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Five Out: It’s only All-Star wasteland, uh, weekend

Time To Start A New Project?

NBA: Houston Rockets at Oklahoma City Thunder
Today is Not That Day.
Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Five Out, more sporadic than it used to be, not a pretty shot chart anymore.

Run to the corner, that’s where the guy is shooting, see? No, run, put your hand up, too. No, at the same time as you’re running. That’s part of what we call “defense”.

All Star Weekend Is Kind of Meta Basketball and this is sort of Meta Five Out. Apologies in advance.

1 - Love/Hate All-Star Weekend

I have a confession to make. I like basketball. Particularly NBA basketball. I’m hot for regular season NBA basketball. I understand if you think I have a slightly louche illness. I like seeing the best players in the world compete at the best sport in the world in the best, and in many ways, fairest, league in the world. (Except the whole “It helps to be really tall” part.)

All Star Weekend is meant to be a celebration of basketball, but ironically, it’s a party that makes me wistful. I’m sure it’s more fun if you are there in person and can hear the sneakers squeaking.

I don’t blame the NBA. The NBA really, really, wants you to like All Star Weekend. They’ve got tons of events: the All Star Game itself, with its ever-changing team selection rules and drama, the Rising Stars, Basketball Without Borders, the Dunk Contest (more anon), the 3 Point Shootout, and the Skills Competition (sigh). Plus some other stuff. There’s a lot going on! And none of it is quite basketball.

The worst thing is, after the games tonight, there’s no real basketball for a week. Yes, it’s a good thing the players get to rest, but there’s no basketball, unless it’s this thing with children in college.

I’d love for there to be some way to add more have genuine drama and fun, some events that really made me look forward to All Star Weekend.

Here are some thoughts:

Old Timer Horse - mic’d up.

One On One Challenge (with brackets) - Imagine the intensity. Very short games - to 15 or something (2s + 3s). The contest would be reffed, but fouls simply result in one point, and the ball (or automatic +1 to made shots).

Revamped Dunk Contest

I suggest Adding “compulsories” to the dunk competition. This would be like routines in skating or gymnastics -points are awarded for re-creating required dunk contest classics, or outdoing them. There would also be “Free Dunk”.

I think people would love seeing how new generations would attempt or surpass the difficult dunks of the past. Why not add that to the contest? Let’s bring back the best old memories, and make new ones.

The dunk program will have five famous dunks of the past, and the contestants will have to perform three of them, one of their choice, two selected randomly (or by celebrity judges, whatever). Then they do two “free dunks” where it’s their own ideas.

(Go Kenyon Martin Jr.!)

Alright, I’ll admit it, I don’t hate All Star weekend. Couldn’t we do this sometime when there wasn’t basketball, though?

Stuck In The Lunchroom

Might I interest you in further meta-rants?

It seems as though basketball-related stuff has eaten much of the conversation about the game, and sometimes we don’t hear much of anything about actual basketball. It’s mostly talk about job changes, potential job changes, workplace drama, accounting and legal minutiae, and celebrating billionaires saving a few bucks. (The last of which is just weird.)

It’s much easier to talk about this kind of stuff. It’s easier to fill columns, and podcasts, and video with chat about these things, and it rewards having relationships with the teams and access to people involved that outside commentators don’t have.

(I’m guilty of this as well, but in my defense, it’s hard to talk about Rockets basketball right now, with management’s entire focus fairly obviously on the 23-24 season already.)

I especially dislike listening to endless speculation about NBA awards. Why? Because it seems less a celebration of great players, and more a vehicle for the certain strongly normative opinions of the game, and the reward or punishment of favorite, or villainous, players.

It’s more of a mood ring that tracks the current disposition of the people who write and talk about basketball.

The awards feel like a popularity, or unpopularity, contest with media members. The unspoken criteria really feel like a school cafeteria from middle-school onward. It seems largely subjective, yet subject to lots of fairly hostile debate: “We don’t like him. He’s already won too much. We don’t want to reward THAT kind of thing. Ooh, shiny counting stats! That team isn’t good enough for that award, except...” It’s exhausting, especially when it starts up in November of all things.

What DO I like? I like hearing about how teams play, how their rosters are constructed, what they do well, don’t do well. How they might match up in a playoff series, how they could improve. That sort of thing. Because, again, I’m weird, I like basketball.

Don’t Neg The Goose

What do you suppose pays for all the grandeur, hype, and glitter the NBA? The nine figure deals? What supports those shoe contracts?

That’s right, the games themselves. People showing up. People watching at home. Playoffs pay more richly, but the bread and butter of most teams is still the regular season.

Right now there appears to be a lot of negativity towards that same regular season. It doesn’t matter. It’s only a rehearsal for the playoffs. (It’s only to set up a draft pick) It’s such a chore for them (me) to slog through 82 games. Sorry, not a chore! It’s caring! This attitude comes from a place of deep, deep, concern for well being of the players.

Again, it’s what pays for all this. The players, the coaches, the broadcasters, the ancillary commentators, analysts. (Except for me and the team dancers; we essentially do it for love.)

A whole ecosystem exists around the giant tree that is the NBA regular season. It’s the core of the whole thing. Yet to listen to many, it’s a real pain in the ass that it exists at all, and it often interferes with their Netflix, or nap time.

I truly wish various commentators would stop running down the regular season. I wish they’d stop making only the playoffs, or titles, seem worthwhile. I don’t think an NBA season is “Ringz or Nothing”, or an afterthought, because NBA basketball itself is intrinsically worthwhile. (The 22-23 Rockets have sorely tested this belief.)

A title is certainly the ultimate prize, but it goes to one team of thirty. The idea that the regular season is worthless on its own will eventually, as Charles Barkley might say, kill the NBA’s golden goose. If nothing but titles and playoffs are enjoyable, or worthy of attention, what are we doing for 82 games? Are we so distracted by constant stimuli that only the loudest noises get our attention?

Finally, if none of the overworked darlings in NBA media ever complained about the length of the NBA season again, I’d consider it a great blessing. If everyone involved is willing to take the money playing games once or twice a week would bring, by all means, change it. Until that’s explicitly on the table? Do shut up.

29% of What?

So, it has come to this.

I love that phrase. It’s portentous, ominous, but doesn’t have to mean much of anything.

After the All-Star break the Rockets have 24 games. It’s 29% of the season. At this point, what kind of change could, or should, be made?

If the Rockets intend to change coaches, and I certainly hope they do, because I’m not sure how much more of this I can stand, is it worthwhile to do so now?

It seems fairly clear that the players aren’t improving much. They don’t execute as well as equally inexperienced players on the Thunder. Sure, OKC has SGA, and that’s why they’re hovering around .500. That’s not why other players seem to know where to be, mostly, on defense, and offense. That’s not why they’re giving effort.

SGA certainly enables a lot of offense, as he’s a stealth heliocentric player, in that the team does much better when everything flows through him. Other players have to move, to be in position to take shots, and to actually take (not overpass), and make, those shots when they receive a pass.

If you want to hand the keys to John Lucas, and let him be the sacrifice to accountability that brings a bracing dose of reality to Jalen Green, Jabari Smith Jr. and others, it’s probably worthwhile. Lucas isn’t a young man with a long career ahead of him, and he’s unafraid to say what’s on his mind. If that’s the move, I support it.

I’m a lot less sanguine about handing the reins to coach Abdelfattah, as I think at this point it’s simply setting him up to fail, to be Mr. Interim Coach. There are worse things in a world with only 30 NBA head coaching jobs, but will he have any real authority? Could he dismiss, say, Lionel Hollins? Would he stay if he did well? Would he be considered a success if the team looked better, but kept on losing?

If management means to make this particular change, it has to basically happen this weekend. Lucas or Abdelfattah must have a few days to practice the few majors changes they can make right now.

Nastie & Hinkie : A Sam Hinkie Tribute Band

(82 Nights, Toyota Center & Arenas Around The NBA - Playing The “Hits”! Buy their new album “Game Theory Killed My Career” - out now!)

This has been a big week for people (patiently, kindly) explaining the Rockets tanking process to me on Twitter. They seem to be under the assumption that I don’t understand any of it, because I am frustrated with the team’s play.

Let me make it perfectly clear. I DO understand what I’m seeing and the oh-so-shrewd Min/Max Game Theory masquerading as NBA basketball.

I think this might be useful for clarifying positions in the ongoing opera buffa that is the Houston Rockets. (I’ll hit 95 of these at some point, I’m sure.)

  1. I am not looking to see lots of wins. Moreover, I see little danger of that.
  2. I do understand lottery odds. Have you grappled with the idea the Rockets are quite likely to pick 5th?
  3. If the Rockets pick, say, 4th, that suggests the core of the future Rockets are playing for the Rockets right now.
  4. If the core of the future Rockets are here now, are you happy with their fundamental development as players? You don’t get development time back, because you were tanking. It counts.
  5. I’m not looking for pretty play. I’m looking for growth in skills in, and understanding of, NBA basketball, and I’m seeing very little. OKC is a painful counter-point to Rockets development.
  6. I’m looking forward to people wearing uniforms with “Cap” & “Space” on the back, like Knicks fans, when nobody much signs with the team that’s had the historically worst record run in NBA history.
  7. At some level this is entertainment, not math. Various grandiose visions of future dominance have wrecked upon the rocks of reality: James Wiseman, #2 pick, is a Piston. Give us something to enjoy, a little.

Six Out

The Rockets have the best Turkish prospect to ever play in the NBA, in Alperen Sengun. You may have heard about the horrific earthquakes in southern Turkiye and Syria, and would like to do something. If you’d like to help out, here is a link to reputable and vetted charities.


Thoughts on the Dunk Contest Proposal?

This poll is closed

  • 35%
    I like it.
    (23 votes)
  • 4%
    I hate it.
    (3 votes)
  • 23%
    Let’s workshop it.
    (15 votes)
  • 35%
    There’s still a dunk contest?
    (23 votes)
64 votes total Vote Now