Kobe Bryant and the Meaning of Rivalry

Like any kid born in Boston in the late 1970s and treated through childhood to the rivalry between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, I grew up believing that the Los Angeles Lakers were and are the enemies of all mankind, the hated foe to be vanquished in June, even if Bird and friends only managed to do that once in three tries (winning in 1984 and losing in ’85 and ’87) head-to-head in the Finals. But when Magic Johnson revealed he had HIV in 1991…well, I’ve already written about that. Sure, he played for the hated Lakers, but he was …

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Achtung Panzer! #7: The Tanking Washington Wizards

The Washington Wizards, losers of 11 of 14 and 9-21 on the season overall, look set to claim another lottery pick in the 2020 draft to go along with Rui Hachimura, the ninth pick in 2019. The Wizards are still a capped-out, injury-riddled nightmare, hence the 9-21 record, as Bradley Beal, once expected to be part of a Big Three with John Wall and Otto Porter, is now just a 26-year-old star without the supporting cast to help him claim his place on the national stage. Speaking of Beal, his stats have fallen off a cliff without quality teammates. His …

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Achtung Panzer! #6: The Tanking Cleveland Cavaliers

Welcome to the debut of Pace and Space from our new digs…two miles from the old digs! Still in rain-soaked suburban Seattle, but I’ve moved house, gotten a good night’s sleep, unpacked (mostly), so let’s talk NBA, shall we? The Cleveland Cavaliers, like the New York Knicks we talked about a couple of weeks back, are less “tanking” and more “a complete joke of a franchise that ought to be compared to the likes of the Browns or Jets in the NFL.” At 8-21 through games of December 21, the Cavs own the third-worst record (bless the Knicks and Hawks, …

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Achtung Panzer! #5: The Tanking New Orleans Pelicans

The New Orleans Pelicans were supposed to revive their franchise post-Anthony Davis with a collection of castoffs from the Los Angeles Lakers plus the extraordinary luck of winning the Zion Williamson Sweepstakes last offseason. Instead, Williamson has started the season injured, those Lakers have been exactly the kind of players who couldn’t make the playoffs with LeBron James on their team, and the Pellies stand a woeful 6-20, tied with the Knicks and Hawks for the second-worst record in all of basketball ahead of only the what-on-Earth-happened Golden State Warriors at 5-22. And for all the talk of Brandon Ingram …

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Achtung Panzer! #4: The Tanking New York Knicks

The New York Knicks, owners of the worst record in the NBA through games of December 6 (and as this goes to press currently trailing the Pacers) at 4-18, just took that “things have officially gone too far” step and fired coach David Fizdale. Which means a team on pace to win just 15 games has franchise upheaval just as they’re starting to try to bring along promising rookie RJ Barrett, and if that isn’t the most Knicks thing you can imagine, just wait until interim coach Mike Miller slowly loses his mind having to salvage something from this dumpster …

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Achtung Panzer! #3: The Tanking Atlanta Hawks

Losers of nine straight and 12 of 13, the Atlanta Hawks now stand 4-15, dead last in the Eastern Conference and just half a game ahead of the woeful Golden State Warriors for the worst record in the NBA. A team that was supposed to have their breakout year instead finds itself mired in the throes of awful, as John Collins serves a 25-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance, Kevin Huerter sits in street clothes with injury, and Trae Young puts up monster stat lines (like his 49-point outburst against the Indiana Pacers on Black Friday) in …

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Achtung Panzer! #2: The Tanking Portland Trail Blazers

Some teams, you know they’re tanking. They dump salary, let G-League rejects and second-rounders have big minutes, sign just enough veteran salaries to get above the league’s salary floor, and go out there and suck the way everyone knows they’re destined to suck. And then there are the 2019-20 Portland Trail Blazers, with Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and a 5-11 record good for 14th place in the Western Conference above only last week’s Achtung Panzer entrant, the Golden State Warriors. The Blazers, on paper, shouldn’t be this bad. But there are clear signs that they are stealth tanking, convincing casual …

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Whoa, Devin Booker Isn’t Trash Anymore!

When the Phoenix Suns got off to a hot start and Devin Booker appeared to be maturing into the player that Suns fans have always claimed he could be, I was hesitant to move off my belief that Booker is nothing more than a great stats, bad team guy who puts up gaudy counting stats while doing nothing of value to help his team win. Well, it’s November 14 as this goes to press, the Suns are 6-4 and just gave the Lakers all they wanted and then some in a hard-fought loss on the road, if the season ended …

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For the love of Lithuanian basketball

The FIBA Basketball World Cup gets underway Saturday in Australia, and while the eyes of most of the NBA media are squarely on the United States team, there’s one American hoop junkie whose eyes are firmly cast to the east when picking a squad to root for. It’s not that I’m against USA Basketball per se, it’s just that one country has such an inspired history both with the sport and as a country that I have to root for them out of a go-get-em-guys admiration. I’m talking about Lithuania. “Lietuva” in the local tongue over there. For one thing, …

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Basketball is the Ultimate Sport About Failure

Move over, baseball. Your title as biggest sport about failure has just been usurped by basketball. Because in baseball, “you can fail 70 percent of the time and be an All-Star” is both untrue (batting average is dead; all hail on-base percentage, and you’d better be getting on base closer to two times in five if you want to be a true star) and irrelevant; once you are out, you are back in the dugout and your ability to contribute meaningfully to your team’s success is done for another two or three innings. In basketball, on the other hand, some …

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