We here at Total Bozo Magazine take things like the start of a new professional sports season very seriously. So when we heard that the NBA was starting up again, we couldn't help but write a preview of it, because we know two things about our audience: 1. you definitely exist, and 2. you need us for things like this because we are experts and we are important and also no other place on the internet is giving you this information. The following is a team-by-team breakdown of the upcoming NBA season, with team capsules by Ben Johnson and additional thoughts by Kelly McClure which may or may not just be random non-sequiturs. That's how we talk about hoops around here.
PART 1: EASTERN CONFERENCE:
The Celtics have been competent while quietly emitting basketball doomstench for years, and I think they'll be a more watchable but less good team now that they've jettisoned their old guys. Sure there was something compelling about Paul Pierce sinking 18 footers in crunch time with a 4 inch vertical leap after a quintuple headfake, and getting fouled in the process, but watching Rondo go 1 on 3 for every fast break in the first three quarters was depressing. I'm ready for some Avery Bradley chasedown blocks and occasional "Jeff Green is going bananas" nights. Plus Kelly Olynyk looking like a huge mutant version of the drop-acid-in-school kid form Over The Edge will be a bonus.
I think they have a chance to be better than everybody thinks they'll be in a not at all good Eastern Conference, but that might just be my sense of relief that they won't be trotting out the same old accomplished professionals with creaky bodies. What do you think, Kelly?
KMC: I read that while eating the first of four sections of buttered toast and for some reason, started to cry a little bit.
I don't see it working. Rosters like this never work. You could see it in the Bulls series last year. This team, other than Reggie Evans, who is a space alien from Planet Rebound, had no backbone. They're trying to import backbone with Garnett and Pierce. You can't buy backbone.
But: I am mildly excited by the prospect of seeing Larry Frank secretly coach the team while Jason Kidd stands around pretending to coach.
Kelly, you live in Brooklyn. How excited are people there about this team? Is it kind of a cultural backfire because the whole thing of being cool is to pretend you don't give a shit about being cool while at the same time expressly forbidding patently uncool things like Crocs, so it's like "oh big deal, we have an NBA team, let me know when the G train is fixed and THEN I'll be impressed?" Is having an NBA team so far around the curve that people in Williamsburg like this team ironically? Would Brook Lopez walking down the strip on Bedford Avenue be A. unrecognized, B. recognized and shunned as a carpetbagging gentrifier, or C. recognized and fawned over. Keep in mind he's 7 feet tall.
KMC: The other night I was in a cab on my way home from some bar and we passed by Barclay's. It was late, so nothing was going on, but I could see the glow of the concession and souvenir stands inside. I thought about how I could go back some day and get a souvenir basketball if I wanted to. I've seen pictures of them online. They're black. I'm surprised no one has written a blog about that before, like, "why they gotta be black??"
New York Knicks
The world is anxiously waiting this year's collapse. It can take many forms, like in Ghostbusters where if you think of something that thing will come and destroy you. I am rooting for "injury to Tyson Chandler followed by complete defensive meltdown, followed by unrepentant gunning by Carmelo and Bargnani and Stoudemire and Smith and Shumpert and whoever else finds the ball in their hands." I like Tyson Chandler, but that like is clouded by visions of 130-124 Knicks losses.
What kind of meltdown do you think the Knicks are going to have, Kelly?
KMC: Another thing about Barclay's is that it's set up in a really dangerous way. I don't know if you've ever seen pictures of the inside of the stadium, but the seats are like straight up in the air. To walk from the floor seats, up to the nose bleed seats is like climbing a mountain and if you lost your footing you'd basically fall straight back and bounce off a million heads before hitting the floor.
The big thing about these guys is how hard they're trying to be bad in order to improve their likelihood of getting the first pick in what looks like a loaded draft class. I'm not a huge fan of blatantly intentional tanking, just because everything could go exactly right, and you can end up with the first pick and draft Andrew Wiggins, and then he could get crushed by a bread truck crossing the street. There's no law against runaway bread trucks, and if there is, they probably don't heed it in Philadelphia.
I also think Nerlens Noel is going to end up a bust when all is said and done. There wasn't much of him to be seen in Kentucky last year, but what little there was to see was getting manhandled by Alex Len. Hey Kelly, here's a fun hypothetical: let's say Noel is a Bismack Biyombo-level bust. Does that make the Jrue Holiday trade a better (because they traded a draft bust) or worse (because they drafted and traded a bust, as well as another pick, for Jrue Holiday when they could have spent that pick on Much Better As Of Yet Unknown Player X) trade for New Orleans?
KMC: My girlfriend dated a black dude for a little while and I think about it at least once a week. Not in a racist way, but in a "do I even wanna ask what I wanna ask" type of way. I did ask her once if his penis was purple, and she said no, that it was normal color, but I'm not even sure what that means.
This is the official 2013 team where bad-to-medium-good players who are no longer with the team I associate them with have ended up. They should change their nickname to the Toronto Oh Yeahs, as in "Oh Yeah, Steve Novak is in Toronto now," or "Oh Yeah, I remember, there is such a human being on the earth as Aaron Gray." They could even trot out an all Oh Yeah lineup this year: D. J. Augustin, Novak, Landry Fields, Tyler Hansbrough, and Gray. That would be an awful lineup with a forward shoehorned into the 2 guard slot for no reason, but maybe it could happen if there was flu bug or if somebody's warmup pants had a malfunction during a substitution.
That is a stupid idea, but it's the least stupid for Toronto because Raptors is such a dumb name. Kelly, do you know if Toronto is in any way known for its connection to Mesozoic Era predators?
KMC: My favorite coffee mug, the once I reach for every morning and pray is clean, is a mug I got from the Field Museum in Chicago. It's got a picture of Sue the Dinosaur on it and she's making an angry face. I vaguely remember reading something about how Sue the Dinosaur isn't even a girl, and that all these years we've been fucking up how a T-Rex's arms should go.
Every time I think of Game 1 of last year's Eastern Conference semifinals, I get a lump in my throat and want to find a private area I can go cry in. Those guys were just the best. Scrappin' and clawin' and fightin', straight no chancers without a leg to stand on, taking one last heroic swipe at the jugular before finally being overrun.
For some reason Gandalf vs. Balrog popped into my head just now, which I am loathe to share because it outs me as a chronically unfuckable nerd, and it doesn't exactly apply because Gandalf won that one (even though he died and came back as Gandalf the White, which is probably a Derrick Rose metaphor), and further belaboring the analogy for accuracy's sake makes me even more obviously unfuckable. But hey, 30 teams is a lot of teams to get through. With a task like a full NBA preview to get through, you can't fight against your own ideas, even if they kick you out of the bone zone. If it helps at all, pretend I was talking about Gandalf the band. That doesn't help, does it?
Everybody in Chicago wants the Bulls to pull off a trade of Carlos Boozer for a ham sandwich, or especially Boozer plus anybody but Jimmy Butler, Derrick Rose, and Joakim Noah for Al Horford or Kevin Love. We are tired of watching Boozer and his armpit hair shooting the bare minimum amount of fadeaways at the elbow for us to still be able to look up at the scoreboard and be mildly surprised he has 18 points. Yet the organization has been pretty stubborn about keeping him around.
Hey Kelly, do you see the Bulls finally pulling off a Boozer trade this year, or will they relish the opportunity to bring in Nikola Mirotic and get under the cap next year?
KMC: It is impossible for me to think about basketball players and not think about how if I stood in front of a nude basketball player, especially one of the Bulls, he could literally rest his balls on the top of my head. I wonder if a picture like that exists on the internet. It would have to.
I drafted Kyrie Irving in my fantasy league and I feel oddly not great about it. He's just seems like one of those guys who puts up a lot of points but may or may not make anybody else around him better, and it will seem strange in a few years to look back at how excited everybody once was about the guy. Like Rudy Gay or Danny Granger or Gilbert Arenas. I am probably not being fair by saying that. I hope I'm wrong. I'm probably just doubting his ability to stay healthy.
You know what's weird? How little anybody is talking about how both Anthony Bennett AND Dion Waiters were total headscratcher uses of a draft pick. These guys pick in the top 4 every year and then draft as if they'd already traded down. It's like they know something we don't about how much they intend to keep sucking. "Lottery pick? Whatever, we're the Cavs, we'll be picking in the lottery FOREVER. Screw it, let's take Anthony Bennett, the fat guy who may not be able to breathe. If he doesn't work out, we can always just send the weird 35 year old guy who looks like a child with a bow tie and get another top 5 pick."
Kelly, I was going to make a Progeria joke, but it doesn't apply and it's a cruel disease, and for the longest time I got it confused in my brain with Alopecia. What's your favorite odd malady?
KMC: It definitely seems like back in the olden days people were constantly bleeding from the eyes. I think it would be cool to be able to do that on a whim. Like the next time some street mutant said a thing about my butt as I was walking to the corner store I could just start bleeding from the eyes.
I like how they added Josh Smith and their frontcourt is now all guys who have to be near the rim to score. I feel like they should somehow add Manu Ginobli and John Wall and just go with the All Rim Only Rim offense. Just nothing but people flying in and dunking on their own teammates. Maybe they could loosen a couple of weird floorboards at the Palace for extra springiness, and trade for the Phoenix Gorilla to come off their bench.
That's about as good as I'm going to be able to do about the 2013 Detroit Pistons, Kelly. Some teams aren't all that great to riff on. You know?
KMC: And yet, PISSSSSSSSSSStons.
It's going to be weird for the Pacers not to have Tyler Hansbrough this year. Not that he's been all that productive for them, it's just he represents what I think of when I think of this team. Hard-nosed, ugly, unathletic, scrappy, white (it's Indiana), annoying as fuck, more effective than he probably should be, somebody you are absolutely tempted to foul no matter how much fouling runs counter to your game plan. Now they've got Luis Scola in that role, which kind of fits and kind of doesn't. Hansbrough looks like a cornfed farmer's son. Scola is more of a bouncer at some Serbian guy's nightclub. Some guys just belong where they are, and Hansbrough belonged in Indiana.
Anyhow, the Pacers could do some damage this year if for no better reason than because Roy Hibbert fell into a crevasse in the mid-80's and the Pacers discovered and thawed him in an era where players like him don't exist anymore.
KMC: Lately my girlfriend has been making this amazing corn on the cob situation with mayo and various spices. It's fantastic. Having a person cook for you, who loves you and wants to feed you good things so you don't die, is really great.
Ersan Ilyasova is one of my favorite players in the NBA. I am more fond of the amount he looks like James Franco than I am fond of actual James Franco. I also enjoy how lazy Ilyasova can look while simultaneously scooping up 11 rebounds a game. It's like he goes for a rebound, but then puts his body on the pause button when he's still nine feet away from the hoop, and then he hits unpause and goes and grabs the ball while his man is up in the restricted area boxing out nobody. He seems calm the whole time. He could be going berserk statistically, but he always seems lazy. That's because he can't do anything off the dribble and all of his rebounds are tip-ins, but still. He's a tall Turkish guy who can play the 3 or the 4 and he looks like James Franco. What else do you want from a player?
Side note: if you live in Chicago, you can drive the 90 minutes up to Milwaukee and see an NBA game for relatively not much money, which is one of those things that people talk about sometimes, like how some flights are cheaper from the Milwaukee airport, but never capitalize on. Case in point: I have never once seen a Bucks game.
Kelly: how you feeling? What's your favorite sandwich?
KMC: The other day my friend Joan and I went to get sandwiches at the Lorimer Market by her house. She got something with tuna on it, and I got something called the NYPD, which was basically a roast beef sandwich. I got it with no lettuce, no tomato, and mustard and mayo. I guess I really like mayo on stuff. I know most people don't, but I do. As we were waiting for our sandwiches the owner of the shop gave us two meatballs in cups that we ate with forks. I think the meatballs had cheese in them. They were amazing.
Oh man. This is a grind because I'm supposed to say something about the Hawks now, and not even people from Atlanta want to say or do anything related to the Hawks. I like the job Hawks GM Danny Ferry has done turning over an overpaid roster with a mediocre ceiling, and by that I mean I only somewhat like knowing about the job Hawks GM Danny Ferry has done turning over an overpaid roster with a mediocre ceiling, and only for such occasions as this, when I have arbitrarily forced myself to share a thought about the Atlanta Hawks with a nonexistent audience of people who presumably couldn't care less.
What else? Al Horford and Jeff Teague are good. That German guy Dennis Schroder is pretty interesting. First of all he's black but his name is Dennis Schroder and he's from Germany, which, okay, no biggie, I did not picture a black dude based on that information. Basketball-wise, I think Schroder went apeshit a couple of times in Summer League, which means nothing except for the peace of mind generated when your developmental projects demonstrate apeshit capabilities. Compare that to Jan Vesely, who went humanshit.
Kelly. What's the closest you've ever been to drowning?
KMC: I'm not that strong of a swimmer at all so I basically almost drown every time I swim. I took swimming lessons when I was little for roughly two weeks but refused to go back after a really traumatic treading water episode. The teacher was making me tread water for a really long time while just staring me in the eyes. I couldn't do it for as long as she wanted me to and I ended up gulping down a bunch of water. Fuck that lady. And fuck swimming.
I just now checked the Bobcats roster just to see if Matt Carroll still plays in the NBA. Nope. Apparently he got traded to the New Orleans Hornets for Hakim Warrick in 2012, and then the Hornets dropped him a week later, and that was the end of his NBA career. Come on, New Orleans Hornets of November 2012. Why not just drop Hakim Warrick? Why do you have to jerk Matt Carroll around for no reason? Carroll could still be in Charlotte, riding the bench. Nobody would notice. Life is so cruel sometimes.
It seems like I'm joking around here, but as far as I can tell, Matt Carroll is the only person who ever came off as even partially believable while saying they're excited to be a Bobcat. He should either have his jersey retired or he should be on an infinity contract. The Bobcats are playing in their franchise's 10th season this year, and so far they have 250 wins total. If they can't average any better than 28 wins a year for a decade, I should be able to watch the Bobcats in 2075 and see a skeleton on the bench in a Matt Carroll jersey.
Oh shit. He's actually younger than me. Life is so, so very cruel.
KELLY: WHO IS IN YOUR GARDEN
KMC: The guy whose patio is above our little patio area is constantly throwing Q-tips out of his window and onto our patio. I clean up at least two every morning. I can't think of a situation that would put me in front of a window while cleaning out my ears, or what would compel a person to throw shit out the window instead of just putting it in the garbage. Some day I'm gonna clean out the litter boxes and then fling all the cat turds and pee clumps up onto his patio.
LeBron with the basketball looks like the guy in Altered Beast when he gets 2 Power Ups and doesn't quite turn into a beast yet. It looks like a tennis ball. He looks like a decathlete somehow dribbling a shotput. He is so fast and big at the same time. The other players look like silly little skinny men. Kevin Durant? Kevin Durant is a silly little skinny man with weird rubber arms, according to LeBron. I don't like watching the Heat. It's like if you were horsing around in the backyard with some buddies, except if one of them was a pro wrestler and he just started bodyslamming everybody and you're like "JESUS HANK, WE GET IT."
This is as big of a reason as any why people enjoy rooting against LeBron. He's so obviously better than everybody else, when he wins it doesn't mean anything. It's not even fun in a "guess what he did THIS TIME" way. It's just like "how about I go do something else and tomorrow you can just tell me what he did." Then tomorrow it's "Oh, 60 points and 30 rebounds and 20 assists? No, it's cool, whatever, I believe you." It's more entertaining to watch people succeed despite limitations. LeBron has no limitations. He's just a giant fast man who can do anything a human can possibly accomplish on a basketball court.
I hope Greg Oden can put together anything. That's the kind of person you root for.
Kelly, you're a lesbian. Do you think you could recognize the scent of balls if there was such a thing as a smell lineup, or is it more of a "general boy smell" thing where you have no way of knowing if it's specifically balls?
KMC: One time I made the mistake of telling Lindsey (my GF) that I pictured balls as smelling like pee dipped in cheap lotion. She texted all her friends about it, and I think she may have tweeted about it too. There is actually a very specific boy smell that I have always liked, and it's that of mildewy t-shirts. It seems like most boys smell like thrift stores, which I kind of like. If I was in a smell lineup and some balls hit my nose as I leaned in to sniff I think I'd have to be taken to the hospital.
Is Tobias Harris really this good? How is Tobais Harris this good? What about Mo Harkless? I wish "Harkless" meant something recognizable so you could say "dude, we weren't just drunk, we were totally HARKLESS" and people would know what that meant. Mo Harkless owes it to us all to be exceptional at something. But he might not be built that way. Nikola Vucevic is really good, huh? We've got to get Nikola Mirotic in the league so we can have three really good centers named Nikola. How about Victor Oladipo? Is he going to take a special pride in making Cleveland regret they picked the fat guy who can't breathe? He is, isn't he? That is sad.
Okay, that's it for the Orlando Magic.
Kelly, what percentage of magicians do you think are pedophiles?
KMC: A lot of bro dudes try to do magic tricks to engage ladies in convo on the subway. It's disgusting. When I think of magic I think of dandruff.
Back when Jan Vesely was drafted I was like "I think I'll watch some YouTube highlights of this guy," and it turns out his highlights were like, "he dunked this one time, plus another time he hit a jumper, also FYI in Europe the lanes are super wide so bigger guys can dribble awkwardly but without encumbrance to the basket and it looks as if something has transpired." They should make those lanes super narrow over there instead. I'm tired of Euro guys (with the exception of the Nikolas) getting to the NBA and deciding not to try anything anywhere near the rim. Sure we get a Dirk Nowitzki every once in a while for our troubles, but is it worth it? I mean: Darko Milicic. I mean, come ON.
John Wall is going to get injured and never be the same because that's what happens when the Wizards give somebody a shitload of money.
KELLY: Ice cream. Go eat ice cream.
KMC: There's a place near my apartment called Ample Hills that has the best ice cream ever. The best is the salted caramel in a pretzel cone. It's not "cool" to go there because there are always lines and it's the sort of place that people take their family to when they visit NY, or take their weird dates to because they saw it in Time Out Magazine. But it IS the best ice cream I've ever had.
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CLICK HERE FOR PART 2.