Introducing the Triangle All-Stars: Meet the Starters

Illustration by Elias Stein

The Triangle All-Star team is a way for the Triangle blog to celebrate our favorite players. This week we will introduce you to the people’s Dream Team — the crazy characters, untapped talents, and head cases who make the NBA our favorite thing to watch. We begin with the starters. This year, we’ve changed over the roster entirely. Well … almost.

C DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings (cocaptain)

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Why We Love Him: Sometimes, legacy matters. DeMarcus Cousins is the only holdover from last season’s Triangle All-Stars. Up until this summer, the idea of Boogie leading a freshman orientation or being a team leader might have sounded like the pitch for either a comedy or a disaster movie. Then the FIBA World Cup happened. And like so many NBA stars before him, the international basketball stage changed Cousins. And, more importantly, it changed how people think of him.

After scoring 13 and grabbing 10 boards in the gold-medal game against Serbia, this is what people were saying about Cousins:

You can use all the superlatives you want … and apply them to DeMarcus. He made the team, made a major contribution, made tremendous strides. In the locker room after our win over Serbia, DeMarcus in particular was emotional. He hugged me and thanked me for putting him on the team, and I told him, “the past is the past. This is the beginning of your career. Take everything you learned back to Sacramento. You can build on this and have a tremendous career.”

That’s Jerry Colangelo talking. Just months before that, USA Basketball’s chairman was telling the press about how Cousins needed to grow up. By mid-September, they were embracing in the locker room.

Want more? Coach K said Boogie basically saved democracy:

Cousins really, I think, turned the game around. I don’t only think; I know. Watching [him], I’m saying, “Whoa,” we just made another stop, or he just made another stop.

Coach K. Jerry Colangelo. This is nuts. This is Boogie we’re talking about. It sounds like Cousins has taken the lessons of Spain and brought them back to Sacramento. He’s got his teammates singing his praises. Ryan Hollins says he has Dirk- and Garnett-type talent; Omri Casspi thinks he can be the most dominant big in the league.

This is happening. The Triangle All-Stars are all about how people can change. You are not what it says on a scouting report. You can grow out of bad habits and into good ones. Last year, Sharp said there are two types of basketball fan: those who love Boogie, and those who are wrong. After this season, the former camp is going to be a lot bigger. And the rest of you will still be wrong.

Or you can just disregard all of the above and go with this: Anyone who is out here calling Chris Paul a punk and just not caring what people think about that makes the Tri-Stars.

Video Evidence: Yo, is this even real life?

Great Moments in Social Media History: Best IG of the summer:

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Why Some People Don’t Love Him: He can be a head case who lets emotions take him out of the game.

Final Word/2015 Predictions: He’s having a pretttttty good preseason, guys.

Western Conference All-Star. Keeps the Kings in the playoffs convo. Definitely gets in a fight with CP3.

SG Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers (cocaptain)

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Why We Love Him: The Walter White of locker-room chemistry.1 Dion is the 100 emoji. Every team needs a wild card — the dude who is going to turn a boring Wednesday-night visit to Detroit into either a personal highlight film or a personal Alamo. Some night in December, Dion Waiters is going to do something extraordinary, whether that’s scoring 40 points in a half or suplexing Tristan Thompson at midcourt. Either way, he is the one big question mark hanging over the Cavs roster (aside from the lack of big men).

Video Evidence and Great Moment in Social Media: Tweet of the summer:

Why Some People Don’t Love Him: If any one thing will stop the Cavs from becoming the league-destroying Star Harvester Transformer that they have the potential to be, it’s Waiters. He is the dude who spoils Game of Thrones for you. He is Debbie Downer. He is the rain on your wedding day. He will be out there mercilessly chucking, while three All-NBA-caliber players call for the ball. And when LeBron is yelling, and Kevin Love is sulking, and Kyrie is rolling his eyes, you know what Dion will think? I’d do it again. He truly believes he is the best basketball player in the world, EVEN THOUGH HE IS PLAYING WITH THE BEST BASKETBALL PLAYER IN THE WORLD.

Final Word/2015 Predictions: He’s either making the Eastern Conference All-Star team or getting traded to the Qingdao Double Star Eagles. There is no in-between with Dion.

PF Gorgui Dieng, Minnesota Timberwolves

Why We Love Him: We can start with his name. “Gorg-ee” is just fun to say. It’s even better to scream. The only thing better than the first name is his nickname: DIENGHIS KHAN.

You may be wondering now, “Why am I reading about a power forward who averaged 4.2 points per game last year?” Well, did you read the part about the nickname? That alone earns him a spot.

And don’t let the numbers deceive you. As most true basketball addicts know already, Rick Adelman refused to unleash Dienghis Khan until the final months of last season, when he averaged 12 and 12 and 2 blocks as a T-Wolves starter. That was just a prelude to the FIBA World Cup, where Gorgui blew up for 16 and 11 and had at least one blogger calling him Senegal’s Dirk Nowitzki.

What more do you need to know? He speaks five languages, and as a profile from last preseason notes, he’s fluent in basketball. Most importantly: Would you rather watch the Wolves with a pouty superstar who will never be good enough to carry them anywhere or would you rather watch Rubio, Wiggins, and Dienghis Khan?

Video Evidence: Meet the future of the T-Wolves.

Great Moments in Social Media History: Gorgui doesn’t really have time for social media — his Twitter account is a bunch of blurry photos, mostly — which only means that Gorgui is smarter than the rest of us. We did find this, though. Also the future of the T-Wolves.

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It’s totally fair if you’re not ready to lose your mind over Gorgui Dieng, but everyone in the world can get onboard with Corgi Dieng.

Why Some People Don’t Love Him: He’s in Minnesota and nobody watches the T-Wolves? He averaged only 4.8 points per game last year? His name’s hard to pronounce? There are plenty of reasons people may not love him. But then again, there are plenty of people who don’t love pizza, people who don’t love ice cream. It’s not worth getting hung up on why. The point is that those people are wrong.

Final Word/2015 Predictions: Double-double machine. Alley-oops. Most Improved Player award. Good enough down low to convince the Wolves to move Pekovic. Good enough to own Minneapolis by April. Good enough to wipe out 10 percent of the NBA’s population. Prepare yourselves.

SG, Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors

Why We Love Him: Here’s where things stand with Klay Thompson: He spent June and July wondering if he’d be sent to the Great Basketball Wasteland in a trade for Kevin Love. He had to endure the conversations about his value and just how high his ceiling is on the eve of his contract year. Then he went to Spain with Team USA, and we got our first look at Contract Year Klay, a.k.a. Chip on His Shoulder Klay, when he dropped 20 points on Slovenia.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLyfOeSJRuA

Up to this point, the most fun things about Klay are that he was once caught with weed while in college and it’s rumored that his parents have him on an allowance. This season he has a chance to build on this already tantalizing legacy by becoming a more consistent contributor of the Splash Brothers backcourt and developing the ability to create his own shot. If the Warriors’ preseason and the FIBA World Cup are any indication, he’s aware of the stakes.

Video Evidence:

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Great Moments in Social Media History:

Why Some People Don’t Love Him: Klay is one of the best shooters in the league, but it’s rough being a 3-point specialist when you’re not even the best one on your team. Until now (hopefully), the rest of his offensive game has been underwhelming, which is why so many people thought the Warriors were foolish for not trading him. Even though he was a solid defender under Mark Jackson, he honored his coach on the court by making impassioned but idiotic decisions.

He couldn’t stay on the court against the Clippers in last season’s playoffs because he committed so many dumb fouls (and because Mark Jackson refused to take him out in the first quarter when he picked up two). “Playing smart” is probably not the way you’d describe him. Perfect for the Triangle All-Stars.

Final Word/2015 Predictions: If we believe in anything, we believe in Klaytheism. Shake off the criticism and get to work. In Klay we trust.

PG, Reggie Jackson, OKC Thunder

Reggie_Jackson_card

Why We Love Him: He’s not the straw that stirs the drink. That’s Durant. He’s not the alcohol, either. That’s Westbrook. Ibaka is the salt around the rim. Reggie is the little umbrella.

Everything he gives OKC is a bonus. Or at least that’s how it used to be. Then Durant started talking about free agency, OKC stumbled into the most important season in franchise history, and now the most explosive role player on the roster is twice as important. All that was true even before KD went down for the first two months of the season.

The Triangle All-Stars are all about champions of the people. Underdogs. And there may not be a better underdog in the NBA. Reggie was born in Italy, moved to North Dakota, and eventually settled in the hoops hotbed known as … Colorado Springs? Even when he was a freshman at Boston College you could see he was athletic, but nobody ever thought he could be this.

He’s dunking on people, he gets into the lane whenever he wants, he’s nailing step-back jumpers. It’s like he absorbed Westbrook’s powers by osmosis. He scored 32 points with nine rebounds against the Grizzlies in the playoffs to save the Thunder’s season last year, and if you believe in OKC’s title chances this year, the easiest way to convince anyone is to mention Reggie Jackson playing more minutes.

We’re not sure if we believe in OKC’s title chances this year, but we definitely believe in Reggie Jackson playing more minutes.

Video Evidence: Greatest offensive foul in Boston College history.

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As for the NBA, we could show highlights from that Grizzlies playoff explosion, but no, COME GET SOME KENNETH FARIED.

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Great Moments in Social Media History:

We were already all in on Reggie Jackson, but after seeing him rep for Adele like this, we will fight for him to the death.

Why Some People Don’t Love Him: Sam Presti may not love Reggie because he wants to get paid like a superstar. Thunder fans may try not to love him too much so they don’t get their hearts broken if he leaves next summer. Grizzlies fans will probably hate him forever. Everyone else? You have no excuses.

Final Word/2015 Predictions: KD’s hurt, OKC’s desperate. It’s all about Reggie now. “I don’t think about ever coming off the bench for any team,” he said in September. “If that’s the role I’m put in, that’s what I’m put in. But since the day I thought about playing in the NBA, I’ve always been a starter … It’s very prideful for me. I feel like I’m very talented. I feel like I can lead a team. That’s just how I’ve been raised and that’s just how I’ve always felt. I want to be the guy in charge. I want to be the guy leading the team. The head of the snake.”

The head of the snake. Don’t get bit, Faried.

It’s hard to say if Jackson will be enough to put this Thunder team over the top, but he definitely thinks he will be, and that’s the first step.

Our 2015 predictions include lots of dunks and maybe even an All-Star berth, then getting ignored in the playoffs again while Durant and Westbrook try to do everything and Scott Brooks does nothing (again). Whatever happens, it ends with Reggie getting PAID this summer and probably going somewhere else — Milwaukee??? — where the takeover will continue. He deserves to be head of the snake. And you know, if you think about it, fuck the straw that stirs the drink. That little umbrella can stir things just fine.

Inline images by Robb Harskamp

Filed Under: 2014-15 NBA Preview, NBA, Triangle All-Stars, demarcus cousins, Dion Waiters, Klay Thompson, Reggie Jackson, Gorgui Dieng, Juliet Litman, Andrew Sharp, Chris Ryan