Central Division Preview – Part 5

Cleveland has a lot of important things to offer the world.  For example, did you know that Cleveland was once said to be the original location of the Garden of Eden?  My friend was drunk at the time, but he seemed to mean it.  Granted, he was always a bit of an idiot.  We don’t talk much any more.  But for some reason he expects me to congratulate him every time he gets a new job on LinkedIn.  Twice a year, dude?  Seriously?  That’s not a series of accomplishments; that’s recursive evidence of a singular problem.  It’s not good.  Get yourself together, stop taking social media so seriously, stop mocking people who take selfies and then take them yourself, and stop putting your ACT score on your resume.  You’re 27, for god’s sake.  28 in November.  This is shameful.

The IPhone 6 is not an adequate replacement for consensual sex.

Allspice is an underrated seasoning.

Sidestepping is still jaywalking.

Don’t trust squirrels.

I don’t get it.

I won’t.




If I seem distracted, it’s because I want to be.  I don’t want to say I was happy to see LeBron leave Cleveland, and I don’t want to say I was happy to see Dan Gilbert lose touch with the permanence of written word to maintain a limbic bond with his keyboard and self-regard, and I don’t want to say I was happy to see Cleveland turn four top-4 picks in three years into one above-average starter, so I’m writing it instead.

These moments made me smile. I can’t exactly describe why. Maybe because I was raised with a strong dislike of Ohio.  Or it could be because I like to prop myself up by giggling at people who take sports more seriously than I do and react purely and emotionally to what is essentially just another constructed form of entertainment.  Or it could be because as long as God continues to hate Cleveland, he’ll leave Detroit alone. If the sky is going to fall, let it fall somewhere else.  Who knows?  In any of these scenarios I’m a delusional dick.  I’ve accepted it, and that’s what makes me so irrepressibly likeable. Yeah?  Yeah.

That’s what I’m used to, anyway.  Then “The Re-Decision” or “De-Decision” or whatever happens.

This is difficult.

This entire story makes me happy, and that makes me ill.  Clammy, pulsating mind-cramps at the idea of being glad that Ohio is glad.  This is the way the world ends.

All the angry videos on Cleveland phones from summer 2010 before people knew how to post them, all the hopeless ‘we can do it without LeBron!’ fervor that was distilled into resignation is this: _____.  Bounce back up, buddy.  The citizens of Cleveland got to save their energy for the last four years.  Now, with hopes well rested, there’s no reason for them not to throw themselves into that dream completely.  There’s no more doubt that LeBron can lead a team to a championship (as if there ever should have been (oh my god I hated that narrative)).  He’s done it now.  Twice now.  Now, LeBron just has to be LeBron, and that’s empirically good enough.  How great would it be to be a Cavs fan right now?

(anger¶ x 244)

Why is my tongue bleeding?

Leave me alone.   I’ve done my penance; my soul is pure, so now I can start looking for subtle acts of sabotage to celebrate.

Do you know how hard a pile of bricks are?  They get harder after the 33rd headbutt.  They stop hurting after the 39th.

My favorite Cavalier is Dion Waiters.  He’s young.  He can go 30-5.  He has strong opinions on foot quality.  His 3P% jumped quite a bit this past season.  He really, really likes scoring.  He dunks children.  He has no regard for the mental and physical well-being of his former teammates. He has slightly higher regard for his current teammates. There are just so many interesting things that can happen with Dion.

I would like all of them to happen, even the ones that seems diametrically opposed to each other.  I would like Dion to lead the Cavs to the NBA Finals while submarining their playoff hopes.  I would like to see Dion be Dwyane 2.0 circa June 2013 as well as Circa December 2010.  I would like Dion to post flattering pictures of his growing relationship with Kyrie Irving on instagram while posting effigies on his back-up, more-personal instagram account.  I would like Dion Waiters to win MVP. Hah.

This is kind of like an eclipse for me.  I can’t stare directly at it.  LeBron, Love, and Irving taking the Cavs to the the Championship round while confused Cavs fans decide whether or not they’re allowed to sing “Seven Nation Army” will burn my badword eyes out.  But I can watch Dion.  He might be the best 4th-man LeBron ever plays with.  What he does is going to be fascinating.  And safe.  If Dion’s good, then I can enjoy Dion.  If Dion makes the Cavs worse, I can appreciate that Dion too.

Let’s just talk about Dion.  The rest of Cleveland makes me bleed my own blood.


Central Division Preview – Part 4


Oh no.

They’re from Indianapolis so they’re already pretty much in their own little world.  Someone has to help.  Spaced, short phrases seem appropriate here.  This how you console sad Pacers fans.  Exactly like this.  Don’t try and improv.  Not now.  Follow the script.


“Yeah, I know.”

You remind them you’re there in the breaths between sobs.

“It’s okay,” you say.

“It’ll be okay,” you say.

“It’s not going to be okay,” you think to yourself.

“Actually, nothing about this seems remotely okay,” you say out loud because you’re not really paying attention and you’re kind of hungry.

“Wait, what?” they respond.

“Shhhh. Shh,” you encourage, “It’s not your fault.”  There’s a calzone in the fridge.

You reach for a bottle of water on the coffee table and accidentally take a direct, prolonged breath into their ear.

They take that the wrong way and leave.


Now that they’re gone, we can be blunt.  In a word: fuck.   Levity seems sinful here.  The three brightest spots on Indiana’s roster over the last 18 months are, in reverse order, 3) in an all-time, all-baffling slump 2) in a different city 1) injured and gone for the year.  George Hill was entering “Are we sure he’s a starter?” conversations as last season ended.  We’re sure he is now, because sometimes attrition dictates worth and oh my god poor Indiana.  It’s not your fault.

Rodney Stuckey is a different problem.  He was never supposed to be near starting rotation conversation.  Stuckey was an above average scoring threat against second teams last year.  Stuckey’s contract, at about $1 million this year, would be a perfect scoring boost to complement Paul George and Lance Stephenson when the starting five rests.  I don’t know if it’s been mentioned, but that’s an issue because those two are not there any more.  Paul is out and Lance blew town, remember?  Paul George and Lance Stephenson are not playing for the Pacers this year.  It’s true.  I would be only 86% surprised if Stuckey turned out to be Indiana’s lead scorer in 2015.

Let’s mention more unfortunate things because I have bad memories.  (That’s a cheap shot, especially coming from someone who has Metta World Peace’s chosen name as 2/3s of mine, but what else do I have at this point?)  In the case of 3 of the top 10 rotation players, my clearest memory of their game is a moment in which I laughed at them.  It’d be rude to mention who they are.  They’re Scola, Mahinmi, and Copeland, first names redacted to maintain anonymity. I don’t care if that last one doesn’t count. Hair and air are all I can think of.

David West, like most people, continues to age.  Unfortunately, by chance of being born before most other people in the league, he started the aging process sooner.  He is now more aged than most, and is only going to get agier over time, and sadly, at nearly the exact same pace as everyone else.  This means that the initial age gap between him and younger players is going to basically stay the same forever.  West was the most consistent contributor on both ends for the Pacers last year, but night-to-night consistency is what goes first as you get older.  Old.  That was the word I was looking for.

On the other hand, with the September 3rd contract to C.J. Fair the Pacers employed more C.J.’s in the last month than any other team in the league.  Let’s take a moment to think about our favorite C.J.s.

What else is there to think about?  With the Heat losing LeBron, the Cavs needing a few months to hit form, the Bulls still waiting on the return of the O.G. Derrick Rose, and a few other teams just finally being able to tread water without floaties, Indiana seemed like a lock for another high seed in the East and shot at the finals.  Then the bad thing happened, which followed the other bad thing, then some more bad things occurred, and I almost forgot about that other bad thing, and that one was awful. Since 2014 started, it’s just been a steady, slow-motion avalanche.  I didn’t want to mention it, but I’m not even sure C.J. Fair is on the team any more.

The NBA’s All-Interesting 6th Team

After my last piece, I received somewhere between zero and several emails from people saying they’re now too scared to watch basketball.  I understand, and I’m helping.  Look, here:


Yes.  Good.  Richard Rubio replaced the terrifying ghost.  Now everything is fine because the best way to deal with problems is to pretend they don’t exist. We’re just going to move on like nothing happened, and, in doing so, we will heal.

Today we’re going to construct a rotation of this season’s most fun, interesting players directly affected by offseason moves. I say “we” because we are doing this together as a team together even if it doesn’t seem that way because this was written and posted before you knew your involvement was in demand.

How are fun and interesting decided?  In my mind, there is a static set of determining factors:

  • How many lyrics to “My Ass is On Fire” by Mr. Bungle do they know?.
  • That’s it.

No doubt the subtle way this weaves its way into an 82 game narrative is fascinating, but we won’t be using this system because 1) It’s not all about me; we’re doing this together as a team together and 2) I have absolutely no good way of finding this out about anyone.  I think I need to write another half-dozen or so blog posts before I’m made a credentialed member of the media and allowed to pose the question after tough playoff losses.

Our rotation will need to be determined differently.  To make it a rotation, we have to not pick the obvious stars; depth is important except in Indiana. To make it interesting, we have to pick players who have not been covered to a consensus expectation since relevant offseason moves were made. To make it fun, we have to pick players whose circumstances may shock them out of what seemed like a potentially permanent narrative.  (Definitions of “fun” may vary.)

So in respect, our rotation must meet the following criteria:

  1. Is not the best player on their team now (No LeBron, No Rubio, No Bosh)
  2. Was not the best player on their team last year (No Love, No LeBron again)
  3. Was not been discussed in great detail as the moves were happening (No Parsons, No Klay, No Lance)
  4. Has had their role changed drastically from the end of last season to the beginning of this one (No Pau, No Wade, No to almost most every re-signing)

And so on.

Now that we’re all on the same page together as a team together, our 6 through 10:

PG – Rodney Stuckey

Move: Rodney Stuckey to Indiana for 1 year/$1.2 million

Why Fun? Lots and lots of unoccupied space.

Indiana’s two biggest on the ball creators from last year are gone, and that was Stuckey’s role for the Pistons last season.  Coming off the bench he cut his three point attempts in half, took more shots while still making a higher percentage, and posted the best Points Per 36 Minutes of his career at 18.7.  $1.2 is not a bad price for that kind of player, especially if he can maintain this trajectory.

But it’s less the Stuckey move itself and more the circumstances that came after it.  He’s moved from 6th man on a team that didn’t make the playoffs to the potential leading scorer on the team that just had the best record in the east.  That Indiana team is gone; it followed Stephenson and George out the door.  What Stuckey does in their absence will be intriguing.  Maybe he’ll fit into Vogel’s system better than he did with the run of rotating coaches in Detroit, or maybe he’ll feel a desperate need to create for himself, or maybe he won’t get much play at all.  There’s enough room for something bizarre to happen, and mystery is fun.

SG Dion Waiters.

Moves: LeBron James to Cleveland for 2 years/$42.2 million

Kevin Love to Cleveland for Anthony Bennett, Andrew Wiggins, and Stuff

Why Fun? Waiters will be playing the role of Swaggy P this season.

Last year, the Lakers were going to be bad with or without Nick Young, so we just got to have fun and watch him.  This year, the Cavs are going to be good with or without Dion Waiters, so we just get to have fun and watch him.  There may be people keying in on Dion as the foundation to the Cavs success, but I don’t know any of them.

He’s a luxury; a guy competing for #1 billing on his team last year relegated to, arguably, the best #4 option in the league.  He can go for 30, and is a threat to go for 20 every night.  He’s an unstable locker room presence, but nowhere near bad enough to shake LeBron (and if he is, he’ll he’ll just follow Bynum and Turner into the void).  Now, after being a lightning rod for two years, he’ll be a tertiary narrative to the other players and storylines on his team.  And he’s only in his third year.

He can play, and maybe now he can just play. I’m more excited to watch Waiters than anyone else in the league this year.  Sorry, Andre.

SF – Luol Deng

Move: Luol Deng to Miami for 2 years/$19.9 million

Why Fun? Up and down and up again?

To be clear: this has nothing to do with Danny Ferry.  Luol this year is really only interesting because of Luol last year.  Before being incarcerated on the Cavs, Deng seemed like a pretty reliable commodity.  He was a stalwart of Thibodeau’s system, a lauded locker room guy, a veteran with years ahead of him who couldn’t help but help his team.  Then the Cavs happened to him.  His FG% fell, his scoring fell, his rebounds fell, his assists fell, his FT% fell, and so on and so on and .·´¯`(>▂<)´¯`·.

A few months later, and suddenly he’s LeBron’s ostensible replacement inasmuch as anyone can replace LeBron.  He’s gone from being the presumed missing piece to a playoff push to becoming a bandage to hopefully stop the bleeding.  The Heat’s rank in the east is hard to predict, and how far they go probably isn’t going to led by Deng’s play.  But the Heat should still be good, and Deng is still good.  It’s an impossible task to replace LeBron, so he’s an underdog.  You can’t help but cheer for the underdog, and you can’t help but cheer for Deng in the first place.  He’s a good guy doing his best in a difficult situation.  Seeing how much of LeBron he can be (65%? 75%? 80?) will be fun to follow.

PF – Anthony Bennett

Move: Anthony Bennett and Stuff to Minnesota for Kevin Love

Why Fun? He’s escaped the bright lights of Cleveland.

Anthony Bennett did not need the #1 pick designation.  He did not need the expectations or attention.  He did not need to be judged in terms of whether he “deserved” to be at the top of the draft.  He did not need people questioning his health, weight, and dedication.  He did not need to be on a team trying to make the playoffs “now.”  He did not need to be the result of the lottery that Cleveland would claim to be their last.  He did not need to be written off as a bust before he finished his first season.  All of these things happened.  That’s done now.  He can only go up from here.

What he needed was patience and quiet, and he didn’t get it.  Instead he was gleefully written off.  Now that it’s a few months later, that could turn out to be a good thing.  Since his game was so eagerly dismissed, he was, at best, the third biggest name in this deal.  In the shadow of his mounting narrative, he quietly recorded a couple double-doubles by the end of last year.  There were signs of growth, and the Wolves are rebuilding; he’s not going to be pressed to push for the playoffs.  This is the environment Bennett should have had last year, and I’m hoping for the best.  I’ll be eagerly searching out Waiters’ highlights throughout the year, but I’ll be just as interested in seeking Bennett’s box scores.

C – $1.25 Million

Move: 1.25 Million Dollars to OKC for Hasheem Thabeet

Why Fun?: Extending that championship window

We knew this kind of thing was going to happen. We knew the Thunder were going to be pretty capped out when they re-signed Harden.  It’s not anything a team likes to do, but sometimes you have to take whatever change you can get.  The sad truth is that having the MVP and the best young core in the league just doesn’t get you much money or attention.  Priorities.

Luckily they were able to turn a former #2 pick into a million bucks.  This would remind me of the Suns selling off picks during Nash’s prime and refusing to bolster the roster for the sake of a miniscule profit, but this is completely different because OKC has never come off as cheap.  This $1.25 million is exactly what they need to keep Durant and Westbrook on the team when they come up in free agency.  They’re fostering goodwill, maintaining a happy fanbase, impressing their players, and going for a threepeat.  Congrats to the Thunder on their burgeoning dynasty.

The 10 Spookiest Storylines of the 2013-2014 Season

First things first: credit to Buzzfeed for inventing lists.  I, meaning society writ large, couldn’t have done it, meaning anything, without you.


It’s October, and this means everything is really scary all the time.  Basketball is a thing, so, it has to be scary too. QED.  So because of math we need to discuss the ten scariest storylines going into the 2014-2015 season.

10) Vigilante Veterans

That is Tim Duncan pointing a gun at Joey Crawford’s head.

It should be noted that that’s not a real shotgun, and that is not the real Joey Crawford’s head.  Joey Crawford’s real head is likely attached to his real body which was presumably somewhere else at the time.  That doesn’t make it any less spooky, though, except it does.

It’s weird that this was somehow OK, but whatever.  Spurs.

9) Pumpkins Coming to Life

That was a cheap shot, but this entire article is a shameful, superficial gimmick, so Felton jokes are about the 4th thing on my list (again, thanks Buzzfeed) of things to apologize for, and I’m not going to apologize for any.  He’s not even on the Knicks.  He’s in Vancouver or something.

8) Zombies

John Salmons could start for the Pelicans.  To get ahead any ongoing confusion: in this instance, “Salmons” is not a grammatically incorrect collection of fish but an actual person. This might be worse because at least fish would be fresh and Salmons is old.  Ha.  Speaking of which:

7) Time Marches Inexorably Onward and We Are Nothing But Dust

There’s an old Polish saying: “Nasz powrót do Ziemi zaczyna się z kolan” which roughly translates to “our return to the earth begins with the knees.”  By ‘old’ I mean “as long as it took for my Polish-speaking brother-in-law to email me a translation so I could use it as an introduction to this Kevin Garnett thing.”  I made it up, and I’m not sure where to go with it from here.  There’s also an old acronym for KG in which the K stands for “knee” and the G stands for “Gdust” because the G is silent.  That makes more sense in Polish too.  They use “z” as a word over there.  Just “z.”  It’s crazy.


By any demonstrable standard, hornets are not bees.  However, hornets are bees, and they’re here again.  They’re replacing the Bobcats, and Bobcats are dangerous too, but sometimes they’re cute. Wasps are not cute, so this is worse.  Wasps are also hornets which are bees.


I don’t know exactly who this is scary for.  Is it scary for Beas because he’s going from the Miami Family to the Z-Bo Other Thing?  Is it scary for Memphis fans because Beasley might be on the team?  Is it scary for Tayshaun Prince because I imagine everything just kind of terrifies him at this point?  Kind of like an elderly dog in a thunderstorm?


He went to China anyway, but the ghost of that picture endures.

4) The Proletariat Becoming Enlightened

Cleveland is going to be good.  Long live the King.  This narrative doesn’t make sense, and people are scared of what they don’t understand.  I can’t comprehend a world in which Cleveland is good and Cleveland fans are happy.  Help.

3) I Want to Get Off Mr. Bones’ Wild Ride

“…and a future 2nd round draft pick…”

2) Possession


Klay Thompson

For those without ESPN Insider, what that article touches on is that Klay Thompson is the biggest “black hole” in the NBA.  When he gets the ball, he tends to keeps the ball until he throws it at the netted-circle-thing at the end of the court.  And beyond that, black holes are scary.  Infinity collapses in on itself.  Nothing can escape, not matter, not light, not even max contracts.

1) Possession

It’s a cheetah jumper.  Get it?  “Jumper” is British for sweater.  I’m fantastic.

This second entry for “Possession” is not meant in the sense of ball control but in the idea that Kobe Bryant is being subsumed by the spirit of an overinvested college student taking their first philosophy class.  I’m okay with this, honestly.  I like to pretend Phil Jackson and Kobe maintained a book club after the Zen Master left town.  I bet Kobe thinks time is circular because rings are circular and that means he doesn’t actually age and will be in his prime forever and will never retire which means more rings.

Which means Kobe fans would be right.  If that’s not Boosketball, nothing is.



Anyway, that completes the #SpookList (check out Buzzfeed, everyone).  It’s all very scary. Trepidation surrounds us.

What to Expect From Your First Basketball Game in, Like, Years

After a few years long break, the first game you’ll see live is a preseason contest between the Detroit Pistons and the Milwaukee Bucks.  That’s how these things work.  The ticket will only be three dollars, but parking will be ten.  You’ll take a picture of the Palace of Auburn Hills in the sunset that’s a lot less impressive on second look, but it’s important to document these things.

When you get inside, you’ll walk the concourse to a Buffalo Wild Wings and remember “I love wings and haven’t had them in a long time.”   You’ll then decide $10 for wings is too much, but $9 for some nachos is a pretty sweet deal.  The older gentleman behind the counter will assure you that jalapeños are good, and you’ll agree because he seems trustworthy and you know from experience that jalapeños are, in fact, okay.  The nachos won’t be as tasty as you expected, but you remember you need to temper expectations because it’s the preseason.  Regardless, you’ll eat the whole plate because your phone wasn’t greasy enough, and you’re fat. Hit the gym, nerd.

You’ll take your seat at 6:46. “Timber” will play at 7:07. You’ll return to your seat at 7:12.

Part of the pregame entertainment will consist of a 45-second cluster of dancers, more dancers, a drum line, and flipping trampoline dunkers.  It will stop before you can comprehend it.  At some point, this picture will display on the jumbotron:

You will be charmed.

At one point, a live band will begin playing, and the sound guy will forget to turn their mics on.  They will stop abruptly in the second verse of “Poker Face,” and the person next to you will emit a sustained “awwwwww” while frowning.  You will feel bad for a minute, but then you’ll notice a keytarist.  A real, live keytarist. He will have a keytar and become your hero.

The layup line will start.  Greg Monroe will go through line with one hand in his pocket.  Jonas Jerebko will go through the line while chewing gum.  Kyle Singler will go through the line and might do something, but all you’ll notice is that his chin looks like a prosthetic.  Josh Smith will allegedly be a part of the line, but he will start taking jumpers, and then the layup line will just kind of give up on itself and devolve to a second shootaround that nobody seemed prepared for.  You won’t have any alcohol, but you’ll think about it.

Hooper will be ready for the game to start.

The game will start.

Your favorite play of the first quarter will be when D.J. Augustin (Starter: DJ Augustin) had Smith open for a corner three, decide not to give him the open shot, dribble towards the corner, make two defenders collapse on him, and then drop the ball off to Josh Smith cutting behind him who will drive to the basket and score.  You’ll love it.

Josh Smith will take two jumpers but will hit them both.  You’ll have mixed feelings.

The person next to you will certify that Smith is the best player on the team and will exhort Smith to keep shooting.  They will also get mad when people drive and kick it out for threes.  When Augustin passes up a contested layup to find KCP in the left corner, they will stand and yell, “Why did he…? He did that on purpose!” “Yes he did,” you will think to yourself.  This person will become a vessel for your aggravation, pulling it away from the players on the court. This will free your appreciation of the good things that Josh Smith does.

You’ll notice that Josh Smith can pass.  Holy hell.  He’ll throw a bullet overhand to Kyle Singler in the corner who will bobble it before knocking down his only three of the game.  He’ll throw a no-look lob to Andre Drummond who won’t be able to finish.  He’ll attempt a rapid handoff to Greg Monroe under the basket that Monroe won’t expect and will fumble out of bounds.  You’ll see that Smith sees things that you don’t.  You’ll be convinced that Smith is the best player on the court whenever he is on the court.  You’ll remember Smith is playing the Bucks, but still.

At some point, two Bucks will knock the ball into their own basket fighting for a rebound. You will laugh. Jabari Parker will airball a free throw on the immediate next possession. You will laugh more.  The Bucks will score 29 points in the 1st quarter before the Pistons go on a 45-18 run in the next 18 minutes.  You’ll be in a good mood.

You’ll realize there is no better mood than in the brief, collective exhalation when Andre Drummond hits a free throw.  You’ll have gone to the game to cheer for Drummond, but you’ll begin to wish he had displayed a bit more touch. Granted play will seem much more urgent in person, but a good amount of Drummond’s early looks will be predicated on “Oh shit, there’s space and there’s space right now! Everything is on fire!”  Somehow he’ll still finish with 15 and 16.

The woman dropping her tray of popcorn and beer will signal that it’s time to leave.  On your ride home, you’ll realize that you can’t remember any point when Drummond, Smith, and Monroe were all on the floor together.  You’ll recognize that there are eight people on the team you have some measure of confidence in.  You’ll start feeling hope creeping back up again, and this will worry you.

When you get back to your computer, you’ll check the box score and realize Hasheem Thabeet was on the bench the whole time.  It’s a weird moment, and it’s too late to try and figure out what that means in the cosmic sense.  There are things you’ll never figure out. Besides, it’s 11:30.  You should get to sleep.

Central Division Preview – Part 3

I always record my half of my conversations with people so I can play it back afterward and feel better knowing that at least one person listened to me.  Sigh.  I bring this up because something interesting came up in a phone call I recently had with someone who doesn’t appreciate me as much as they should.  We’ve known each other for years and he owes me like three hundred bucks.

Me: Hey [name redacted because I’m not giving him press].
Me: I don’t care if it was an accident.  You called me. Now you’re stuck.
Me: 45 seconds at least.
Me: I dunno.  See any movies lately?
Me: Okay.  Fine.  The Bucks.
Me: No, the Milwaukee Bucks.
Me: You know I don’t hunt.
Me: Well, you should have known I don’t hunt.  How long have we known each other, [name redacted because he has more twitter followers than me]?  Whatever.  It doesn’t matter.  What do you think their record is going to be?
Me: No don’t hang up yet.  Trust me.  They’re interesting.
Me: They are!

He hung up.  But I realized that in my pleading for social contact, I had actually stumbled upon something good.  Kind of like when you trip over a tree root and smash your face on a rock, only to find that someone dropped a wallet that hadn’t been emptied out yet right next to that piece of your tooth.  There’s always a silver lining.

I can understand if people in Milwaukee may disagree, and they have a right to because I’m the one who decides these things, and I said so.  But where the Bucks are right now?  That’s the best place to watch a team.  Yeah, yeah, quality of basketball is important, I guess, and  contending for a championship is kind of the point, and winning a championship is the ultimate goal, and on and on and shut up.  What I mean is that right now the Bucks have it the best in terms of a long term mindset.

Really?  That’s fascinating.  Go on, Matt.

Thanks, Matt.  I will.  Cheering for the Bucks right now is safe.  It’s like cheering for the Lions to get just one win after the 0-16 season, or for Tomoaki Honma to get one point in the G1 Climax, or for your nephew’s teeball team to get one run before the umpire invokes the mercy rule.  What is there to lose by cheering for this team?  There’s nothing left.  Anything is a victory.  You’re free.

This means you can throw your entire fandom into smaller things. Larry Sanders is playing and not in trouble? Yay! Giannis has grown to 8’2”? Yahoo! Jabari turns out to be the most NBA Ready rookie? Kapow! Fwoosh! Zing!  Any of that would be progress, and unlike other teams, progress is not protocol.  In Milwaukee, all of it would be something to be happy about.  It’d be foolish to expect a championship, so aim low.  Aim really, really low, and do it with enthusiasm.  You’ll love it.

There aren’t any fabricated goals set by management.  There is no bravado.  There is no history of success to jade hometown fans and incense rivals.  The team is young.  It could be a ton of fun to watch.  A step in the right direction probably wouldn’t truly upset a potential contender, so they’re not going to impinge on other fanbases.  They’re the underdog.  It’s impossible not to support a team with this story no matter who you root for, which is probably why Cleveland was trying so hard to manufacture this image since 2011.  It didn’t work.

But for Milwaukee, it feels genuine.  Growing team turmoil ripped the hope of a playoff berth away, and now they can only get better.  (This isn’t strictly true, but let’s pretend it is for the sake of Wisconsin.)  There are new owners now, which probably can’t hurt.  They have two 19 year olds that could turn out to be the best two picks in the last two drafts.  Brandon Knight has proven himself an NBA player, if not necessarily a sought-after starter.  O.J. Mayo’s name continues to be worth at least a quarter of his $8 million dollar salary.  Tony Mitchell had a PER of 31.0 in the 10 minutes he played last year.  This could be great.

As far as to what actually expect: you know when you’re a kid (or 23) and you first discover self-serve soda fountains, and you put every different flavor, including unsweetened ice tea and the one that said “out of order,” into your cup?  That feels like what you’re getting here. The hope of youth and the chance to be good but more likely a strange mix that you’ll finish but not feel good about.  All of the elements are best enjoyed separately.

– O.J. Mayo continues to have the best name in the league.
– Zaza Pachulia has a great one too.
– Jabari Parker was exactly who the Bucks wanted.
– Larry Sanders may not return to “LARRY SANDERS!” but he’ll hopefully stop being “…Larry Sanders?” and hit something closer to “LaRrY sAnDeRs.”
– Giannis Antetokounmpo is still growing as a player and as a person made of body parts that are increasing in size.
– Dudley is looking to rebound (as in improve generally, not actually getting boards)
– Jason Kidd is a fundamentally ridiculous human being.

Remember when that Jason Kidd thing happened?  Me too.  We’re not going into that again.

The 2014-2015 Milwaukee Bucks: just have fun with it.