Anytime someone asked if I was watching Game of Thrones, I explained that it wasn’t my kind of show. They always had the same reaction: “What????? It’s a great show! How can you not watch it? It makes no sense!”
From there, I’d explain that the whole dragon/sword/forest era was never really my thing — dating back to the 1980s, when the Dungeons and Dragons kids took it to a pretty creepy place — and somewhere along the line, I decided that I just didn’t enjoy voyaging into the forest. For any reason. If I could hold out on Lord of the Rings, then I could hold out on Game of Thrones. What changed? On the day after Season 2’s epic “Blackwater” episode aired, I happened to be in Grantland’s office as everyone was breathlessly rehashing it. At one point, Hollywood Prospectus editor Mark Lisanti glanced over to me and said, “I can’t believe you don’t watch this show.”
I knew that disappointed, semi-incredulous look — it’s the same one I direct at my father every time he admits that he hasn’t started Mad Men yet (even though I bought him the Season 1 DVD two years ago). What are you doing? I thought you liked TV. This makes no sense! That night on the phone, my buddy House agreed with Lisanti’s disbelief and added, “Just so you know, that show has a ton of nudity.” Well then! I started watching that weekend and the rest was history.
By the fourth episode, I knew we had a winner for my annual “Recap the NBA’s summer movement by handing out TV/movie quotes as awards” column. The overriding theme of Thrones — jockeying for power by any means necessary — should sound familiar to any basketball fan. Maybe the NBA doesn’t have dragon babies, beheadings and incest (at least not yet), but it has just about everything else. Without further ado
“I’m looking at spending the rest of my life being treated like a fool and a eunuch by my own people. Ask yourself: Is there anything I wouldn’t do to stop that from happening?”
For Rockets GM Daryl Morey, who took the phrase “all in” to new levels with his dogged pursuit of Dwight Howard. At this point, Dork Elvis has done everything short of holding a boom box in the pouring rain outside of Dwight’s Los Angeles hotel and that’s probably happening tomorrow night. His strategy makes sense: You can’t win the title without a top-10 player. Unfortunately for the Rockets, they’ve been trapped in NBA no-man’s-land ever since T-Mac and Yao broke down. Last year, they barely missed the playoffs AND paid the luxury tax, which simply can’t happen — in a 30-team league, you either want to bottom out or contend, but you can’t be in the middle. The Rockets spent the last three years stockpiling assets and cap space for this exact moment. It’s Howard, Bynum or Bust.1
I’ve written this before, but Daryl’s strategy is statistically fascinating — if he pulled a 2012 Hornets and tanked an entire season, he’d have something like a 10 to 12 percent chance of drafting a franchise player when you multiply the best lottery odds (25 percent) with the odds of a legitimate franchise player being available during that specific year (probably 50-60 percent). If he gets Howard, the odds aren’t much different that Howard might decide to stick around — maybe 10 to 15 percent — only he gets one contending season with Howard, the chance to sign and trade him AND eight to 10 months on selling Howard on Houston. And if none of this works even as next season is happening, he can always flip him before the trade deadline. Again, as a pure “playing the odds” ploy, it makes sense.
Were there a few days when it seemed like Morey had outsmarted himself? Actually, yeah. The Rockets allowed an emerging offensive star (Goran Dragic) to leave for Phoenix (four years, $34 million), then dealt one of the league’s best bargains (Kyle Lowry, owed just $12 million total for the next two seasons) for a future lottery pick to help The Howard Trade That Might Not Happen, going from two quality point guards to zero in about five nanoseconds. That’s when one of my incredulous readers e-mailed me, “At what point are we going to find out that Dork Elvis overdosed on bath salts and tried to eat Kevin McHale’s face off?” He salvaged that mini-crisis by giving Jeremy Lin a back-loaded offer sheet ($24.9 million, three years) that the Knicks didn’t match. Why not just re-sign Dragic (a better player than Lin) instead of sweating out an offer sheet and banking on James Dolan doing the wrong thing?
(Wait I forgot there are few safer bets in sports than James Dolan doing the wrong thing. You’re right.)
“We’ve had vicious kings and we’ve had idiot kings, but I don’t know if we’ve ever been cursed with a vicious idiot for a king.”
(Cut to the Knicks fans nodding.)
Here’s the thing: The Knicks haven’t worried about the financial ramifications of a basketball decision since Dolan’s daddy turned the team over to him. Even the most grizzled, beaten-down Knicks diehard would admit, “Dolan might be incompetent, but you can’t say he’s afraid to spend money.” That why I agree with what Jay Kang wrote earlier this week — this wasn’t a financially motivated decision, just a spiteful one. Dolan didn’t appreciate Lin’s agent proactively screwing him over with a poison pill2 offer, and responded accordingly.
Despite what Lin said publicly, I think he wanted to go to the Rockets — which is why his agent structured the offer sheet that way. Put it this way: If you’re Lin, and you’re a relatively private guy who just wants to get paid to play basketball without being thrust in the middle of some ego-ridden soap opera, would you rather lead a team like the Rockets — where they’d build their entire offense around you and let you do your thing — or would you rather play on the Knicks with two other point guards and two me-first scorers who can’t succeed unless the offense is running through them at all times? And by the way — the biggest loser here was Tyson Chandler, who loved playing with Lin and actually touched the ball once in a while with him. He’ll never see it again. Good luck setting those screens for the next three years, Tyson.
You don’t pull that sneaky shit with me after everything I did for you! I’m James F-ing Dolan! Go to Houston for all I care, you’ll never be seen again!
That was the only plausible explanation: pure, unadulterated spite. When you’re hopelessly over the cap like New York (thanks, Amar’e!) and you’ve already proven that you don’t care about being fiscally responsible, why allow a 23-year-old asset to leave for nothing especially someone who resonated with your fan base like no Knick since Latrell Sprewell? Lin would have been underpaid in years one and two and violently overpaid in year three (including luxury tax ramifications, Lin would have cost the Knicks $43 million in year three). Well so what? What about Lin’s value overseas, or even his undeniable effect on MSG’s stock? (It couldn’t have been a coincidence that Houston, the one team that knew exactly how valuable someone with a Far East marketing reach could be, was the one that pursued Lin.) Couldn’t Lin have helped the Knicks contend next season? And after that, they could have traded him in year two or year three to a team with cap space (or for a better player) with other pieces thrown in. Who said they had to keep him for all three years? Why not bring him back and figure the rest out later?
For everyone dismissing last season’s Linsanity binge as something of a fluke, here’s a news flash for you: This isn’t baseball. This isn’t Kevin Maas or Phil Plantier catching fire for a few weeks before the league figured them out. I watched those games. Even in a somewhat small sample size, Lin proved that he’s either a quality starter (best-case scenario) or something of a rich man’s J.J. Barea, an irrational confidence guy who gives you instant offense off the bench (worst-case scenario). Letting an asset leave for nothing? Really stupid. Letting that asset leave because you’d rather spend that money on Jason Kidd (39 years old, effectively washed-up), Marcus Camby (on his last legs) and Ray Felton (the most loathed Trail Blazer maybe ever)? That’s really stupid AND an appallingly bad business decision. And by the way
“Tears aren’t a woman’s only weapon. The best one’s between your legs.”3
SPOILER ALERT — This quote was uttered by Cersei, the incestuous queen who cracks the short list of the most evil female characters in TV history. She doesn’t have a single redeeming quality other than her love for her children who, of course, were little creepy incest babies. Needless to say, she’s hot and I’m attracted to her.
Smart advice (at least in medieval times) for the entire Knicks fan base. You only have one weapon as fans: The right to stop supporting your team. I hate to break it to you, but you have a better chance of watching this entire song 100 times in a row without stopping than seeing Dolan sell the Knicks. He will own your team until he dies, or until he’s electrocuted by a suicidal microphone during a JD and the Straight Shot concert (whatever comes first). That’s another 30 to 40 years. With Brooklyn launching a second New York team next October, you have a natural out — a one-time-only chance to run from Dolan, switch local allegiances and never look back. You could also renounce the Knicks and become an NBA widow. Or, you could be a loyal sap, remain a Knicks fan and be perpetually bitter but at the very least, sleep well at night knowing that you stuck with your boys through thick and thin. I support any of those three choices. Either way, it’s a shame that one of the best fan bases in any sport is saddled with an owner like that.
(Important note: As many Knicks fans have pointed out, “On paper, the Brooklyn switch makes sense but is it really a peace-of-mind upgrade to go from James Dolan to Billy King and an absentee Russian owner?” Solid counter.)
“Three victories don’t make you a conqueror.”
“It’s better than three defeats.”
To the suddenly rejuvenated Hornets, who found themselves a new owner (the Benson family), rebuilt themselves through the draft (The Brow and Austin Rivers), free agency (matching Eric Gordon’s max offer sheet from Phoenix, then plucking Dorkapalooza favorite Ryan Anderson away from Orlando for $36 million) and one savvy salary dump (dumping cap-clogging Emeka Okafor/Trevor Ariza contracts on Washington for Rashard Lewis’s Expiring Contract, then quickly buying out Lewis). I didn’t expect to be interested in the Hornets for League Pass purposes before 2014 at least. Who knew? And by the way you know who gets the lion’s share of the credit here?
“I am a Khaleesi of the Dothraki. I am the wife of the great Khal and I carry his son inside me. The next time you raise a hand to me will be the last time you have hands!”
To David Stern, who turned out to be right (retroactively, but still) when he vetoed a package that netted New Orleans Luis Scola (amnesthetized last week and signed for half the cost), Kevin Martin (very available), Dragic and Houston’s 2012 first-rounder, didn’t save the Hornets money, didn’t allow them to bottom out AND gift-wrapped Chris Paul to the Lakers while somehow saving them millions. The revised deal sent the Hornets expiring contracts, a potential All-Star (Gordon), and Minnesota’s no. 1 pick (turned out to be Austin Rivers at no. 10) and allowed them to bottom out (and stumble into the no. 1 overall pick). Looking back, it’s no contest and I’m embarrassed that I defended the first deal, especially when they didn’t dump Okafor’s contract or Ariza’s contract in it. And did we learn something that even the people running the NBA believe that, unless you can contend for the title, you’re better off bottoming out and buying a lottery ticket? Yes. Yes we did.
“Don’t take it personally, I hardly trust myself!”
Does that mean Stern was vindicated by The Veto? Nooooooooooo! He disgraced the league (and his own legacy, and Dell Demps) with the pigheaded way he handled it. The end did not justify the means. I don’t think he cares. As Chuck Klosterman and I discussed on the B.S. Report this week, not only does the Notorious D.J.S. have his mojo back, he actually seems to be embracing his newfound status as something of a wrestling heel. Will we ever see another sports commissioner cup his ears and encourage the boos at a league event (like Stern did during this year’s draft)? I say no.
Once upon a time, league insiders thought Stern would retire after negotiating last year’s television deal and labor agreement. Now? The consensus seems to be, “He’s not going ANYWHERE.” He’s like Lorne Michaels in this respect — both guys know that, as long as they’re running the NBA or SNL, everyone will return their calls, everyone will take their meetings, everyone will kiss their asses and fall all over themselves trying to please them, everyone will give them the best table in the restaurant and the best suite in the hotel, nobody will question them using the company jet, and basically, they’re going to matter. Once you walk away, that’s it. You’re yesterday’s news. I see both guys holding on as long as they possibly can. Wouldn’t you? And on that note, Adam Silver will now light himself on fire.
(Quick spoiler-free tangent about Khaleesi: Before I started watching Thrones, a reader e-mailed me that there wasn’t a more exciting television moment than seeing the “N” (for nudity) in the opening credits before a Thrones episode, then spending the next hour rooting for the “N” to somehow involve Khaleesi. When I started watching the show and Khaleesi got naked in something like three of the first four episodes, it all made sense. Somehow she kept her clothes on during the entire second season — an egregious oversight by HBO that should have resulted in multiple high-level firings and maybe even a public apology. It’s not like the actress playing Khaleesi is the next Meryl Streep or anything. But between Sookie (from True Blood) and Khaleesi, it’s safe to say that HBO pushed 10 million teenage boys through puberty these past few years.)
“I am Daenerys Stormborn and I will take what is mine, with fire and blood.”
You know who got paid? JaVale McGee! Amazingly, Denver gave him $44 million over four years and even more amazingly, I can’t make fun of it. (He was electric in that Lakers series — you could say he took what was his, with fire and blood.) If you’re scoring at home, the Nuggets could have been stuck paying Carmelo and Nene $100 million over the next three years. Instead, they flipped those guys and spent a little less on Arron Afflalo, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and McGee. Really smart considering they were going to lose Carmelo anyway. I’m giving Kevin O’Connor’s spot in the Smart GM Club to Masai Ujiri — if you trade an expiring contract for two years of Marvin Williams, you’re suspended from the Smart GM Club for one year. Sorry.
“A Dothraki wedding without at least three deaths is considered a dull affair.”
One of the show’s funniest moments goes to one of the month’s funniest moments — Mark Cuban missing Deron Williams’s visit to Dallas for the Mavericks’ big “Here’s why you should play for us, Deron” pitch. Why? Because Cuban was in Los Angeles taping that week’s episode of Shark Tank. Does anyone else keep picturing this exchange?
Williams: “So why isn’t Mark here? Is he running late?”
(Donnie Nelson and Rick Carlisle glance at each other nervously.)
Jeff Schwartz (Williams’s agent): “Shouldn’t we wait for him?”
Nelson (finally): “Mark can’t make it today.”
Schwartz: “What happened? Family emergency or something?”
(Nelson and Carlisle glance at each other nervously again.)
Williams: “Is everything all right?”
Carlisle (finally): “Have you ever seen the show he’s on, Shark Tank?
(Williams and Schwartz look at him blankly.)
Carlisle: “Well ”
Anyway, you’re not gonna believe this, but Williams ended up re-signing with Brooklyn. Normally I’d have more barbs here but I actually enjoy Shark Tank. I fully support Cuban’s decision to throw away Dallas’s 2012 title defense to create enough cap space to potentially sign a marquee free agent like Williams, then to miss THE crucial pitch meeting with Williams because he was contractually obligated to tape a reality-TV show. I care more about Shark Tank than the fate of the Mavericks. If I rooted for the Mavericks? I might not be as happy.
“I’ll tell you what. I’m going to give you a present. After I raise my armies and kill your traitor brother, I’ll give you his head as well.”
One of the show’s cockiest quotes goes to Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti, who made the Finals, then followed that up by drafting Perry Jones (this year’s big feast-or-famine post-lottery pick) and signing Hasheem Thabeet (for the veteran’s minimum, but still). Both moves reeked of a little “I don’t care if everyone else is scared off, I can fix this, I’m Sam Effing Presti!!!!!” swagger. I thoroughly enjoyed them. By the way, no TV show ever used beheadings and severed heads more effectively than Thrones — it really makes you long for the days when you could celebrate a big win by putting your opponent’s head on a stake.4
SPOILER ALERT — The most famous beheading of the show doubled as one of the most shocking TV moments — when Ned Stark, the star of the show and a dead ringer for a medieval Triple H, got beheaded for “treason” (terrible call, by the way — I’m convinced Danny Crawford and Marc Davis were involved) near the end of Season 1. As a society, we’ve done a superb job with this whole “spoiler alert” thing, because when I watched that moment well after it happened, I had no idea it was coming and nearly passed out. Now I’m prepared for anyone and everyone to die. Effective plot device.
“Even torturing you is boring.”
Speaking of Hasheem the Dream, Memphis got a combined five and a half years total out of Thabeet and O.J. Mayo — picked no. 2 overall and no. 3 overall, respectively, in back-to-back drafts — and nobody cares because they still stumbled into having a pseudo-contender of a team. Will we ever see THAT happen again?
“Just because I pay you for your services doesn’t diminish our friendship.”
“Enhances it, really.”
To the agent for Ramon Sessions (Jared Karnes), who narrowly edged the agent for Aaron Brooks (Leon Rose) for 2012’s Bill Duffy/Anthony Carter Memorial “Biggest Agent Screwup” Trophy. You can’t totally blame Rose for telling Brooks to grab some Chinese league money during the lockout, then watching in horror as the lockout abruptly ended, Brooks couldn’t get out of his deal, then Brooks’s Chinese team cruised all the way to the Whatever The Hell The Chinese League Finals Are
and by the time it was over, Brooks never caught onto a 2011-12 NBA team, then was totally overlooked this month and ended up settling for a meager two-year deal in Sacramento.5 But that wasn’t as indefensible as Karnes telling Sessions to give up a $4.55 million player option with the Lakers to test free agency, assuming they’d extend his deal even after Sessions’s epic no-show in the playoffs. Nope. The Lakers grabbed Steve Nash, and Sessions eventually landed with the lowly Bobcats for a two-year,
$5 $10 million deal. Whoops.
By the way what the hell? Aaron Brooks is good! He averaged nearly 20 a game two years ago, gives you instant offense off the bench and makes 40 percent of his 3s? Why was everyone asleep at the wheel here? Did Brooks gain 25 pounds becoming addicted to General Tso’s chicken in China or something? So what if the Kings already had a roster full of perimeter guys and black holes? I liked that signing!
(The lesson, as always: There’s no luckier team than the Lakers. Had Sessions exercised that player option, they would have had to spend the summer shopping Sessions or Steve Blake so they didn’t have to pay three point guards. Like always, it worked out for them thanks to someone doing something dumb. God, I hate the Lakers.)
“I’ve much liked my head. I don’t want to see it removed just yet.”
To the Spurs, who kept it simple by re-signing Duncan at a discount ($30 million for three years), then used the extra money to re-sign Danny Green and Boris Diaw. You know when you say, “Let’s run it back?” When you blow the Western Conference Finals because Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka shot 18-for-20 on the road in Game 5 (something that, it’s safe to say, will NEVER happen again), then Durant finished you off that same game by doing everything short of shooting flames out of his ass, then you couldn’t buy a call to save your life in Game 6 and suddenly you were heading home wondering what the hell just happened. Personally, I think the Spurs watched Oklahoma City melt down in the Finals and said to themselves, “We were a very good team that may have just been unlucky.” Either way
“Anyone can be killed.”
I’m firing every editor we have if they don’t destroy my Game 2 Spurs-OKC retro diary from Grantland’s archives soon.
“Take the half-man, he can dance for the children; kill the other one!”
For my single favorite moment of the month: Toronto going all out for Steve Nash, even giving Landry Fields a $19 million poison-pill contract in a desperate attempt to block New York’s rumored Steve Nash trade only the Lakers snared Nash and poor Toronto was stuck with Fields,6 leading to a hilarious scenario when the Raptors immediately tried to amnesty Fields’s deal even as he was signing it. (Just kidding. I made that up.)
Fields made just 25.6 percent of his 3s last year and had an astonishingly bad 12.0 PER.
You know what the whole thing reminded me of? The Larry Sanders roast (one of the greatest TV episodes of all time7), when Artie had to book an obscure comedian named Kip Addotta to get Jerry Seinfeld at the roast, only Seinfeld canceled at the last minute, leading to Addotta droning on at the roast as Larry fake-laughed in pure misery. Eventually, he leaned over to Artie for the following exchange:
Larry: “Who the f-ck is that?”
Artie: “That’s Kip Addotta.”
Larry: “Who’s that?”
Larry’s agent: “He’s the guy we had to get to get Seinfeld.”
Larry: “Where’s Seinfeld?”
Larry’s agent: “The bastard canceled an hour ago.”
Basically, Toronto’s summer was the Larry Sanders roast, Steve Nash was Jerry Seinfeld, and Landry Fields was Kip Addotta. The good news for Toronto: They salvaged things (a little) by acquiring Lowry, and everyone loves last year’s no. 1 pick (Jonas Valanciunas, a stud by all accounts). We don’t need to get rid of basketball in Canada just yet.
“And here we have Bronn, son of
“You wouldn’t know him.”
One of the show’s best sneaky-funny exchanges goes to the sneakiest-funniest subplot of this month — Orlando insisting on shedding many of its “bad” contracts (Glen Davis, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, etc.) in any Dwight Howard deal, and then, even as they’re doing this, they extend Jameer Nelson with a three-year, $19.7 million contract that’s just as “bad” as any of those other contracts. But hey, anytime you can overpay a 30-year-old point guard who can’t defend anyone, gives you 12 and 6 every night, makes 42 percent of his shots and hasn’t played at a high level in three years even as you’re desperately trying to create cap room with a megadeal at the same time, I guess you have to do it.
“Death is so final — whereas life is full of possibilities.”
To the Rockets, again — in the long run, they’re probably landing what they wanted (a franchise guy). With Brooklyn out of the running for Howard and Andrew Bynum unwilling to commit to Orlando, any Howard deal has to run through the Rockets unless these recent Bynum-to-Cleveland rumors are true (and it just seems too far-fetched). Check the margin for the most logical three-teamer,8 which hasn’t happened yet only because the Lakers are refusing to take on Hedo Turkoglu’s salary in any Howard/Bynum swap. In their defense, they’re playing the waiting game with Orlando — they believe the Magic will eventually cave and send them Howard for Bynum. And from what I’m hearing, they’re more than a little worried about Howard’s recovery from back surgery. Understandable. (Wait, did I just defend the Lakers???? Sorry about that.) On the other hand
Orlando gets three expiring contracts (Kevin Martin, Josh McRoberts, Andrew Goudelock), two rookies (Jeremy Lamb and Royce White) and two 2013 no. 1s (Toronto and Houston). L.A. gets Howard and Turkoglu. Houston gets Bynum, Glen Davis, Jason Richardson and Steve Blake. So Orlando chops $22-24 million in 2012-13 salary (plus the 2014 and 2015 savings), Houston adds about $20 million, and the Lakers add $7.5 million (plus tax penalties).
“I must be.”
“Why is that good?”
“It means you’re not stupid.”
If you’re a Rockets fan, wouldn’t you be mildly petrified of amnestying Luis Scola (the best amnesty guy ever, by far — nobody else comes close), dumping Kevin Martin in a contract year (when you know he’ll play well), dealing two potential lottery picks AND swapping one or two of your promising 2012 first-rounders just so you can a) deliver Howard to a contender in your own conference, and b) roll the dice with Bynum?
The case for Bynum: He’s the league’s second-best center and a guaranteed 20/10 guy when healthy.
The case against Bynum: He’s still immature, he handled L.A.’s last two playoff exits more than a little erratically, and he played 80 percent of his team’s games last season for the first time since 2007.
How would Bynum handle the responsibility of his team’s fate directly hinging on his ability to throw up a 23-12 and handle double teams night after night after night? If you’re not afraid of the downside there, then you ARE stupid. Part of me agrees with Grantland’s Robert Mays — instead of paying 130 cents on the dollar for Bynum, maybe the Rockets should just build around Linsanity and their fun young guys (did you see those Royce White highlights from Vegas???), have one of those “entertaining lottery seasons,” then figure out a long-term game plan next summer. Tough choice.9
Speaking of tough choices — now that I’m caught up on Thrones, I get to experience the Sunday-night dilemma that haunted TV junkies last spring. If you come home on Sunday night to find new episodes of Thrones and Mad Men on your DVR, which one do you watch first? Has there ever been a better head-to-head TV battle? I can’t wait to be in this position and by the way, I think I’d go Thrones, then Mad Men.
“Some of those boys will never come back.”
“Joffrey will. The worst ones always live.”
For former Orlando GM Otis Smith, the Patient X of this Howard saga. Otis overpaid every player that Orlando is demanding to dump in any Howard trade, with the exception of Turkoglu and in that case, he traded a solid center (Marcin Gortat) and an expiring contract (Vince Carter) for Hedo’s lousy deal, so that was just as bad. And we didn’t even mention the Rashard Lewis/Gilbert Arenas fiasco yet. Will Otis run another team someday? OF COURSE! Are you kidding me? If Billy King can get rehired, the sky is the limit for Otis.
As for Joffrey, I can’t ever remember hating a TV character more. Even his name is detestable. Joffrey is so fun to hate that I can’t imagine the actor who plays him (Jack Gleeson) ever working again — at this point, I’m convinced that he’s equally evil and a product of incest. I think Jack Gleeson should get Nicholson’s Lakers seats when Jack finally dies. Since we’ll never replace Jack’s star power and charisma in that seat, let’s go in another direction and go for someone who appears to be purely and simply evil. He could dress like King Joffrey and order Lou Adler around. I really think this could work. That reminds me
“Handsome armor. Not a scratch on it.”
“I know. People have been swinging at me for years and they always seem to miss.”
“Chosen your opponents wisely, then.”
“I have a knack for it.”
How did everything work out for the Lakers again? In the late ’60s, Wilt fell into their laps. In the mid-’70s, Kareem fell into their laps. In the late ’70s, they exploited two incompetent franchises (New Orleans and Cleveland) and somehow landed no. 1 overall picks in 1980 (Magic) and 1982 (Worthy). In the mid-’90s, Shaq fell into their laps and they smartly stole Kobe during the same summer. In 2008, Memphis gift-wrapped Pau Gasol for them. And now, with yet another dead end looming in 2012 — triggered by last December’s Chris Paul trade that fell through, one of the rare times that the Lakers have ever been screwed over by bad luck — suddenly Steve Nash AND Dwight Howard might fall into their laps? How the heck does this keep happening?????? The Kobe era was dead! We had the funeral and everything! The Lakers should change their logo to a purple-and-gold horseshoe that’s rammed up Jerry Buss’s ass. Here’s what it would look like.
Here’s how lucky the Lakers were with Nash: If Lamar Odom never melted down post-Gasol veto, they never would have
stuck Mark Cuban with a total lemon deallt Odom to Dallas and ended up with a juicy trade exception. If Nash’s ex-wife never said, “I’m not moving from Phoenix,” then he wouldn’t have been so focused on finding a West Coast contender that needed a point guard (and yes, only one West Coast contender needed a point guard). And if Phoenix didn’t owe Nash after a) he gave them a discount three years ago and expected them to spend the extra money (and they didn’t), and b) he never complained publicly about wasting the tail end of his extended prime on a lottery team, then there’s no way they would have traded the greatest Sun ever to their all-time nemesis and archrival. Those are three significant “ifs.” All of them worked out. God, I hate the Lakers.
“You love your children. It’s your one redeeming quality — that and your cheekbones.”
And here’s the best part: Phoenix fans couldn’t even be pissed at Nash, because he played the family card so spectacularly well. You could read between the lines of every Nash quote after the trade: He was basically saying, “Look, I love my kids so much that I’ll even spend three years playing for the Lakers and pretending I like Kobe.” What a noble gesture. This man hated the Lakers. He really did. For the record, he’s a better man than I am — I don’t love my kids nearly enough to end up in a picture like this.
You know what really bugs me? He’s the first legitimately likable Laker since Magic retired. There isn’t a basketball fan on the planet who wouldn’t be delighted to see Steve Nash finally win the title you know, if it were happening in a vacuum. But if he won the title and jumped into the arms of Dwight “I’m still covered in Orlando’s blood” Howard as Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest jumped onto their backs? That’s a different story. Nash’s first title would mean
• A ring for Dwight Howard less than a year after he acted like the biggest baby in recent sports history. (Yes, I’m operating as if Howard will be a Laker. Might as well get a jump on it.)
• Two more rings for Ron Artest than Charles Barkley, Elgin Baylor, Karl Malone, Allen Iverson, George Gervin, Reggie Miller, Patrick Ewing, Dominique Wilkins, John Stockton and Paul Mokeski combined.
• Six titles for Kobe. As many as Jordan. More fodder for the ridiculous “Who was better, Kobe or Jordan?” argument that LeBron already squashed this spring by dominating at a level that Kobe never reached.10
Kobe is competing against the legacies of West and Oscar, and maybe even Magic. LeBron’s ceiling is higher. But a sixth Kobe title and a productive 20-year career (he’s four years away) would vault him over Magic and earn him “Greatest Laker ever” status. That’s not chopped liver.
• A 17th title for the Lakers, which would technically match Boston’s 17 titles even though five of those Laker titles happened in Minneapolis in the 1940s and 1950s. If you count those five, that’s EXACTLY like adding Seattle’s 1979 NBA title to Oklahoma City’s ongoing total right? That won’t stop Lakers fans from pretending that they “tied” Boston even if they didn’t. I’m already pissed off and it hasn’t even happened yet.
Add everything up and I haven’t been this conflicted by a sports development since since I mean what’s worse than the league’s most likable and unselfish player playing for the Lakers? I feel sick. Let’s move on.
“The things I do for love.”
To Phoenix owner Robert Sarver, who earned a rare compliment by doing the right thing with Nash, landing two no. 1s and two no. 2s and a whopping trade exception to boot. From there, they smartly snared Dragic at a fair price; amnestied Josh Childress to create cap room for Scola (double amnesty!),11 made a respectable max contract run at Eric Gordon (and earned Gordon’s “my heart belongs in Phoenix” quote),12 and took an $18 million flyer on Michael Beasley (who gives them much-needed offensive punch AND good fodder for Jared Dudley’s Twitter feed). If you’re looking for 2013’s underdog that overachieves by 12 wins because of chemistry and quirky/savvy offensive players, look no further than the 2012-13 Suns.
I loved the Scola pickup — not only was he totally overqualified for an amnesty auction and landed in one for fluky reasons, you just shouldn’t be able to land a big man who can score on the low post for $13.4 million over three years. Cleveland fans should be outraged that their team didn’t trump that Phoenix bid. Repeat: outraged.
The cynical side of me wonders if Phoenix pursued Gordon knowing New Orleans would match, just to show their fans that they weren’t afraid of spending money. We’ll never know.
(Will they make the playoffs? No!!!!!!!!!! Not in a million years. But they’ll be fun to watch. As for any Suns fan out there who’s furious that I just praised Sarver, you should know the “Things I do for love” was uttered by someone — SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!!!! — about to cripple a 10-year-old boy who mistakenly walked in on an incestuous sex romp. That should soften the blow right?)13
SPOILER ALERT — The best thing about Game of Thrones is that, literally, EVERYTHING is on the table. There are no boundaries whatsoever. You would have thought that one crucial incest plot was enough, but no! They had to throw in the episode with Theon feeling up the woman on the horse who turned out to be his long-lost sister and she knew this even as Theon was feeling her up. When you’re doubling up on incest plots, and it’s not even the most outrageous thing that’s happened on your show — I’d vote for the male babies getting butchered by the crazy guy who only wanted to breed daughters that he could eventually molest — your entire show resides in the Tyson Zone. (Thinking.) Wait, I just realized that’s a third incest plot! Good God! I can’t believe I like this show so much.