So much amazing is happening, and the Shootaround crew is back to help you keep track of it all. You’ll find takes on moments you might’ve missed from the previous night, along with ones you will remember forever.
Death Becomes Him
(credit: Jamie Rockaway)
Chris Ryan: At some point during Kevin Durant’s Heat bank-robbery scene of a game against Portland, a nickname was born. Apparently ginned up by a Reddit user a few months ago, but popularized this week, Kevin Durant finally got a moniker as good as his game. He had tried on Durantula before, but it never quite took. But Slim Reaper … Slim Reaper is good.
Mailman delivered, Air Jordan flew, Isiah just seemed like a Zeke, Wilt looked like he was on stilts, Earvin was Magic, LeBron is LeBron, and Black Mamba is both lethal and corny, just like Kobe. Beyond acting as shorthand, these nicknames perfectly describe the player. Durantula never did that. But Slim Reaper? It perfectly describes his youthful frame and his death-dealing game. There’s already apparel:
And the wider basketball community seems to have given its seal of approval.
Once Steez signs off on it, it’s law. Thought you knew.
The Book of Kev-elations
netw3rk: Over his last 11 games, Kevin Durant is averaging 38.1 points and does his postgame interviews from the right hand of God almighty, wreathed in holy flames.
Against him stood Kawhi, and he defended against the light of Durant, but the hand of Kawhi was smote and he was struck down and Kevin Durant splashed a jumper, amen.
Against him stood Ginobili — aged, wise, artful — and he stood against him and fell, cunningly, at the slight touch of Durant’s body that the refs might accuse Kevin of violence against his opponents, but the refs were silent, perhaps awed, and Kevin Durant splashed a jumper, amen.
Gregg Popovich watched Manu fall, and awaiting the blaring of the whistles but hearing nothing, was enraged, and bitter were his complaints over the violence done to Manu, whose body went limp and fell as does a rag fall when dropped by a careless hand, but the refs understood Manu’s cunning, had seen such schemes from Manu, and Kevin Durant splashed a jumper, amen.
Then Tony Parker came against him and his points even exceeded Kevin’s by one, such was the force of his will and the speed of his drives, but Kevin said unto Reggie Jackson, “You, too, will score,” and lo, Reggie had 27 points and eight assists and Tony Parker’s 37 points were swept away, and Kevin Durant splashed a jumper, amen.
Then Tim Duncan, whose legend stretches back 900 years, whose vanquished foes are named among the names of heroes, came against Kevin, and the stoutness of his defense allowed young Cory Joseph to lay hands on Kevin, and Kevin fell, but momentarily, then rose, clutching his shoulder as one does to allay great pain. Kevin went to the sideline, where his shoulder was stretched, and, finding it whole, he reentered the game, and Kevin Durant splashed a jumper, amen.
As the game closed, Kevin Durant released a 3, flying in a perfect arc as if drawn by the hand of an invisible architect, and even before the ball had reached the halfway point of its journey, Kevin was backing away, secure in the inevitability of fate, and the jumper splashed, amen. When asked to describe his performance over the last 11 games, Kevin Durant opened his mouth to speak, but the sound was the sound of a thousand trumpets, and Heather Cox, so close to the sound, was struck deaf.
All in the Family
Jason Gallagher: At first glance, this appears to be Mike Callahan realizing he should’ve been a cowboy and should’ve learned to rope-and-ride at the expense of a Derek Fisher. But there’s more to this image than a ref expressing his inner Toby Keith. What we have here is theatrical performance art, symbolizing the Thunder’s unwavering commitment to ride with Fisher until the sun goes black.
First there’s Callahan, who does a beautiful job of reenacting Scott Brooks’s insistence to ride Fisher to the point of being unable to crawl. If you’re looking for a smooth and swift ride, this ain’t it. Instead, it’s a slow-moving struggle that just might end in the horse collapsing before you get to where you’re going. Not that Fisher has no value, but there’s a reason why my timeline lets out a collective “WHY?!” every time he checks into a close game with less than two minutes left.
Then there’s the moving performance of the younger, better, and not yet fully developed colt named Jeremy Lamb, played by Jeremy Lamb. He’s hunched over this scene with a look on his face that says, “Oh god. Are you sure you shouldn’t be riding me? I don’t think he’s gonna make it.” In this moment, the Thunder are playing a smaller lineup, so Lamb is in, but when they need to go big, it’s normally Lamb who’s asked to sacrifice precious crunch-time learning experience in the stables as Fisher is told to giddyap.
When My Dragic Is Grown, We Will Take Back What Was Stolen From Me
The Wizard of Uhhhhhhhhhhs
The day started with so much promise. Well, not that much promise. But the Wizards had a chance to go over .500 for the first time all year. There have been a couple of these games so far this season, but each time they get close to the mountaintop, they go tumbling back down. But not Wednesday. Not against the tankeriffic Celtics.
Rondo was out, Avery Bradley was out, Kris Humphries was in for 35 minutes. How is it even possible to get down that big to a team relying on Jeff Green and Phil Pressey?
THAT’S how it’s possible.
Also, that’s four years of Wizards in one tweet. How many times does this have to happen before we get to see Coach Sam Cassell?
Just when you gave up hope for our heroes, the second half happened. They were the better team, and it showed by the fourth quarter, just like it was supposed to. With eight minutes left:
It would’ve made the win even sweeter, really. Before taking a step forward, they had to remind everyone what this team has been for so long.
Why going over .500 was such a triumphant moment.
I realized all of this when Beal hit that shot. Everything made sense.
What followed for the final eight minutes of the fourth quarter was a blur of botched fast breaks by both teams, Jared Sullinger nothing-but-net turnaround fadeaways (???), Pressey playing John Wall to a draw, both teams trying to lose at the end, and finally, Zombie Gerald Wallace going full court for a game-winning layup in overtime. Not on a fast break. The Wiz defense was set up in the half court, watching him jog 85 feet straight to the rim, and nobody stepped over to stop him. The only thing worse than that defense was their half-court offense for the previous 10 minutes.
Another winnable game, another Randy Wittman masterpiece. Let’s go Wiz!
Steve McPherson: I have never played a second of organized basketball and so I’m terrified of embarrassing myself anytime I play a pickup game. Oh, sure: When I’m alone in the gym I’ll practice spin moves and crossovers, hesitations and up-and-unders. But in an actual game, I stick to what I know I can do: setting screens and rebounding.
This is why Andrea Bargnani should be an inspiration to us all.
I mean, let’s face it: You put Bargs in virtually any pickup game in the world and he would absolutely shred it. A 7-footer who can shoot the 3-pointer? Forget it. But — god bless him — he just keeps trying things in the NBA that are above his (admittedly extravagant) pay grade, like this:
A lot of attention is already being lavished on this moment as some kind of concretization of the Knicks’ struggles this season, embodied in the moment when Bargs storms the lane, ignoring the human Kia Optima that Thaddeus Young and Elliot Williams are setting up beneath him.
But I like the part where the ball bounces off the stanchion and lands on Bargs like an encouraging pat on the back, urging him to get back up and try it again should the opportunity present itself, which you know he will, because BARGS.
And so should we all. Throw a reverse layup off the underside of the backboard. Air-ball that 3-pointer. Go for that spin move and lose the ball out of bounds. We — the timid and underathletic — need to play a little more like nobody’s watching. The ball from Bargnani’s dunk fail will be there to pat you on the back and say, “Good job, good effort.”
Highway to DeHeaven
Tuffer Than the Rest
Danny Chau: Caron Butler was ruled out of last night’s game against the Detroit Pistons. He had a root canal on Monday, and was set to join O.J. Mayo and Larry Sanders on the inactive list. The Bucks were on a nine-game losing streak. He didn’t have to play, but he did. Tuff Juice lived up to his nickname and gave those in attendance at the Bradley Center a show, dropping 30 points, hauling in seven rebounds, and dishing out five assists. Again, you’d think Butler would sit this one out. Root canal recuperation is not fun, and it seemed like a fine night to let the tank continue to roll. But Butler is too proud, too tirelessly devoted to the city of Milwaukee, only 30 miles away from his hometown of Racine. It was his civic duty to play and perform well. It was a personal one, too. Why?
It was Bobblehead Night in Milwaukee — his Bobblehead Night.
Butler was likely aware of the bobblehead track record, hence his insistence upon playing. This season across the league, the home team is extremely likely to win a game with a promotional bobblehead/action figure giveaway. By my count, when the player or coach featured in a giveaway is active, the home team is 10-3 (.769); home teams are 12-5 overall (three players have been injured on their nights, and one Bobblehead Night was dedicated to former Bucks announcer Eddie Doucette).
Butler’s Bobblehead Night performance was the best in a winning effort so far this season. On January 2, Goran Dragic had 33 points, three rebounds, seven assists, and three steals in a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Goran Dragic Night.
Last night was also Kemba Walker Gnome Night at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte. Unfortunately, Walker was sidelined with a sprained ankle. The Bobcats still won. Duh.
The “Are You Watching Bad Basketball?” Checklist
Brett Koremenos: Sometimes when you’re watching a tense, high-scoring game, the emotional fan in you wants to share it with the world. But just before you hit send on your clever, 140-character statement about the awesomeness of basketball, the logical part of your brain stops you in your tracks. The thought, Hey, this seems exciting, but something tells me this game is really just two teams trying to out-suck each other starts echoing in your head. After all, basketball can be tricky like that.
Because of this dilemma, I’ve come up a handy checklist for evaluating whether you did, in fact, subject yourself to a subtly terrible NBA game:
• Were both teams screwing up simple undertakings — like throwing a post entry pass to the other team or airmailing lobs to gigantic, long-limbed teammates into the fifth row?
• Did you find yourself mumbling things like “Hey, this [insert name of inept team here] offense isn’t half-bad” or “[Player shooting below 38 percent] is unstoppable” multiple times during the game?
• If you were watching the game with friends, did you ever feel the need at any point to perform one-man recaps of movies like Andy Dwyer to keep them from leaving?
• Was some European dude whose name you couldn’t pronounce if your life depended on it outplaying a guy to whom the opposing team gave a $54 million contract this offseason?
• Were the refs treating this game like you treat a menial task your boss gives you at 3 p.m. on a Friday?
• Did you imagine that every time each head coach reacted on the sideline to a call, it went something like this?
• Did you witness [insert awkward post player (ex.: Ersan Ilyasova)] score with Nowitzkian grace on the block?
• Were there at least a dozen possessions when you legitimately questioned whether anyone on the court was where he was supposed to be?
• How often did you find yourself using the phrase, “You know, with as bad as they’ve played, they’re still in it”? Once a quarter? Every TV timeout?
• Was Josh Smith shooting jumpers?
If you’ve answered “yes” to most of these questions, I am sorry to inform you that you’ve been exposed to bad basketball. More specifically, a Bucks-Pistons matchup in Milwaukee. To remedy this problem, please remove those two teams from your League Pass alerts and abstain from watching them (and maybe the rest of the Eastern Conference) for at least a few nights. With a little rest, recovery, and Kevin Durant highlights, you should be back to liking the sport within a week.
The Life and Times of Giannis
Sharp: 1. Here is a grainy video of him driving from the 3-point line to the rim in about three steps. It looks like a travel until you realize every Giannis stride is 8 feet long.
2. Above, a female reporter documents the size of his hands/catcher’s mitts/gigantic pancakes flopping in the wind and then blocking shots out of nowhere.
3. The best thing on Twitter this week, and maybe any week.
God bless everyone. (But especially Giannis.)
Jared Dubin: The announcement wasn’t made official until today, but ESPN’s Marc Stein told us all last night who would be invited by USA Basketball to join the 28-player pool for 2014-16 international competition.
I have a few thoughts.
I do not see John Wall’s name on this list. This makes no sense whatsoever. I would very much like to meet the person who convinced the rest of the room that Gordon Hayward should be invited to join Team USA over John Wall. I want to hire him/her as my agent.
Oh, hey. No Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, or Chris Bosh on the list, either.
There are a whole bunch of currently injured (Westbrook, Rose, Leonard) or frequently injured (Williams, Beal, Irving, Chandler) players on the list.
Someone needs to look into the legality of Team USA wearing Mighty Ducks jerseys for the second half against Spain.
Some potential lineup archetypes I’m already geeking out about seeing at some point during the next three summers:
SUPERNOVA SHOOTING: Curry-Beal-Korver-Durant-Love
SMALL BALL: Paul-Irving-Harden-Anthony-Aldridge
TECHNICAL FOULS: Westbrook-Durant-Anthony-Griffin-Cousins
DUDES KNOWN IN SOME PARTS FOR THEIR HAIR: Williams-Harden-Korver-Faried-Davis
THE C-TEAM: Beal-Korver-Hayward-Faried-Lee
One man’s early (uneducated) guess for the final 12-man roster: Paul, Westbrook, Curry, George, Harden, Iguodala, Durant, Anthony, James, Davis, Love, Drummond.
This would mean nine returning players from 2012. We’d just have Curry, George, and Drummond replacing Kobe, Deron, and Tyson.
Medal I think the B-team (Lillard, Rose, Williams, Irving, Beal, Leonard, Thompson, Aldridge, Cousins, Howard, Griffin, Chandler) could win in Rio: silver.
Barring injury or some other unforeseen circumstance, Team USA can start Chris Paul, Paul George, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis in the 2016 Olympics. Yeah, like Canada or Spain has a chance.
The Kevin Durant Insecurities Exchange
Corban Goble: While everyone was hoping that Durant would keep up his recent unholy clip agaisnt the Spurs, I wanted to find a way to flip the script, mostly because I’m in a remote location and I’m kind of bored. I wanted to find a reason to be the only non–Spurs fan rooting against another Durant bloodbath.
I pledged to Chris that I would do something undesirable for every point Durant scored, and since my 27-year-old body can’t quite handle anywhere from 46 to 71 shots anymore, I proposed that I’d list out a personal insecurity for every point KD scored. So, here are 36 personal insecurities:
1. I wish I were taller.
2. My dad works harder than I do.
3. When I shop for clothes I just buy the same stuff over and over again; my fashion is tired.
4. Every time someone comes over to my place they praise it as a “great bachelor pad,” and that makes me feel like I should obscure the KC Royals bobbleheads and the signed Brett Favre mini helmet more than I do. Not put them away, but obscure them.
5. I wear hats, and that accentuates my fading hairline.
6. My girlfriend is much smarter than me.
7. I talk about doing stuff more than I actually do stuff; I’ve got a doing-stuff deficiency.
8. Maybe a lot of people can relate to this, but all the HTML I’ve done is self-taught, so there are humongous holes in my knowledge.
9. Maybe I should have pitched “personal insecurities for every point Phil Pressey scores.” Oh wait, what? Damn it.
10. When I play ball I absolutely always caw out “follow the shot!” but I never actually follow my own shot. I’m starting to think people notice, because I play with the same group of people weekly.
11. I’ve got the world’s bro-iest DVD collection. It’s like, MacGruber on Blu-ray, eight random seasons of The Simpsons DVD sets with many discs missing, and Wayne’s World.
12. Do I have a noticeable accent? Do I sound like an idiot all the time?
13. No one’s gonna care about this list. No one even knows who I am.
14. My Twitter account is pure nonsense. I have no idea if editors actually do this, but I’ve definitely lost myself a lot of money anytime a decision-maker has stumbled on something I did, looked up my Twitter account, and been greeted with shit like this.
15. My high school Wiffle Ball career is highly, highly embellished.
16. Beer belly.
17. My brother works harder than I do.
18. My brand.™
19. After years of passing for younger than I was, I haven’t been approached as a younger person in a while or asked for my ID.
20. Am I a good enough friend?
21. I can’t skate as good as Bieber.
22. Anytime I start drinking I feel like I’m noticeably drunk instantly.
23. All the time spent inserting goof edits to Wikipedia pages about Aerosmith singles might have been better spent doing literally anything else.
24. I sometimes get the sense that everyone is humoring me.
25. My backhand is ragged and showing no signs of improving.
26. Sometimes when I’m reading, I’ll get a little zoned out and I’ll be pages ahead without even noticing. What if I’m missing out on the actual important parts of everything I read and just reading the filler? Maybe I know nothing about the world, even more than I already don’t know. Like the stuff I’ve tried to know, I don’t even know that!
27. People humor my guitar or piano playing, but at best it is unaccomplished and messy.
[Durant just hit this sort of awkward, running floater. Net didn’t even ripple. Jesus.]
28. I’m never going to be in the X Games.
29. My letter-writing campaigns are weak.
30. This list is getting long and most of these insecurities seem trifling. I blame Kawhi Leonard’s hand health for not helping me wrap up this list six entries ago.
31. I wish I were more organized.
32. Fingernail hygeine — devolped “worst behavior”–level habits based on years of devout BBQ eating.
33. I’m a bad driver. I hardly remember even learning to do it, and it shows.
34. I know like none of the keyboard shortcuts in Warcraft 3 for the PC.
35. I’ll never be able to grow a full, thick mustache, which also means I’ll never be the star of a great ’70s/’80s heist film.
36. I was born in the wrong era. I think I would have been a natural in the “OS Girlfriend”/fancy thermostat era.