The NBA preseason is a curious thing. On the one hand, you've got your standard stories about players joining new teams and getting reps in exhibition games, or longtime veterans shaking the rust off and getting the oop right on the alley. For fans, it's a chance to watch basketball again for the first time since June, which lends a certain air of forgiveness to the low quality of play.
And for the rookies, the Paul Shirley types who are just playing for the right to wave a towel and maybe play three minutes at the end of a blowout, and all the other castoffs and nobodies in the basketball ecosystem, it's a chance to be on TV for awhile and get mentioned on Twitter by their teams for the only time all year, and maybe, just maybe, make the team.
We're seeing the last of that now. The preseason games are wrapping up as the regular season beckons on Tuesday. This time next week, most of those guys will be in the D-League, or their agents will be making calls to Kaunas and Barcelona and Istanbul trying to get them a “designated foreign player” roster slot.
So let's celebrate the guys for whom any game of “Who He Play For” will involve an answer like Crvena Zvezda.
On Second Thought...
“There's one more kid who will never go to school, never get mentioned by Zach, never get to be cool.”
He's A Secret Agent, In the Face of Death He Laughs
It's Rodney McGruder, the 13th man your team wishes they had:
Where's Jeff Gilooly When You Need Him
Can the Pacers trade CJ Miles please? Doesn't matter what you get back for him. Could be a bag of basketballs. Could be a second-round pick...in the D-League draft. Just get him out of Indianapolis:
And Speaking of the Pacers...
YES. Big man of the future. Still needs to learn positional rebounding so that he's more Drummond and less Whiteside around the basket, but Myles Turner emerged as one of the better rookies in last year's draft; alongside Paul George, that's a power duo in the making. Maybe not this year, but that's the joy of picking up the team option on a rookie deal.
If there's an equivalent in other sports? Maybe Russell Wilson when he was still on his rookie deal in Seattle a few years back?
I don't believe I've ever taken a look at a loaf of bread and said to it “I sure wish you were a croissant.” I mean, that is nothing even slightly resembling anything I've ever seriously thought. I like a croissant, sure, although it ranks pretty low on my breakfast bread options, as my clear choice of McDonald's over Burger King makes clear—even a friggin' pancake makes a better sandwich holder than a croissant. And I have never been down with the cronut thing. Ain't my kink, babe.
A Public Service Announcement
The only bullying I ever want to see is dudes getting shoved around in the low post when competing for a rebound or clearing space for a dunk.
Run Like You Stole It, Nneka Ogwumike
A common complaint about the WNBA is its lack of athleticism. With all due respect, this looks pretty damn athletic to me:
Congratulations to the Los Angeles Sparks, your 2016 WNBA champions. We don't often (OK, we barely at all) talk about the women's game here because literally nobody reads it, but a mention is warranted here.
Feature coming later today from me, Great Big Season Preview coming Monday...and season itself starts Tuesday. Holy crap, I can't wait.
In other news, this is coming to you from a new laptop; believe it or not, my old one had a fried sound card. You ever try compiling highlights without sound? I'd been doing it since Game 4 of the Finals. Had to press-gang my phone into service a time or five. I gotta say, from the Breakfast Special Mobile HQ at the corner table at Caffe Umbria in Seattle's Occidental Square (great coffee, and the girls working the counter are total sweethearts), things just got a whole lot nicer.
But enough about my morning coffee. Thanks for making this corner of the NBA highlight universe a companion to yours.
Milwaukee is one of those cities that sits very high up on my list of places I need to visit not just because I've not yet been but because there is so much there that someone like me can enjoy—even though I'm no longer a drinker, I will never say no to a beer brat, I love cheese more than any rational person should love cheese, and I'm told that “Sconnies” have that warm Midwestern charm that is the reason I adore regular folks from places like Indianapolis, Toledo, and Cleveland.
Which is what makes it so unsurprising that the Milwaukee Bucks would hire one of those folks to be their social media person. The exchange started with this:
Clicking that tweet lets you read the rest of the thread, which was inspired by Zach's James Harden piece yesterday (I was copy-editing it for publication at the time), and the Bucks were so good-humored about it that it led to this:
Of course, I'm a Pacers fan, which makes it all the more amusingly coincidental that Milwaukee and Indiana had a little throwdown at the Whatever They're Calling The New Mecca These Days Arena (OK, fine, the BMO Harris Bradley Center...)
Which led to another revelation. Milwaukee's Twitter is right up there with the Nuggets and Clippers on the list of great sources for highlights, and that is of tremendous value to a certain Seattle-based Internet basketball show.
We begin with Mirza Teletovic losing his defender...although maybe that's more like “in Soviet Russia defender loses YOU” the way this played out:
Last year, we had a bit of a theme here whenever writing about Milwaukee, asking the question “how many ways can we mention Giannis Antetokounmpo without having to write out his full name?” Greek Freak is nice, but we need about 50 more nicknames for him to keep it from becoming repetitive:
Meanwhile, names like “Monroe” and “Parker” stand out like Key and Peele's substitute teacher:
Side note, but Jabari Parker sure is fun to watch, isn't he?
I mean, this is just insane athleticism to get up and throw down:
“Aussie to the Greek.” It's not just international and a microcosm of what's great about the NBA, it's also a great dodge of the copy editing problem!
You know what we love around here? “Bill Russell Steals”. That's what I'm going to call any blocked shot that goes directly to a teammate to start a break the other way, in honor of the greatest of all time at doing exactly that:
And finally, I love every single solitary wonderful amazing cool thing about this fast break:
It's an all-Bucks Breakfast Special. We love you, Wisconsin. Keep doin' you. #OwnTheFuture. And thanks for reading!
Before the 2014-15 season, Charles Barkley said on Inside the NBA that you can't win a championship shooting jump shots and predicted that the Golden State Warriors would make an early playoff exit.
The Warriors won 67 games and the NBA title.
Before the 2015-16 season, Barkley doubled down that the Warriors' offense was a gimmick and a fad and that there was no way they would repeat.
Golden State came within one win and three LeBron James “I'm the greatest of all time and here's my argument for why” games of doing so again, and they did it despite Stephen Curry spending the entire playoffs trying to shoot three-pointers on one leg like he was Daniel LaRusso doing karate out there and Draymond Green missing the potential clinching Game 5 due to an uncontrollable urge to kick people in the nuts.
Before the 2016-17 season? Well, if you're wrong once, and you look damn stupid despite being mathematician's-answer correct the second time, why not go for three?
Three, incidentally, being something Sir Charles couldn't shoot worth a damn, as he's the worst three-point shooter in NBA history with a minimum of 2,000 attempts, at 26.6 percent. He lost a three-point contest to “Elevator” Ernie Johnson, a man who never played in a single NBA game, on national television.
The moral of the story is that you can't win a championship shooting jump shots if you shoot jump shots like Charles Barkley.
Sir Charles made an argument so asinine, you'd expect it to have come from Stephen A. Smith. To the point, via that linked NBA.com article above:
"Can they rebound the ball? They're going to still be shooting jumpers. They're not going to get any low-post scoring. Can that type of play hold up through the rigors of the NBA playoffs? I'm still going to say the same thing I've always said: No."
Never mind that the expected value of an open three-point shot is approximately 1.16 points (the median percentage on wide-open threes, per NBA.com, is 38.7 percent), a shot that's worth more than every other shot on the floor that isn't a dunk or a layup. Hell, the Warriors make 43.8 percent of those shots; that's an EV of 1.31 points, or the equivalent of shooting 65.7 percent from two-point range. Unless you're DeAndre Jordan taking all your shots inside the restricted area, the most effective shot in the entire sport is the one Sir Charles says you can't take if you want to win a title.
You might as well say that a football team can't win a title passing the ball (a persistent idiot argument from “smash mouth” advocates that is as obsolete in today's NFL as Barkley's assertion is in today's NBA.)
Guys like Byron Scott and Lionel Hollins will never coach a playoff game (and may not coach a regular-season game) again in their lives because they failed to grasp the fundamental value of good ball movement leading to open looks. Barkley never coached, and if he's trying to ensure that he's never denied the opportunity to sit in a chair and pontificate on television by some pesky team trying to hire him, he's doing a fine job of it.
Even a team that can't hit open threes to save its life (last-place Memphis, at 34.0 percent on three-point attempts where no defender was within six feet of the shooter) still throws an eFG% of .510 out there, which is a damn fine clip from inside the arc.
You can—and the Warriors did—win a title shooting jump shots. And now that Golden State has Kevin Durant to flummox defenses and ensure a lot more open looks for everyone?
Go home, Charles. You're drunk. Only way the Warriors don't win it all this year is if either the aliens from Space Jam steal their skills or LeBron literally ascends to godhood in the middle of Quicken Loans Arena and the entire world is gloriously united as one in the presence of our new benevolent roundball deity.