one.), intentional foul shots, Westbrook gets a giant fucking dent in his face, Thunder can’t get it in, Blazers win.




-Meyers’s three point shot looks like Luke Babbit’s.


-Dion Waiters is riding that slow train to China, man. He takes some irredeemably bad shots out there. Also he plays a lot of minutes. The Thunder are hilarious.




This is the first Blazer game I have watched in three weeks. I have been pursuing a rest cure in Pensacola, Florida and my doctors insisted that I tear myself away from the Blazers to avoid in the moment stress. When I left, they said to me, “Corbin. You need to ease your way back in. Maybe watch half a game. Maybe a third of a game. Can you tell the Blazers to do something to make you more comfortable?”


Apparently the Blazers didn’t get my letters because I am sitting here in front of my computer, coughing and shaking and crying, three weeks of work towards improving my health, destroyed by the team’s heinous performance against the Utah Jazz. The only thing keeping me from coughing my throat raw is a modest cup of Throat Coat I have prepared. I am going to need to go back after I am finished writing this recap. My flight is already booked. I will never watch the Blazers again.


The Jazz won this game with a “College Upset” strategy. They played slow and deliberate to reduce possessions and decreased the chance that a more talented team would cash in on those possessions, they made a lot of three pointers, dug for turnovers, and their insanely gifted center absolutely swallowed their opponent alive in the second half. That fourth thing might not be a routine feature of college upsets, I don’t watch a lot of college basketball.


Gobert, in his first game as Utah’s sole Young Center Of The Future, was a game warping beast. He netted a pair of fouls in the first quarter: one on Lopez, who caught the ball on a pick and roll and did excellent work pump faking and being patient with his attempt, the second on Aldridge, who caught the ball in the corner, drew Gobert out of the paint and drew a foul on a mid range attempt. But when he came back in the third, he was a smotherer: five blocks in total and keeping the Blazers paranoid in the paint. In the third, Lopez caught the ball deep, point blank attempt, but Gobert’s mere standing presence forced him to take an awkward scoop layup attempt that hardly drew rim. Lamarcus tried to shoot a hook shot over him. It got stuffed really, really hard.


Lamarcus was, like really bad in this game. His jumper, which never ever gets blocked, got tagged by both Gobert and Booker in this game. Utah was running a clever double against him on the block. Guarding him with Booker, Gobert moves over, LMA can’t shoot over that, but he can’t pass out to the weakside, either, since Rudy’s arms are gigantic. So he passes to the covered shooter, Rudy rotates back to his man real quick, there’s not enough time to repost LMA, average shot gets created. Also, this happened.


Also bad, Damian Lillard. Shot okay, 19 points on 15 shots. But his five-turnover-to-two-assists were killer. Most were the most elementary sort: pick and roll, Lillard gets his drive shut off, he tries to pass to the big man, the Jazz are ready, they get an arm in, they get out on the break. He did have a dunk in garbage time. Rudy Gobert understand when it is time to contest.


The wings were also not good. No one was good. Lopez was okay in the first half, because Gobert are the part of his brain that denies fear. The Blazers shot 4-22 from three. That is really unlucky. But there were also bad in ways that were not unlucky. Their bad play made it a loss, their bad luck made it a blowout, so to speak.


Wes got CROSSED by Joe Ingles. It was so bad the announcers were like “Oh man Wes slipped” like I can’t see what the hell is happening in front of me. CCNNW’s Propaganda machine, on the churn. Batum had a good steal and got drowned by Hayward on the fast break. This is just not his season, man.


Exum started, because the Jazz think he is the future. He probably is the future. Certainly, the outline he draws resembles the future more than the painting Trey Burke has finished resembles the future. He has long arms and he can dribble and pass and he is very young. If he can just figure out shooting and penetrating, he can probably get a stew going out there. His attempts at drives are so strange; he probes so much that the defense is never convinced that he is going to drive, and then he doesn’t drive, and he confirms their suspicion, and then later in the game, when the defense is now COMPLETELY convinced that he will not drive he continues to not drive.


Trey Burke killed the Blazers as much as you possibly can when you don’t make a single three pointer and have more shots than points. He made a lot of shots in middle range, where Blazer defenders traditionally slag off, because, you know, they’re not very valuable.


CJ was pretty bad. Arron will be eating his minnutes soon. I cannot wait to have a good backup wing, I am crying in ecstasy. How long has it been? Meyers was also not very good, even his practice three that the Jazz didn’t auto-goaltend rimmed out. But he did have a nice defensive rotation in the second quarter. Meyers, Kaman, Blake and CJ are all hovering around a -20 rating tonight. They were getting outclassed by Jazz luminaries like Rodney Hood and Baby Milsap.


When the Blazers were starting to completely lose the game in the fourth, Kaman took a face up jumper from 12 or so feet. It was a very bad shot.


Steve Blake had a new number in deference to Jerome Kersey, who was my mother’s favorite player and is missed in Portland. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

Everyone in Utah has better haircuts than everyone in Portland. Gordon Hayward has a very worked out haircut. I suspect that he would not normally invest in a cool haircut, but he is engaged to a young woman who is in beauty school, and she likely has taken it on herself to use him as a modeling head. Steve Blake also had hair tonight, which was thin, like a baby’s hair. Paul Allen wears tiny little hats that look very silly on his head, and even sillier because he is a rich person who slouches.



Hey! New Blazers! I know nothing about Arron Afflalo or Wendell Gee (sorry, brain fart, old REM song in my head, it’s Alonzo Gee.) Joe Freeman of “The Oregonian” says Afflalo is “noted for his tenacious wing defense and long-range shooting,” good basketball or fighter pilot things, while being “regarded around the NBA as a good teammate and a tenacious worker, which should mesh perfectly with the Blazers’ tight-knit culture.”

Tight-knit usually refers to families, and as we know no family is all that tight-knit. Some families basically tolerate each other’s strangeness, some have knitting holes the size of assless chaps. You can see this in your family, or mine, or the plethora of family-dynamic dramatic substitutes we enjoy in entertainment (like workplace shows, or movies where griping superheroes reluctantly unite to save the universe from misplaced magic baubles.)

I have a weakness for advice columns. They’re all pretty much about dysfunctional mayhem. Inheritance fights, wedding ceremony fights, new-spouse/ex-spouse fights, childrearing philosophy fights, the works. What makes them delightful is how the writers almost always frame “I hate this person and want them shipped to Mars” sentiments in aggrieved moralistic tones.

A week ago today, Carolyn Hax printed one of my favorites. A woman planning to become a parent was considering a “sperm picking party,” where “close friends and family would come over, drink a bunch of wine, and narrow us down to the winner.” She told her mother, who “immediately said she didn’t want to be invited,” then “backpedaled and said she wanted to be there,” waffling which the writer found “disconcerting and hurtful.”

This must be the kind of letter advice columnists make burnt offerings for. Using artificial insemination is fine, if you have the resources. Having friends/family assist you in the decision is fine. Throwing a “sperm picking party” with booze is a bit kooky. Inviting your mom to participate, hey, I wouldn’t, but maybe it’s a very freewheeling relationship. Getting bent out of shape because your mom REALLY DOESN’T WANT TO GET PICKLED AND TALK SPERM yet says she will if you want her to — priceless. I want to be related to these people!

I suppose sports trades are much the same way; everyone has their own opinions on how to go about it, and gets easily annoyed if others disagree. When, really, trading for a player is like picking sperm; past faces are no guarantee of future results. Exquisitely lovely Liv Tyler was sired by Steven Tyler, the rock singer who can be said to possess a rather, um, distinctive set of features. (I demand DNA evidence on this parenthood; I’m a birth truther.)

Besides, how cute do you want your kid to be? Beautiful women are often objectified and overly handsome men are often those doing the objectification. Nicer-looking than average is ideal. (Think Neil Patrick Harris. Who wouldn’t want him for a kid?) So too in a sports trade; the perfect can be enemy of the good, as Kevin Love might currently attest.

Arron Afflalo seems to fit the bill; not too tall, not too flashy, good with kids (really; he does good charity things with kids), hardworking without being a workaholic, keeps his violent addiction to PCP-hopped Belgian Tripels under modest control. Did Neil Olshey pick the right DNA? We’ll see in nine weeks or so. I kinda feel for sports GMs. Fans tend to think of them as saviours or satans, vacillating between the extremes fairly quickly. Imagine if you cast the deciding vote at a Sperm Picking Party. Every time the kid gets its homework done on time, you’re a rock star. Every time the kid does something aggravating, it’s Your Fault The HellSpawn exists.

Well. Assuming airplanes still work, Afflalo should be in Salt Lake tonight for proud Blazer fans to coo over. (Wendell/Alonzo risks being left in a basket outside the arena, poor waif.) The Jazz apparently decided Enes Kanter was a HellSpawn, and traded him to Oklahoma City for Kendrick Perkins. This means nothing except that Oklahoma City was dumping Perkins because they got Brook Lopez. Yep, Robin’s brother.

You can see the rivalry already, can’t you? It will probably be over-hyped and boring, but here’s how I picture it panning out. Every time the Blazers and Thunder play, there will be one moment, after the ref’s whistle blows, when nothing can separate the two brothers and nothing can bring them together. Each will cradle the other’s head in his hands, like Fredo and Michael in “Godfather II,” whispering, “I loved you — you broke my heart. You broke my heart!” And they will circle around in a slow dance of pure anguish too mesmerizingly tragic for outsiders to dare interrupt, until the TV timeout. Never go against the family.



This episode marks two years since we started the show, and what a better way to shamelessly celebrate ourselves than celebrate All-Stars? We start with a quick recap of the Blazers mid-season finale games, then check in with Corbin Smith (on location in NYC!) to report on the atmosphere in the city.

Then we review each event and its participants, make some predictions, and throw around a few All-Star memories.

All that, plus Chilly Willy returns to give us his All-Star picks and select musicians he’d put in each event this weekend.



Greetings, basketball fans! I’m fully aware that untold millions await these previews with baited breath, beating “reload” buttons/touchscreens into utter submission. Since this will be the last Blazer game before an ever-expanding All-Star break, let’s get to it then.

The highest-paid Laker player, one you’ll remember from his roles in such films as “[Alleged] Rapist Creep” and “Giant Bag Of Asshole,” Kobe Bryant, will be out for this game. He has an injury. He plans to return eventually, as Nosferatu always does.

There are other Lakers. Carlos Boozer, an incredibly hard-working veteran whose name amuses English-speaking drunks. Jeremy Lin, a man you have to credit for seemingly surviving both his years of anonymous striving and his months of oppressive fame. (For a terrible team, the Lakers are only giving playing time to a few kids, Jordan Clarkson and Robert Sacre.)

A favorite figure among Laker observers is Nick Young. Young likes to refer to himself as “Swaggy P”; you can read about that if you wish here, along with chuckly-admiring bits about Young’s cars, mansion, Imelda Marcos-level addiction to shoes. “Doing outrageous things in the spotlight,” the writer writes. Livin’ the lifestyle! Amusing stuff.

Amusing indeed. Except, not so much. I’ve known young people who suddenly came into money (tragic family deaths), and the instant cash plus the abrupt social dislocation was ruinous; spending on dumb crap soon lent to spending it all. So I farted around the InterWeb (a lazy researcher’s bestest friend), and found, what you may already know, that athletes are frequently penniless a few years after they retire from professional sports.

An oft-referenced, somewhat disputed article by Pablo S. Torre (for the same magazine that now trumpets Young’s “outrageous things”) claimed that 78% of NFL athletes are broke two years after football; 60% of NBA players five years out. (Presumably NHL and MLB players benefit from a few years in the minors, making them a little older when the first big checks arrive, although they are not immune to the pitfalls.) Those statistics may not be spot-on but even at half the rate they’re amazing.

ESPN has a good documentary on this by Billy Corben, “Broke”; it’s streaming on the usual services. (A continuing mystery of American life is how ESPN continues to provide excellent, thoughtful material such as the “30 For 30” series while its highlight/”debate” shows progressively devolve into cesspools of shouting dreck.) The number of big-named superstars who lost it all is mind-blowing. Conspicuous consumption is some of it; a bigger role is played by hangers-on and crooked money managers. Essentially you come away thinking that nobody should ever make that much that fast without a lot of sensible voices in their ears.

A similar scenario often besets lottery winners, except that they come from a wide age/gender/personality spectrum. Athletes are invariably young, testosterone-bubbling hyper-competitive males. So when they’re showered with money, it’s pretty much “The Wolf Of Wall Street” with fewer uppers and an equal amount of sex professionals.

You might imagine that athletes in vanity-surplus cities like Los Angeles are more prone to this trap than players in smaller, less ostentatious markets. No, that wouldn’t be sufficiently depressing. Former Trail Blazers are well-represented among the broke athlete community. Point guards Rod Strickland and Kenny Anderson, to name a pair.

“Broke” suggests that colleges make athletes take financial-education courses. This is a good start and wouldn’t hurt. It probably wouldn’t help much, either. The athletes paying attention in class are probably not the ones screwed during/after their pro careers. (Like many college students, I fulfilled much of my degree requirements taking the science courses jocks were in.) The documentary mentions that players’ associations have recommended financial advisers, who pay fees to get those recommendations and receive little oversight. That’s garbage. Players’ unions should require that athletes have union-approved financial managers, those managers should have their records reviewed by outside assessors, and players should be allowed to switch managers if they wish (like an academic advisor in school.)

And to hell with sports agents. Marvin Miller, former head of the MLBPA, is featured in “Broke,” and along with Curt Flood is responsible for players getting close to 50% of sports revenues today (instead of the 1% they got before Flood/Miller). Miller hated agents. The majority of players are perfectly capable of negotiating for themselves, and can pay a lawyer to look over their contracts. A player signing a $100 million deal pays at least 10% to his agent; for a fraction of that money, you could hire Saul Goodman and the legal team from Citibank to read a contract’s fine print while massaging your feet with precious oils.

Agents might theoretically be helpful for players on the fringes trying to get in/stay in major sports leagues; this is probably rare. Agents have little reason to work hard for their lowest-salaried clients, and if they don’t represent big-name clients team GMs have little reason to take their calls. A star athlete in a bidding war for his services doesn’t need an agent to drive up his asking price; teams do that themselves, with a union watching to make sure those teams don’t collude. Basically, agents are bloodsucking vampires; some, like Angel, have souls, and some, as in “Twilight,” will be dreamy and fight for you, but most are evil Nosferatus. My brother observed the other day that Adam Silver looks a little like Nosferatu; have we ever seen him outside in the sun?

Maybe the best observation on this came from my SO, who watched “Broke” with me. The SO is prone to dreams about whatever we watched before bedtime, often combining various types of programming, sometimes happily, sometimes not. (Fantasy monster-filled material like “Harry Potter” / “Doctor Who” and adult dramas involving sexual tension are not a good dreamscape mix.) The SO woke me at 4 AM, begging me to put on another show, as the dreams about athletes getting swindled were too harrowing. So I put on a thing about people who believed they’d been abducted by UFOs. In the morning, I was thanked for the UFO show. “Oh,” I said, “I’m glad that didn’t make you dream about aliens abducting athletes.”

“It did,” the SO replied, “but they were better off.”



It’s the big matchup! The rivalry showdown! All bad blood returns! Hatfields/McCoys! Lancaster/York! Picard/Kirk! Joel/Mike! Oral/Penetrative! (In none of these conflicts can you argue “both sides have good points,” or you are a traitor.) Lives will be forever determined by what happens today. Legends will be born and hopes go to die; courage and cowardice will flourish in equal measure.

Or, yeah, another Houston/Portland game. We had one of these already. Portland got stomped. If the Blazers and Rockets met each other in the playoffs for, like, 20 straight years, that game would have meant something, to rabid hooligans. James Harden, the NBA’s scoring leader, had 44 points, and many Blazer fans consider him a dick.

Now, why do Portland fans hate Harden? Yes, I know. He “flops.” He “whines.” He “gets special treatment from refs.” He’s also really good, and some people loathe that.

Years ago, I took a friend, not a sports fan, to a sporting event. As a player from the visiting team was introduced, many fans booed loudly. Why do they boo?, my friend asked. Because he’s really good, I told her. She pondered this and replied, “Well, that’s just stupid.”

It is stupid. If you hate Harden because he’s really good, you are hating stupidly. I’m not saying you are stupid, merely that this hate is stupid. Most of us have stupid hates. I hate people who drive cars with less autistic attention to traffic laws and safety protocols than I do. Lots of those drivers are better people than me. I incur more pain in the course of my life, through various character flaws and foolish decisions, than they cause with lackadaisical driving. It is a stupid hate. I fiercely possess this hate anyway.

We can similarly assess the stupidity of Harden hate. Yes, he’s always at or atop the league in free-throw attempts. He’s also always at or atop the league in field-goal attempts, and these things often dovetail, unless you are using superpowers to magically disappear and reappear in undefended spots on the court before you shoot. I think one of the X-Persons did this in a movie, though not with basketballs.

Does Harden “whine?” Maybe. I’ve never had courtside seats in my life and never will, so I can’t say if he vocalizes high-pitched moans to officials. If “whine” means “makes expressive gestures indicating his displeasure with the call,” let me present one Robin Byron Lopez, a favorite player of yours and mine. Lopez emotes so broadly after so many calls he’s practically playing to fans in the upper-deck, like stage performers using louder voices for larger theatres. Lopez is good at this; he is good at interacting with mascots, who use oversized movements the same way. (Lopez is a born entertainer; his “mascot rivalry” shows both a willingness to ham it up for fans in cheap seats and a respect for the hardworking mascots; what a badass.)

“Flop?” No, no, NO. I hate to go “I saw a guy back when who could teach these youngsters a thing or two” here, yet I’m going there anyway. I was raised on the shenanigans of Vlade Divac, and nobody deserves to be called a “flopper” unless they’ve studied under Divac for years in a Himalayan flopping monastery. Divac would windmill his arms like he was trying to avoid toppling off a cliff, while launching his huge body backwards into whatever unfortunate piece of hardwood or human flesh lain beneath. To say Divac merely overacted is to say the poisoned soul in Munch’s “The Scream” looks kinda bummed. Today’s whippersnappers don’t flop; they fall down. This is nothing and undeserving of our notice.

It is stupid to hate Harden for these things. Is it okay to dislike Harden for other things, then? Absolutely! 100% guilt-free!

Dislike him for forcing you to imagine that beard with dribbly food bits on it. (At least Harden grooms his facial hair. Grooming, Kaman, grooming.) Dislike him for taking full advantage of the NBA’s hand-check rules, if you loathe those rules. Dislike the way he moves, his shooting stroke, the sound of his voice in interviews. Dislike his shoes or his Twitter posts. Dislike his dog’s name assuming he owns one and has publicly disclosed the name and you find it dumb.

Or like him for any of these things, should you be so inclined. You’re a consenting adult and anything you find awesome or ooky is your bizness.

It’s fine to randomly like or dislike professional athletes! They’re TV show characters, after all. Just make sure you like/dislike the character — from personal aesthetic preferences equally valid to you as for anyone else — instead of the man.

Me, I don’t dislike Harden. I really have no feelings about him one way or the other. I think he’s a gifted player whom the cheapskate Thunder owners should have kept, and I’m glad they didn’t, as otherwise the Thunder would win ten straight titles. I hate the Thunder. (The team’s theft from Seattle, not its players or fans.) I think Harden takes too many dumb heroball shots, but lots of players do that.

Harden shouldn’t be booed when he’s introduced. Silly boos should be for entertainers like Lopez who are playing “Bad Guy” to opposing fans in a spirit of fun, the way a professional wrestler would. Serious boos should be for athletes who intentionally try to harm other athletes. Or athletes who try to harm other humans in general. Or athletes who try and make it harder for women to be refs in a macho-culture sport.

Oh, wait . . . Harden won’t be introduced to booing Portland fans, as the game is in Houston. What? Three games against the Rockets and fully two of them are in Houston! It’s a conspiracy! It’s an outrage! More bad blood! (Insert band name here)’s Old Stuff versus (same band name)’s Newer Stuff!

(I also have no feelings one way or the other about Dwight Howard, injured for the next month and not playing in this game. My favorite Rockets player is Corey Brewer; he’s had to switch teams five times in the last five years, and I suspect he’s Will Barton’s future soulmate.)