Welcome back to Five Out. If you missed the first one, that’s ok, this is a new one.
In this feature I cover five NBA topics of interest to me, with a Rockets slant. Without further ado, run to the corner! Run to the corner!
1 - Universal Media Day Madness!
The NBA had its annual Media Day on the 27th. This, more than anything, marks the beginning of a new NBA season, and despite growing worries about the rapid passage of time, I’m glad it is here at last.
I truly think schools, and maybe most businesses should adopt the Media Day concept. Pick a day that either sensibly or nonsensically marks the beginning of a new year of whatever it is.
Take pictures of the kids, employees, inmates, whatever, take questions from the parents, customers, media, protesters, whatever. Talk about how great the upcoming year is going to be, all without the pesky disappointments of actually having done the thing. It’s the best time to engage.
One of my favorite quotes, referring to a chess board before the game begins.*
“All the mistakes are there, waiting to be made.”
But in the case of Universal Media Day, they haven’t happened yet!
2 - The Grim Professionalism of the Young
Deandre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns and Kevin Martin Jr. of the Rockets were standouts on Media Day. Usually players are upbeat, cheerful. They’ve worked out all summer. They’ve added wrinkles to their game. Nothing hurts yet. They’re ready to start a new year, for the most part.
Not so KJ Martin Jr and Ayton. Their media interviews sounded like someone who is about to get divorced, but has agreed not to tell anyone yet. I’ve included JT Gatlin’s clip below.
This is just what you want to see from under 25 players. Grim professionalism. Stoicism.
3 - Rockets Already Showing Rapid Growth
This one is presented largely without comment. A Twitter exchange between the venerable and estimable Clutch Fans and me.
Via Rockets press release. The number of inches in height grown from the listings a week ago:— ClutchFans (@clutchfans) September 26, 2022
Alperen Sengun (2)
Jabari Smith Jr (1)
Jae'Sean Tate (1)
Sterling Brown (1)
Bruno Fernando (1)
Eric Gordon (1) *
* quite amazing at 33 years old https://t.co/rJ1Jpq7heT pic.twitter.com/JvOh8Ddn87
Everyone keeps saying "I don't expect wins from this Rockets team, I just want to see growth!"— Our Beloved Thought Leader (@xiane1) September 27, 2022
I’m going with the improved diets, dedication to growth and Alperen Sengun eating proper Turkish food all summer. BTW, proper Turkish food is really good! If you have a chance, try it. It’s a much, much, deeper cuisine than Doner Kebab.
PS - If you don’t want to read me snarking about current affairs, don’t read my Twitter.
4 - Ime, Ime Not
We haven’t gotten a lot more information on L’Affaire Udoka, but we do know that Matt Barnes walked back his defense of Ime upon learning the details. A direct Barnes quote is “One hundred times uglier than I thought.”
Matt Barnes. He is probably a lovely human being at this point, but often wasn’t on the NBA court. Those are his thoughts.
Mine are, how in the world can you bring Ime back to coach after this suspension? This is the man who changed the fortunes of Boston largely by changing the hearts and minds of a young, talented, team core.
I’m an analyst at heart. I love figuring things out, and statistics, properly understood, are one of the best ways to figure things out. But Boston wasn’t changed, and turned into a Finals, rather than a talented, bickering, sniping, flameout by statistics. It was turned around by Udoka being a leader of men. Being a leader, in a very real sense, is the assertion of moral authority in a situation.
How can he be that leader in Boston now? The players surely know the 100x Worse Details by now. How can he exert moral authority?
5 - Basketball Wins Again
I’m so glad the NBA is coming back. I’m excited for MLB’s Death Star, the Houston Astros in the playoffs. That is, they’ll be really scary and menacing, and then get blown up by some unlikely, plucky, Team of Destiny (or by the most expensive roster in MLB history by a mile).
I’ve tried to get back into the NFL again, and I just can’t. Maybe if I could hang out and watch games with Mina Kimes and Wade Phillips?
The NBA, for all its flaws, is for me at least, not only the best sport, but the most moral of all the major ones. It’s not a hard bar to clear. You simply have to exert a tiny amount of effort in that direction.
In the last eight years, the NBA has rid itself of two racist, misogynist, owners, or will soon. Imagine that happening in the NFL, or MLB (I’ll contend that mostly they wanted Schott out because she was a woman, they were fine with the rest).
The NBA has the fairest division of income, and the most rigid guaranteed contracts. It has by far the strongest player union. It’s also going to make more money than ever on the next media deal. Teams will sell for more money than ever, expansion fees will be eye watering. Clearly this structure isn’t hurting the NBA. So far at least - deliberately not playing and making guaranteed money will be a major issue soon.
Meanwhile, basketball continues along, doing very well indeed.
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*Professional chess is now interesting and controversial. Don’t believe me? “Radio controlled anal beads.” No, really.