Monday, July 23, 2007

Corruption is the new fairness

Professional sports' most heralded record is on the verge of being broken by a guy whose fetish for needles rivals only that of Richard Gere's for gerbils.

An NBA ref is having nightmares wondering who is going to merk him first -- a deranged Phoenix Suns' fan, or a dude with a nickname like "Noodles".

Radio DJs are getting cash prizes to play a song that sounds exactly like the last song they played (and got cash prizes for playing, at that).

And what was left of journalistic integrity was lost the day being a past fuck of Biggie's warranted 5 mics in The Source. (I bet Oprah's mad at me for saying that.)

Fairness is dead, as is everyone who used to embody it. Might as well try to make some money off of it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I Used To Have A Blog...

Where I'm at? Not here!
Where I'm at? Metal Lungies.
Where I'm at? Not here!
Where I'm at? Metal Lungies.

From here on out, I'll be contributing to the above-linked site (named after a Ghostface song, so you know it's good). Tell a friend. Tell a foe. Tell everybody you know.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Revisiting the "Trade Deadline That Wasn't"

You may have forgotten that there actually was a trade deadline during this past NBA regular season, in part because the biggest trade to take place was the MONSTER of a deal that was Fred Jones-for-Juan Dixon. There were 2 teams which could've saved that disappointing day and made for many a headline, but instead chose, rather than reaching for the phone, to sit on their hands and simply let the clock tick away. One was the/my L.A. Lakers, who could've gotten triple-double machine Jason Kidd from New Jersey had they been willing to give up Andrew Bynum, their promising 19-year old center and one of only 3 healthy big men on their injury-plagued roster. The other was the Chicago Bulls, who could've gotten Memphis' Pau Gasol, an excellent offensive post-player who may have fit nicely along side Ben Wallace, had they been willing to give up on either Ben Gordon or Luol Deng, their 2 most consistent scorers whom the Bulls' offense either lives or dies by. One (well, me, at least) can only wonder whether either team's front office pulling the trigger on their respective potential blockbuster trades could have rewarded their players with a more-extensive playoff run, and thus, a shorter vacation (though the latter may not be much of a reward for some).

For the Lakers, trading for Jason Kidd would've been a no-brainer. Witnessing how he led the Nets to a 1st-round upset of the Raptors (highlighted by his 16-point, 16-rebound, 19-assist performance in Game 3, where he was a "game-time decision" to play) shows how hungry Kidd is for a championship. Teaming Kidd up with Kobe Bryant as a starting backcourt could have been incredible, much more so than any of the Lakers' other options at point guard, be they the "despondent" (Smush Parker), the "whiny" (Sasha Vujacic), the "inexperienced" (Jordan Farmar), or "other" (Shammond Williams -- not really sure how to classify him, seeing as he hardly ever played). Sadly, Laker GM Mitch Kupchak's petition to the league office to allow the Lakers to play all 4 at once while having them count as 1 player was denied.

The hold-up for the Lakers in this deal, though, was having to cut loose Bynum, a young big man with a promising post-up game and a good 10-15 years ahead of him, in exchange for Kidd, a point guard with creaky knees who is slowly reaching the deep end of his 30s. However, as Henry Abbott at TrueHoop points out, the path to championship-caliber success in the NBA seems to be moving away from the dominant big man, and more towards smaller, faster line-ups, like those employed by Golden State, Utah and Phoenix in this year's playoffs. Furthermore, with Kidd's ability to excel the playing levels of the big men he's teamed with -- i.e. Kenyon Martin (who parlayed a couple of fancy alley-oops into a $60-million contract) and Mikki Moore (who will likely get a fat contact this offseason) -- putting him in the Lakers' line-up could have worked wonders for Kwame Brown and (especially) Ronny Turiaf. Add all of that to Kobe's sudden "win NOW" attitude (where was that statement before the trade deadline?), and Bynum's productivity and playing time dropping tremendously in the 2nd half of the season, and it looks more and more like the Lakers missed a golden opportunity by passing on Kidd.

For the Bulls, their non-trade is a bit of a toss-up. Their high-energy style of play was what got them past a beat-up Miami Heat team in 4 quick games, during the last of which the Heat couldn't even hand the fucking ball to each other without a Bulls player sneaking in for a steal. When Chicago can control the pace of the game, they do shit like sweep the defending champs and dominate in consecutive games against Detroit; but when they can't control the pace of the game, they play like they did in the 1st 3 games of the Detroit series. Having Gasol in the line-up could've helped the Bulls match up better against the Pistons, but also could've put them at a disadvantage against the Heat. Not to mention, Gasol's shimmering 0-12 playoff record wasn't much of a beacon of hope, though the counterargument that the Memphis rosters that Gasol played on weren't nearly as talented as the Bulls are now could just as easily be made (though not easy enough for me to make it).

Of course, since neither trade actually was made, both the Bulls and Lakers are at where they're at, and there's no looking back -- although, both of these trades could be made this offseason, but I wouldn't bet on it. Not all is in disarray, though. The Bulls have talented guards with shooting range, athletic young forwards, and a premier defensive presence down low. Meanwhile, the Lakers have Kobe Bryant, and... cheese. Boy, I wonder what Kobe's thinking right now. (**puts thumb and index finger to chin**) I wonder...

Whoa, slow your roll, Mamba. Maybe after a couple more 1st-round exits you can demand a trade or a buy-out. (Will that still be a trend in 2009?) Oh, and definitely change that jersey number. Trying to emulate the great MJ? Sorry, Kobe, but you're no Luke Schenscher. SHHHEN-SHUUUR.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Gangsta Rap For Kids

"That's why I FUCKED YO' BITCH, mom and dad!"

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

NEW 50 CENT! (which sounds exactly like old 50 Cent)

In anticipation of his upcoming album Curtis (due out later this year), 50 Cent has begun releasing songs to the public, the latest of which, "Amusement Park", sounds like the first extra-radio-and-club-friendly track of the bunch. It also follows in line with previous tracks of 50's like "Magic Stick" and "Candy Shop", in that it takes a concept largely popular amongst children (magic, candy, roller coasters) and smothers it in sexual innuendo. I don't know how the masses feel about this, but for me, this angle is not only running out of steam (the song is pretty lame), but it's also a little disturbing.

Perhaps this is all preparation for 50's next feature film, Get Rich Or Die Trying To Make Hit Records Based On Jokes You Made In Middle School. Here's a sample of what the soundtrack has to offer:

"Animal Sounds Farm"

My dog is barkin' like 'ROAW! ROAW! ROAW!'/
Your kitty cat is sayin' 'Meow! Meow! Meow!'/
The chicken goes 'Cluck!'/
The cow goes 'Moo!'/
And when I hit the right spot she goes 'Ooooh!'

"Happy Meal"

Open your mouth, and eat this French Fry/
And I'll open your box, and find the toy inside/
You can drink my milkshake, and when it's all done wit'/
You can play all night in my ball pit

"Vending Machine"

Press the buttons, girl, and take your pick/
You want something to suck? Or something to lick?/
When it's my turn to choose, I don't need to spend a dime/
I just put my hand up the slot, and grab what I find

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Shape of Things to Come

Another NBA season, another first round matchup vs. Phoenix, and another early exit for the Lakers. Not that it's all that surprising though, considering they were playing a Suns team that has had their number all season long (not counting the fluke opening night win without Kobe).

Even though this series with the Suns ended earlier than last year's series which stretched to 7 games and was ultimately the Lakers' series to lose (which is exactly what ended up happening), and the Lakers' regular-season record of 42-40 was 3 wins less than their record in '06-'07, I have to say that I'm more optimistic about the Lakers team that will head into the '07-'08 season than I was about this past season's team approximately one year ago, when I put this together in a drunken stupor following the Lakers' embarrassing Game 7 loss. [Well, technically I thought it up in drunken stupor, then sobered up and typed it out the next day. My record is clean, no BUI's (blogging under the influence).]

While the '05-'06 Lakers played to their best abilities and still came up short, this past season's Lakers had a lot of promise that, though it stuck around until about the All-Star break, ultimately went unfulfilled. Though optimism doesn't win championships, there were a lot of "what if" questions that we'll never know the answers to -- questions that didn't apply to the '05-'06 Lakers the way that they did to this recently-eliminated Lakers team. What if Kwame Brown didn't miss 41 games? Perhaps a full season's worth of playing time would've kept him motivated and allowed him to develop some sort of consistent offensive game, not to mention taken some pressure off of Andrew Bynum, who clearly wasn't ready for so much responsibility just yet. What if Vladimir Radmanovic weren't an idiot? Perhaps he'd be providing something more than just his dashing Euro flair, like some much-needed outside shooting to take some of the double-team pressure off of Kobe. What if the team wasn't without Lamar Odom and Luke Walton -- easily their 2nd and 3rd best players -- for long, and at times overlapping, stretches of the regular season?

Perhaps they wouldn't have dropped from fighting for 1st-round home-court advantage early in the season to nail-biting their way to the #7 seed at the end of the season. I think it's fair to say that Dallas wouldn't have topped 60 wins without Jason Terry and Josh Howard each missing 20+ games, nor would Phoenix have done the same without Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion each missing significant time.

But, once again, these are all "what if's", and relying on all key players being 100% healthy for an entire 82-game NBA season is not realistic. As part of the aforementioned drunken stupor I was in following last year's Game 7 loss, I thought that it would be best for the Lakers to just overhaul the whole roster, and build something new around Kobe. I admit that such a view was short-sighted, but not entirely off -- the Lakers made very few changes to their roster during the last off-season and their lack of progress has shown as a result. I think it is clear that there needs to be some new players wearing purple and gold next year, and that Laker mainstays like Brian Cook and Sasha Vujacic have done all that they can. I'm not saying that those 2 in particular need to be gone, but more so that they just can't be depended on to play sizeable roles on a playoff team.

First off, Luke Walton is a free agent, and he needs to be kept. His play was huge early in the season when Odom got injured. Luke has shown a vastly-improved offensive game, and though his once-reliable 3-point shot wasn't the same after his injuries, his mid-range game was still fairly in tact, and he has a good eye for taking advantage of mismatches. Overall, he has improved in every area, and has proved to be key in the effectiveness of the Triangle offense.

Smush Parker is a free agent, and he needs to go. Somewhere far away. Put some miles on that Smushcalade. His "humble beginnings" background story and the fact that he's been a starting point guard while playing for minimal NBA money for these past 2 seasons might keep him well-liked amongst die-hard Laker fans, much in the same way we tipped a 40 for the departures of players like Slava Medvedenko and Devean George, but it's time to say goodbye to Smush -- the longer he stays, the more defensive assignments he misses, the more open shots he passes up with the shot-clock winding down, the more headbands he throws, the more he's going to be disliked by much of the greater-LA area.

There aren't too many options available on the market for the Lakers to improve their roster too dramatically, but there are a couple that stand out as being hopeful. Bonzi Wells could be had for cheap considering how he ran himself out of Houston this season. As has been pointed out several times by sportswriter Roland Lazenby in his fabulous blog Lakernoise, it is the feeling of Laker assistant, and Phil Jackson's mentor, Tex Winter that the Triangle offense would be most effective with Kobe at small forward (as noted here). While this move may cut into Luke Walton's minutes, it is worth noting that when Maurice Evans (at shooting guard) was on his game and playing alongside Kobe (at small forward), the Lakers were very dangerous. I don't think too many would disagree that Bonzi is an improvement over Evans. A big question mark to all of this, though, is Bonzi's checkered past as a bit of a "problem child" amongst the teams he's played on, with this recent episode in Houston being the latest episode.

There's also some potential to take advantage of the sorry situation that the Seattle Sonics are in, what with their 2 potentially-starting point guards who hate each other, and their future in Seattle dependent on a "miracle". If the Sonics are ready to implode, the Lakers should definitely be first in line to pick up the scraps. Earl Watson (a UCLA grad) and Luke Ridnour are both upgrades over what the Lakers currently have at point guard, as Jordan Farmar, much like Bynum, is looking promising but isn't ready for starter minutes just yet.

And of course, trade rumors surrounding names like Jason Kidd, Jermaine O'Neal, and Kevin Garnett likely won't die out anytime soon -- that seems to be Kobe's preferred path to improvement. Who knows, maybe something will actually come to fruition this off-season.

You've got to crawl before you ball, and, optimistically speaking, the Lakers are in the process of getting both feet firmly planted on the ground -- I see them as being a couple of key role players (whether or not those players come from this current roster or from elsewhere reamins to be seen) or just one other superstar (see above picture) away from reaching the 2nd round, and if growth continues, maybe a couple seasons away from title contention. Whether or not Phil Jackson will be there when that time comes is anybody's guess, but honestly, and I may be in the minority here, I don't think that will make as much of a difference to the Lakers' long-term success as getting the right players will make. Phil just doesn't seem healthy enough to be an effective coach, nor does it look like his heart is in it anymore. The whole hands-off, "sit back and watch the Triangle work its magic"-approach may have worked wonders with MJ and Scottie, as well as with Kobe and Shaq, but with this current Lakers team, I think it's taken them as far as it can.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

MCs Just Wanna Have Fun

Lost in all of this media hype about hip hop and degrading lyrics and Don Imus' comments and this "Stop Snitching" madness is the fact that most hip hop artists, much like you and I, are really all about having a good time. Here a few examples of MCs, who would likely cause Bill O'Reilly to clutch his purse if he saw them walking down the street, taking themselves just a little less seriously.

[Also a common trait amongst each of the following -- they'll all be appearing at Rock The Bells on August 11th in San Bernardino. As you can see, I'm taking it upon myself to spread the anticipation, like butter on breakfast toast.]

The RZA, the GZA, and the BZA, er, Bill Murray in Jim Jarmusch's Coffee and Cigarettes.
-- "You stupid, yo."
-- "He is stupid, isn't he?"

A series of vignettes Ghostface did for MTV2, entitled "The World According To Pretty Toney", for all you "smart dumb cats" out there.

Cypress Hill brought to life on The Simpsons, down to their dance moves. I'd give anything for a full-length "Insane In The Brain" remix featuring the London Symphony Orchestra -- my soul, a few bucks, whichever is worth more.

The classic "Black Bush" sketch from Season 2 of Chappelle's Show, featuring a cameo from Mos Def as the Black Head of the CIA. Viacom cracking the whip on YouTube means that the only version of this I could find has Portuguese subtitles -- in other words, everybody wins!