Another One Bites the Dust

Posted in Golden (State) Years on January 26th, 2016 by bill

OK, let’s talk about the Warriors a little bit.

On January 16th they lost their fourth game of the season, and their second in four days, to a mediocre Detroit Pistons team. (Four days earlier they had succumbed to the less-than-mediocre Denver Nuggets.) They were starting to look human.

All that seems like a long time ago. In the meantime, they have stomped the Eastern-Conference-leading Cleveland Cavaliers so badly that the Cavs fired their coach; whipped the Chicago Bulls, arguably the second-best team in the East, by 31; and more or less coasted through an easy home victory against a pretty good Indiana Pacers team.

Last night it was Warriors vs. the San Antonio Spurs. All year long the Spurs have been walking in the Warriors’ footsteps, staying just behind them in the standings while posting some pretty impressive numbers in the process. So this game was supposed to be a toe-to-toe slugfest between the two best teams in basketball.

Which did not turn out to be the case. Pretty much from the tipoff, the Dubs thoroughly dominated the Spurs in every aspect of the game. Steph Curry appeared to be walking on water, throwing up a mind-melting array of ridiculous long bombs and elegant floaters in the lane, not a one of which so much as touched the rim on its way through the net. The rest of the team followed his lead, playing like the ideal versions of themselves, passing the ball beautifully, playing lockdown defense. The Spurs looked confused, disoriented, demoralized.

It was weird.

And you know, blah blah blah, just another game in January. True enough. But this was a beatdown, people. For today, at least, there’s no doubt about who’s the best team on the planet. Which is nice.

Your Mid-December Updates

Posted in Because he's David Bowie, that's why, Golden (State) Years on December 13th, 2015 by bill

A quiet Sunday in mid-December seems like a good time for an update on some of my ongoing obsessions.

The Warriors
I hoped to be sitting here today writing that the Golden State Warriors are still undefeated at 25-0. And I guess I just did, but that was not intended to be a factual statement. Playing their last game of a 7-game road trip, fresh off an exhausting double-overtime victory against the Boston Celtics, the Dubs finally succumbed to reality and lost in Milwaukee last night. That leaves them at 24-1, for a tidy .960 winning percentage. Good enough.

Once Upon a Time in Shaolin
There was an interesting twist this week in the saga of the Wu-Tang Clan’s Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, the only copy of which which was finally sold recently, for what was reported to be something in the $2 million area. The identity of the buyer was not disclosed until a few days ago, when it turned out to be: Martin Shkreli, the capitalist supervillain who’s gotten a lot of bad press lately for acquiring obscure pharmaceuticals and drastically raising the prices. (Here’s one sample headline: “‘Most hated man in America’ raises drug prices again.”) This prompted RZA and co. to say they were going to donate most of the money to charity. Which, whatever, that’s nice. My hope, though, is that Shkreli – who’s badly in need of some good PR – will do the right thing and share Once Upon a Time in Shaolin with the world (my understanding of the legalities is that he is allowed to give it away, but not to profit from it). So come on, Martin, let’s do this thing.

Meanwhile, Mr. David Bowie released a new single recently: “Blackstar,” which at 9:59 clocks in as the second-longest song in the Bowie oeuvre (behind only “Station to Station”). And it is quite a piece of work, starting as some kind of dark electronic chant, then morphing into a middle section that’s by turns sweetly melodic and aggressively funky, which in turn is slowly swamped by the return of the original theme. There’s a hell of a lot in there; after a dozen listens, I feel like I’m only beginning to unpack its contents. “Blackstar” is seriously strange, hauntingly beautiful, and even kind of funny. It’s David Bowie. It’s 2015. I like it.

With 2016 on the horizon, Ave Vigoda, age 94, against all odds remains alive. I for one take comfort in that.

Are you kidding me?

Posted in Golden (State) Years on December 3rd, 2015 by bill

I did what now?

I have been superstitiously avoiding writing about the Warriors up to this point, waiting for them to lose a game before I talk about the insane run they’ve been on. But since it looks like that may not happen anytime soon, I’m just going to go ahead.

As of this writing, the W’s are 20-0. That’s twenty wins and zero losses, for those of you keeping score at home. The previous NBA record for wins to start a season was 15, which they have now left far behind. There have been a few close games in there, including a nail-biter the other night against Utah, but also lots of blowouts. Like last night’s evisceration of the Charlotte Hornets, wherein Steph Curry went for 28 points in the 3rd quarter.

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Twilight of the Mamba

Posted in The sporting life on December 1st, 2015 by bill

Don't cry, Kobe. It'll all be over soon.

I’ve never liked Kobe Bryant, not one bit. And still don’t.

Will I miss him? Well…maybe a little bit. He’s been the player I love to hate for 20 years now, and for most of those years he tortured Warriors fans. I’ll never forget one day in the late 90s when the Lakers spotted the (in them days) normally hapless W’s 25 points. Several of us gathered in front of the TV in anticipation of a rare victory over the hated purple and gold. Instead, the lead slowly slipped away, and we started to get that familiar sinking feeling. The night ended with Kobe hitting a buzzer-beater to win the game and me in the fetal position on my friend Willem’s couch.

But times have changed. Last week, we got to see the Warriors run their record to 16-0 against a remarkably awful Lakers team while Kobe shot 1-for-14 from the field. It was both thoroughly delightful and kind of sad. Kobe is 37 now and no longer has the wherewithal to torture us, no matter how much he might like to. This week he officially announced, to the surprise of none and the relief of many, that he will be retiring at the end of this season.

But he apparently intends to play out the string for 2015-16, despite the fact that – according to ESPN – “His field goal percentage and 3-point percentage both rank last in the NBA among qualified players.” Lakers coach Byron Scott says that Kobe will continue to start, that he’s “earned that right,” and thus will continue to drag his team down with his selfish and inefficient play. This may be the Lakers’ subtle way of tanking the season, putting them in position for another high draft pick next year.

The mantle of Warriors Public Enemy #1 has already been taken up by Blake Griffin, who, let’s face it, is no Kobe. Though a gifted player, Griffin is not quite the incandescent talent that Kobe was at his peak. He is also slightly less hateable – a whiny crybaby punk, sure, but not a rapist (alleged).

So there was something bittersweet in watching the Black Mamba be turned helplessly in circles by the swarming Warriors, like an old lion being toyed with as a prelude to being ripped apart. Kobe set a gold standard for hateability that will never be matched, and that’s worth taking a moment to appreciate, before we get back to talking about the Dubs. Who are – as of today – 19-0. More on that later.

It Is Happening Again

Posted in Golden (State) Years on November 6th, 2015 by bill

'Shoot it again, Steph.'

Exactly one year ago, I was writing a breathless encomium to the undefeated Golden State Warriors, who were coming off a big win against the detested LA Clippers. Well…(cue the giant)…it is happening again.

If anything, this year’s Dubs have been better than last year’s. The Clips game was their first close contest; before that their average margin of victory had been 25 points, including a 50-point obliteration of the once-feared Memphis Grizzlies. Steph Curry has somehow found a way to take his already stratospheric game up to yet another level, dismembering defenses with an ease that borders on contempt. And all this has been happening without coach Steve Kerr, who is still sidelined by complications from offseason back surgery. Interim coach Luke Walton is 5-0, and with no disrespect to young Mr. Walton, I’m pretty sure that I would also be undefeated if they’d given me the job.

Once again I must remind myself that we’re only five games into the season. It’s a long hard road and so on and so forth. All the more reason to take a moment to savor the sweetness of being a fan of a team that is playing intergalactic basketball right now. Can they possibly keep it up all season? Well, consider that Andrew Bogut hasn’t played a single minute…that Klay Thompson’s shot has been MIA so far…and that Harrison Barnes has been inconsistent. In other words, the Warriors could be better. I wouldn’t bet against them.

Here We Go Again

Posted in Golden (State) Years on October 27th, 2015 by bill

Steph Curry nails a shot while chewing his mouthguard – in the NBA 2K16 video game. Soon he will be doing it again in real life.

So today Our Golden State Warriors begin their defense of the NBA Championship. It still feels weird to say that. Maybe it’ll finally sink in for real tonight when they hand out the rings and raise the banner into the rafters.

The Dubs will be kicking off the season without Steve Kerr, who is still out with complications from offseason back surgery. I assume, though, that he will be there to get his ring – as will Alvin Gentry, last year’s top assistant, who is now the head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans.

And if the Pelicans are in town, that means Anthony Davis, a/k/a The Brow, consensus future MVP, will be there too. Davis and the Pels will have something to prove after being swept in the first round of last year’s playoffs, and the Warriors will want to respond. But we all kind of like The Brow, and we like Gentry, so this will not be a grudge match. Those will come soon enough when the W’s play the Rockets (10/30), the Grizzlies (11/2), and – yes, Lord, let it be so – the Clippers on Wednesday 11/4.

The Clippers did a lot of yapping this summer, and are feeling all swoll about themselves after stealing DeAndre Jordan back from Dallas and adding a couple of decent bench players. But to me they’re still basically the same bunch of floptastic crybabies that we smacked down repeatedly last year, and I look forward to that matchup with great relish.

So let’s go, let’s go…how long till tipoff?

Back Again for the First Time

Posted in Golden (State) Years on September 25th, 2015 by bill

Time to wake up, Steph.

I’m told that this has been the shortest offseason in Warriors history, and I believe it, since the last time they went to the Finals was 1975, and the season was a lot shorter then. But it has seemed awfully long to me, partly because I’ve been extraordinarily bored at work lately. The various vacations were a nice distraction while they lasted, but now it’s officially fall, with Thanksgiving just a tiny blip on the horizon. Sigh.

Thankfully, the NBA circus starts up again on Monday with the media day that marks the beginning of training camp. I’ve written not a word about the Warriors since the end of the Finals, and what really has there been to write about? After the fulfillment of a long-held dream, there inevitably comes a bit of a letdown, and this offseason has been one long victory lap with little in the way of news. Draymond Green signed a big new contract, as we knew he would. David Lee was shipped out to Boston and, through a roundabout series of transactions, replaced with Jason Thompson, who will play a similar role for much less money. Steph Curry continued his charm offensive on Planet Earth with a trip to Asia and an appearance on the new Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

It’s all been fun, and well-earned, and frankly a little dull. I look forward to the start of the new season, the first that My Golden State Warriors will enter as defending champions. They will face opposition from the reloaded San Antonio Spurs, the formidable Cleveland Cavaliers, the rested and rejuvenated OKC Thunder, and the always-annoying Los Angeles Clippers, among others. It will be a challenge, but I think they’re ready for it. I know I am. Let’s play ball.

It Gets Late Early Out Here

Posted in The sporting life on September 23rd, 2015 by bill

The creators of Yogi Bear claimed he was not based on Yogi Berra. They were full of shit.

We lost one of the greats yesterday: Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra, who shuffled off this mortal coil at the age of 90.

It’s a little shocking to me that Yogi was only 90. He seems to have belonged to a prehistoric era of baseball, a contemporary of ancient Olympians like Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. It’s strange that he survived into today’s world, with its Twitter feeds, advanced metrics, and multi-multi-million-dollar contracts.

Yogi was a great baseball player and manager, appearing in 21 World Series, but an even greater philosopher. I’ve already written about him once, and there are plenty of good obituaries and collections of Yogi-isms out there today, so no need to belabor the point. But it was Yogi who taught us that “It ain’t over till it’s over,” and this gives me a wedge to bring up once again the Greatest Comeback in the History of Wiffle Ball, where we went down 16-0 in the top of the 1st, then battled back to win when yours truly crossed the plate for the 33rd run with two outs in the bottom of the 5th.

I’d like to retroactively dedicate that victory to Yogi Berra, a truly one-of-a-kind human being, a man who lived a long and eventful life and leaves a legacy that shan’t be forgotten. Let’s observe a moment of silence, then later take a two-hour nap from one to four.

So long, Moses

Posted in The sporting life on September 14th, 2015 by bill

Don't fuck with the Moses.

In an odd coincidence of timing, Moses Malone passed away this weekend, just a couple weeks after Darryl Dawkins, the man who he replaced on the Philadelphia 76ers. Darryl could never get the Sixers to the Promised Land; Moses did it his first year there, leading the team to a championship and finally getting Dr. J his long-overdue ring.

Unlike the colorful Chocolate Thunder, Moses was all business on the court. He played with a perpetual scowl, and always looked like someone you definitely did not want to mess with. But he seems to have been a good guy off the court; Charles Barkley, for one, credits Moses with helping him learn how to be a professional.

Moses is generally considered the best offensive rebounder ever to play; he would often get two, three, or four on a given possession, and eventually put the ball in the basket. He was sometimes accused of padding his stats by missing on purpose, but it’s hard to say how true that was. What we do know for sure is that he was relentless on the boards. His philosophy of rebounding? “I goes to the rack.”

Moses was a man of few words, but managed to express a lot nonetheless. Now he is off to the Great All-Star Team in the Sky, allowing Darryl Dawkins to slide over to power forward.

Chocolate Thunder Returns to Planet Lovetron

Posted in The sporting life on August 28th, 2015 by bill

It was the 70s.

My standing New Year’s resolution is to make everything I do funky. I never quite accomplish it – it is an aspirational guide, not an item on a to-do list – and neither does any other human being. But some people come closer than others, and Darryl Dawkins’ lifetime percentage was among the highest.

Darryl is reported to have died yesterday, though I suspect that he really just returned to his home planet, Lovetron. In truth he always seemed a little out of place in this modern world of ours, being as he was the living embodiment of the glory that was basketball in the 70s.

Things were a little looser, a little…well, yes…funkier back then. Darryl Dawkins came into the NBA fresh out of high school in 1975. Within a few years he had acquired the nickname “Chocolate Thunder,” a truly amazing collection of suits (fire-engine red, banana yellow, fuchsia, lime green, etc.) and a well-deserved reputation as a loose cannon. He never listened much to his coaches, just did what he wanted to do, for better and for worse. One of the things he wanted to do was to dunk with all the force his 6-foot-11, 255-pound frame could muster.
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