Kevin Durant Is the Nicest Person in the NBA

19 10 2010

In a league where most players have bad breath and don’t clip their toenails, Kevin Durant stands out as a kind, soft-spoken young man with a wonderful head on his shoulders. He’s humble and thankful for all his success, arguably the ideal superstar for a league used to brash and arrogant types like Allen Iverson and Stephon Marbury.

Over the summer, the media fell deeply in love with KD as he led his country to gold medals at the World Championships in Turkey, all the while acting like a fine ambassador for the NBA to the rest of the world. So it should come as no surprise that Durant and two Thunder teammates grace the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated NBA preview issue. Except, instead of being flanked by young guns Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green, OKC’s second- and third-best players, he’s joined by lesser starters Nenad Krstic and Thabo Sefolosha.

Yes, you read that right. At Fanhouse, Chris Tomasson explains the interesting choice of cover athletes:

The magazine wanted Durant to pose for the cover of the Oct. 25 basketball preview issue, which hits newsstands Wednesday. The high-scoring forward said that was fine as long as he was joined on the cover by Sefolosha, a Swiss guard, and Krstic, a Serbian center.

“Yeah, basically I had to say it like that,” Durant said before the Thunder‘s preseason game Tuesday at Denver. […]

“People don’t really know about them too much for some odd reason,” said Durant, who didn’t play against the Nuggets due to Thunder coach Scott Brooks giving him his first game off this preseason. “So it was good to have them in there with me … People don’t really talk about them too much, but they’re playing a role. They’re guys we have to have on this team. So I want everybody to know how much they’re important to us and what great teammates they are. So it was the chance to voice my opinion, and I’m glad Sports Illustrated put them on the cover with me.”

Gosh, Durant sure is a good teammate, wanting to give two lesser-known (and, you know, slightly less effective) teammates a shot at national glory even if it had come at his own expense. He clearly values their contributions to the team as veterans and knows that defense and toughness are part of what make the Thunder such a quality team despite their youth. Either that or he likes to learn interesting facts about Europe. Do we know if Durant wanted to major in European history or international relations before he left Texas?

Of course, while Durant wanted Sefolosha and Krstic involved, they were far from his first choice. Here are five other options that were initially struck down by SI:

  • Two cancer patients whose cats have been stuck in a tree for several hours
  • An elderly couple whose neighbors make too much noise
  • Two homeless people he met on the way to the photoshoot
  • Cole Aldrich and B.J. Mullens
  • LeBron James and Kobe Bryant on a three-person bicycle

It’s that last one that really gets Durant’s goat. If he had his way, every game would end in a tie. That way everyone wins!


Joey Dorsey Initiates the Most Unfair Fight in NBA History

14 10 2010

Breaking news from the league office:

Joey Dorsey of the Toronto Raptors has been suspended without pay for one game for swinging his arm at the head of the Chicago Bulls’ Brian Scalabrine, it was announced today by Stu Jackson, NBA Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

The incident occurred with 7.3 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of the Bulls’ 109-90 victory over the Raptors at United Center on Tuesday, Oct. 12.

We’ve seen a lot of fights in NBA history — the Palace Brawl, Kermit Washington’s infamous punch of Rudy Tomjanovich, Doug Christie taking on Rick Fox, etc. — but I humbly submit that this is the most unfair fight in NBA history. Above, you can see what Joey Dorsey looks like: 6-8, 268 lbs, and about zero percent body fat. On top of that, he’s somewhat crazy and has a reputation for poor behavior.

For point of reference, this is what Brian Scalabrine looks like with his shirt off.

Well, he’s certainly in better shape than I am — shocking, I know — but it’s not as if Big Scal is at the height of fitness. Plus, even though a sizable chunk of Boston fans swear he was born in Southie, I’m not sure he has a much of a fighting spirit.

This matchup is so unfair, in fact, that you have to wonder if it will ever be topped. From my vantage, these are the only ones that could possibly compare:

I’d pay to watch that last one. Something tells me that Jack and Lou take no prisoners.

Lt. Horatio Caine Sinks a Three for Justice

14 10 2010

Like most Real Americans, I spend my Sunday nights watching CSI: Miami, the top procedural crime drama on television. It’s particularly great because of the exceedingly clever and highbrow line readings of star David Caruso, who plays Lt. Horatio Caine.

In this season’s premiere, Caruso validated my love of the show by displaying his own love of basketball. He initially sizes up the shot like he’s never seen a basketball before, but that form doesn’t lie. This is a man who knows his way around a court, even in an all-black suit. Plus, Horatio Caine doesn’t miss shots “for Jesse,” who apparently really loved basketball played with no defense.

The only bad thing about this scene is that it took place at the end of the episode rather than the beginning, where Caruso could have rattled off an awesome pun as he took off his sunglasses. But all is not lost. There are plenty of opportunities for awesome basketball openings for future episodes. Here are just a few possibilities:

1. Bald Guy: Looks like he was shot in the middle of a basketball game.

Horatio Caine: He crossed over … to the other side.

The Who: Yeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!

2. Bald Guy: He was bludgeoned in the head with a 20-lb weight.

Horatio Caine: That’s what I call … a flagrant foul.

The Who: Yeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!

3. Bald Guy: There’s a trail of blood from the court to this parking space.

Horatio Caine: Someone just got whistled … for a double-dribble.

The Who: Yeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!

4. Bald Guy: The victim was the biggest star in the NBA. He’d just signed with the local team.

Horatio Caine: Looks like someone exercisedhis early termination option.

The Who: Yeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!

5. Bald Guy: This gym fire is the fifth case of arson in this area in the last three months.

Horatio Caine: Sounds like someone … has the hot hand.

The Who: Yeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!

Ron Artest Has the Key to Las Vegas

13 10 2010

Ron Artest has been through many trials and tribulations during his 11-year career in the NBA, but it seems as if he’s finally come out on the other side. A world champion with the Lakers, he recently earned publicity for becoming an advocate for mental health awareness in California schools. Once an NBA outcast, Artest is now a positive part of the basketball universe.

Yesterday, Las Vegas held Ron Artest Day in honor of the Lakers forward. While that title may bring to mind images of Artest jousting with the knights at Excalibur, jumping around with the pirates at Treasure Island, and doing whatever really rich people do with Steve Wynn, there was actually a very good reason for Artest receiving the honor. From the Orange County Register (via PBT):

Las Vegas City Councilman Steve Wolfson was set to honor Artest for his work with Xcel University, his program that works with community centers and schools to identify high-risk students and give students an incentive toward a healthy lifestyle. Artest has also been supporting The Mental Health in Schools Act, which will be reintroduced into Congress in February during the 2011 legislative session and would provide $200 million in grant funding to schools nationwide to hire on-site mental health professionals to work with students suffering from mental-health issues.

These are both extremely worthwhile causes that deserve attention outside of this story. It’s very impressive that Ron-Ron has become so devoted these issues, and he deserves this kind of acknowledgment.

Of course, before you go ahead and think Artest has become totally normal, just take a look at what he had to say after receiving the key to Las Vegas. From Dave McMenamin’s Twitter:

Ron Artest on being presented w/ the key to the city in Las Vegas tonight: “I’ll probably walk into everybody’s homes. I got the key, so…”

More Artest on getting the key to the city of Las Vegas: “I’m going to Floyd Mayweather’s house first, put on some of his jewelery”

Someone should probably tell Artest that most of the city’s population is really old, although I’m not sure that would stop him. Maybe he’ll stop by my grandpa’s house to talk about the similarities and differences between growing up in Queensbridge and war-torn Poland.

On a more serious note, what’s important to note here is that Ron-Ron is the same person he’s always been, just not in such a destructive fashion as in the past. He’s still a goofy, weird dude with some issues, but he’s also more able to function in a typical basketball environment.

At the same time, he’s mostly rehabilitated from the terrible image that followed him after the Malice in the Palace six years ago. Typically, when an athlete rehabilitates himself we expect a full change in tone or personality. Think of Mike Vick, who professes to be serious about every aspect of his life, or Gilbert Arenas, who has vowed not to be his normal goofy self in his return from last season’s gun brouhaha. In stark contrast to these players, Artest has become a valuable member of a championship team while remaining himself. He’s not putting on a show for the cameras, because he’s still the same weird dude he’s always been.

It’s an impressive accomplishment and one that deserves our admiration. Artest didn’t conform to public expectations and forged his own rehabilitative path, one that worked best for him. With any luck, his story will become not just an example for other athletes, but one for fans, too. We shouldn’t expect complete transformations from shamed sports stars, because that’s not how people recover from these kinds of difficulties. In truth, Artest’s approach — one in which he remains as bizarre as ever — is more mature than the alternative.

The NBA Never Actually Banned Mock Turtlenecks

12 10 2010

Two weeks ago, news broke that the NBA had outlawed mock turtlenecks for coaches for this season. It was bad news for the Orlando Magic’s Stan Van Gundy, who had to find a whole new wardrobe. That’s a tough task when you have to prepare a contending team for a new season.

Except it turns out that SVG doesn’t have anything to worry about, because the NBA actually didn’t outlaw his favorite type of top. From the Orlando Sentinel (via BDL):

Stan Van Gundy can keep his Miami Vice look after all. Van Gundy was mistaken about the NBA’s wardrobe rule changes, and no one in the media checked if he had it right until Sunday. Shame on us.

That’s great news for fans of sartorial freedom. They say the clothes make the man, and that’s true even if he makes some questionable fashion choices. It’s a mode of self-expression like any other, and it shouldn’t be restricted at all.

But how in the name of Mr. Blackwell did Van Gundy come to believe that he couldn’t wear his treasured turtlenecks? For that answer, we must return to the original article from the Associated Press:

In an appreciative gesture, Magic CEO Bob Vander Weide — after extending Van Gundy’s contract through 2013 — even had tailors fit the coach and some front-office members with suits. So, yes, a fully suited Van Gundy is coming to NBA sidelines.

Maybe even sometimes with a tie.

I think it’s pretty obvious what happened here: Bob Vander Weide made up a new rule because he didn’t like the way Van Gundy looked. I can see the scene at Magic HQ now:

“Oh hey, Stan, have some bad news for you. The NBA outlawed mock turtlenecks. … Yeah, I don’t know why they won’t let you wear clothes I haven’t had since 1994 either. Don’t worry, though. I’ll buy you a suit or two. Just remember to get a few extra ties so you don’t run out of looks. … No, it’s not as much work as it sounds.”

It’s a bold move by Vander Weide, and one I applaud. It can be difficult to bring these issues up in a delicate matter, so it’s often a good idea to just avoid the issue altogether and lie.

It could even catch on as a management style. Pretty soon, look for James Dolan to tell Mike D’Antoni that wild gesticulations and stomps at nothing in particular are instant ejections. Maybe David Kahn will inform Kurt Rambis that you can only play point guards and small forwards now.

Perhaps Donald Sterling will even tell Vinny Del Negro that organized fights between coaches and general managers are now a rule. Sterling has legal debts to pay, and he hears that Neil Olshey has a glass jaw.

Kobe Bryant Loves Martial Arts, Obviously

11 10 2010

Last Friday, The Painted Area unleashed their preview of 2010-11 basketball books. It’s an exhaustive and comprehensive look at a few juicy tomes that should have all of literate hoopdom in a tizzy. Read the whole thing, or at least skim it. You won’t regret it.

In addition to a few titles of pure awesomeness (buy our book!), the preview features a few curiosities. Like, oh, a Chinese-only book about Kobe Bryant’s love of martial arts:

After Bryant’s promotional tour of China this summer, Global Times also reported the following about 24:

    Bryant noted his approach to basketball has been shaped by Chinese influences. He first heard about the concept of Qi, often translated as “life force” or “energy flow,” while in high school. He found later that Qi was a strong element in the martial arts of Bruce Lee, someone Bryant greatly admired while growing up as a kid in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

    “It seems Bruce Lee has nothing to do with basketball. To me it has everything to do with basketball. There are a lot of similarities,” he told his fans. Besides Lee’s close attention to detail and control over his emotions, it was his philosophical approach to martial arts that captured his interest.

    Bryant pointed out that Lee approached his opponents with no rigid set structure. While playing basketball, this “formlessness” is very difficult to guard and even more difficult to stop.

Most people watch Bruce Lee movies and think “Wow, that was really awesome when he kicked those two dudes at once. Also, why is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar allergic to sunlight?” But not Kobe. Where others see only really cool fights, he finds an entire way of living and playing the sport he loves. In terms of people taking kung fu too seriously, he ranks right up there with RZA. Except I don’t take Kobe for the kind of person who listens to a lot of Wu-Tang.

In a lot of ways, his stance is pretty mockable for its complete sincerity. In our modern world, we typically want some degree of irony from our athletes, or at least a sense that they’re in on jokes about them. Think of Shaq, Dwight Howard, or even LeBron James back when he was doing “The LeBrons.” Kobe, on the other hand, seems pathologically unable to joke about himself. In this case, he’s even turned one of his interests into the basis for an entire book. It’s all just a tad ridiculous.

On the other hand, it’s somewhat honorable that he’s being so forthcoming about his own nerdiness. I’m not sure he sees it that way — and the book wouldn’t be published if he didn’t think it’d be an effective marketing tool — but this is Kobe being himself for all to say. It’s goofy, but he’s willing to put himself out there and deal with the criticism. That deserves respect, if not total acceptance.

Also, why is this book not being released in the United States? I’m sure it would sell enough copies to offset the printing costs, even if people only buy it as a joke. Surely it can do just as well as The Wu-Tang Manual.

The NBA Advertises Itself in Europe

8 10 2010

Several NBA teams have taken transatlantic jaunts this preseason to help give the NBA truly global reach. One of David Stern’s primary goals for the league — and the sport, indirectly — has been to increase its fanbase throughout the world, no matter the continent. Pretty soon, I bet we’ll see penguins on Antarctica sporting NBA-approved apparel. I hear this little guy is already a pretty big fan of J.R. Smith.

As the NBA seeks to turn casual European fans into diehards, they must find new ways to advertise their product. From all indications, that means they’ll just match basketball players with soccer icons and hope things work out.

For proof, check out the video above — technically an ad for adidas’s new NBA jerseys — in which Dwight Howard and Spanish Barcelona striker David Villa trade shirts. You know, just like in soccer! Villa, who is apparently a deaf mute, puts on DH’s oversized top and proceeds to kick the ball around, do a few between-the-legs dribbles, and even lift the ball into the net with his feet. Change his look just a tiny bit and you’d think he was Rudy Fernandez. (Note: Villa’s Barcelona teammates Xavi and Lionel Messi are very obviously doppelgangers for Juan Carlos Navarro and Ricky Rubio, respectively. Coincidentally, those two play for Barca’s basketball club. Has anyone ever seen them in the same place at once?)

This is pretty much the simplest ad ever. Howard and Villa don’t even appear to be in the same room. The concept is a basic one: if you like soccer, you’ll enjoy basketball too. Just take it from your World Cup hero.

It’s not an elegant way to convince Europeans that the NBA is worth their time, but it’s not necessarily ineffective. It also seems to be a common strategy throughout Europe; Brazilian Inter Milan goalkeeper Julio Cesar and Italian Knicks forward Danilo Gallinari recently faced off in a soccer/basketball skills competition, too. (Although you probably shouldn’t watch that video, because it’s loud and annoying. Much like Americans in Europe, amirite?)

Eventually, the NBA will have to stand on its own as an excellent league and not use an association with soccer as a stepping stone to greater popularity. But at this early stage, the league shouldn’t be ashamed of this tactic. When you’re trying to exploit a large and emerging market, you do whatever you can to get an edge.