Friday, June 25, 2010

Legend Begat Legend

Michael Jackson died this day last year, and I was stuck in an awful Richmond airport.

I'd just finished another interview for a job that couldn't even promise me I'd make rent, and I was wiped out. I sat at that dreadful Applebee's 2 go and ordered an appetizer sampler. Yup, I was ready to take my anger out on my body.

I sat at the barstool talking shop with the local vendor, a gal who kept her steady nod constant to improve her chances at a sweet tip. No dice. The NBA Draft was about to start and here I was, trapped in this airport pub, talking to some disinterested Virginia-hot bar girl.

What a life to live.

Suddenly, his face just flooded the screen. I mean, out of nowhere, I saw butchered angioplasty in my tater tots. I spun around in my swivel chair, only to feel sweaty palms and huge melons on my back. Apparently, I wasn't the only one interested in the news.

The King of Pop was dead. And I had saggy breasts pressed on my back. MJ always had a way with the ladies.

To honor Michael on his one-year, I'm going to invoke his memory in this draft analysis. Each draftee can vibe with one of the King's songs. Now it's my job to rip that Michael Jackson love right out of their chest. Literally. I'm all about spilling blood on the dance floor.

I thought about going through the entire lottery, but why bother? This draft is uglier than Mia Farrow's varicose veins. Or the Chimp Lady's face. (Plus, it gives me an excuse to skip Cole Aldrich.) So, here you go, from one to ten, for my massive celebration of the life of THE star.

(Also, shout out to Large Professor. For no reason, really.)
1. John Wall - "You Rock My World"
Michael's last #1 single and swan song goes out to the top pick in the draft, a guy who's already got the vacant Phone Booth in the District filed on potential alone. Wall's probably the only guy with legit superstar skill, and probably the only bright spot in this super dull draft. Hopefully, he'll move Gil over to the position he was born to play (SG) and run fast break hoops with Flip and Wale on deck.
2. Evan Turner - "Rock With You"
Not a bad consolation prize for the 76ers, who get a Renaissance player with more uses than a Swiss Army Knife. He makes me a tad nervous, only because of his disappearance in the NCAA's and his skill set that screams "BACKUP!" in a normal draft. He's got a lot of good skills, but he's not great at anything. He's a Renaissance Guy.

The Sixers need help. They need fans. They need something to propel them past the Iverson years. Maybe Evan Turner can help that. Maybe he turns into Marvin Williams. Eeesh.

3. Derrick Favors - "Billie Jean"
Damnit. I was thisclose to getting cheap tickets (got Rondo/Brook Lopez courtside for $40 last year!) to see the best player in the draft dance in the Death Dome (Newark, NJ). Now? Here comes the first of many project big men, a guy we couldn't see at optimum efficiency because his guards were so crappy at Georgia Tech.

Russian Mark New Jersey a favor and trade Favors. We are NOT in love with him, I promise. You can't goad me into season tickets with his picture on the cover. I don't wanna dream Derrick Coleman dreams tonight.

Couple him with Avery Johnson's annoying accent, and I might as well be dead.

4. Wes Johnson - "Dangerous"
Quick story: At every summer science camp dance, we used to always spot this girl who had these amazing twirking abilities. Nay, we didn't want her dance out of lust (OK, sometimes), but rather because her moves were like something out of a Darren's Dance Grooves infomercial. It was sultry, vivacious, and downright sensual. Dancing with her was like riding a mechanical bull. Fear gripped our teenage hearts, as we desperately tried to hang in for dear life. Because she always wore a fitted Yankee cap, that became her name. Fitted. It was primal, immature, and always a tad dangerous.

Then, the music would stop, the party would end...and we'd see her face. Always made us wish we'd left before the lights came on just to seal the illusion.

Wes Johnson's this draft's Fitted. Physically, he's a lab geek's dream...a fusion of the good parts of Shawn Marion and Lamar Odom. He performs feats on the court that make you bite your lip. He's got the college pedigree (Syracuse). But he's an entirely different guy when the lights are on. The kid is sooooo dangerous. Which makes him perfect fodder for Kahn to destroy. Gulp.

5. DeMarcus Cousins - "Wanna Be Starting Something"

Even though MJ's words here were written as one of his many latent gestures, I can see Cousins spinning this phrase and using it to frighten opposing men. He seems so hungry, almost as if someone forced to eat Bush's Baked Beans for a week and he will no longer take the abuse. I could see him being addicted to coke; and in the same breath, swearing off drugs altogether. He'll curse you out in a heartbeat, but then shed bigger crocodile tears than Glenn Beck. He could emerge as one of the NBA's greatest hype men, but at the same time, totally dismiss the league.

One thing's for sure. If D.C. is hunting for a seat on a crowded train, mine's totally up for grabs. I'm not gonna even front.

6. Ekpe Udoh - "Who Is It?"
This mysterious, introspective song goes out to probably the most enigmatic lottery pick. Don't know what to expect from Udoh. I want to find more ways to reference him that quoting lines from The Air Up There. Make us proud son.

(Side Note: I always believed this song to be a self-examination of Michael Jackson's career, almost like a running commentary. It's a picture of his mental state, frantically hoping that he hasn't lost his edge and his skills to a now historic decade. While on the surface (and music video), we see Michael referencing a woman he once loved as a cold cheater, I feel this simple analysis sullies his vivid imagination. This is MJ, not Jagged Edge.

I've heard arguments that "Who Is It?" exists as a continuation of the "Billie Jean" diatribe, but why would The Gloved One waste words on a forgotten floozy? I mean, this song came out nine years later. Pulleaze. Why would Michael Jackson even bother to relive the "Billie Jean" scenario? What do you guys think? Do you even care?)

Something to think about. (On to the next one...)

7. Greg Monroe - "Liberian Girl"
Greg Monroe's game and career compare best to this music video for the song. Like the disjointed nature of the "Girl" video, Georgetown was probably a bad fit for him (stresses team game over individual talent). Like the video, there's some talent to be harvested from this eclectic but talented teen. Like the video, we need to see more from him than a highlight reel.

8. Al Farouq-Aminu - "Off the Wall"
I really don't know what to make of this dude. He's either a rotation player here or in Europe. And since he's on the Clippers, I'd bet the house on the latter. Good luck.

Coincidentally, this song describes Big Al's game (athletic, wiry finisher) and the entire Clippers franchise. Yup, those stories about owner Donald Sterling ordering Asian prostitutes and agreeing to continue housing discrimination are TRUE.

Plus, he's still too cheap to buy his team their own building. How someone can be a Clippers fan in 2010 is beyond me. Geez.

9. Gordon Heyward - Forever Michael (entire CD)
Hey, if you see a guy that become a marginal Matt Harpring, you've got to do it! Right? I already rue the day that I'll hear Jazz fans extend the vowel "E" in Heyward's name for dramatic effect. (Heeeeeeeeeeeeyward!)

This was Michael's last album before he fled for CBS Records. It screams disjointedness and chaos. Bringing up Forever, Michael in polite conversation might leave you cruising for a bruising. I'd buy an ice cream sandwich for anyone who can name a song from this album without using Wikipedia or AOL First Listen.

As for our Butler buddy...way to pander to your constituents, Jazz ownership. Gordon Heyward is as useless to the Jazz as their team nickname. (Really? They play Jazz music in Utah?) Heyward almost completely vindicates the stupid Eddy Curry trade. Almost. I actually might finally be able to relax like the guy from the ADT Home Security commercials.


10. Paul George - "Jam"
"Jam" was one of CBS Records' kooky inventions - a fusion of funk, new jack swing, and hip hop. The Michael-vs-Michael hoop battle was classic, and I could never hate on the guy that gave us this, but this song just seemed like a throw away to what was a superb album (Dangerous). The song sounds almost as if CBS wanted to capitalize on the new jack swing/jazz groove theme that was the early 90s standard (hence, the incorporation of Teddy Riley).

That's Paul George in a nutshell. He's pretty freaking athletic. He may or may not pan out. But he's a swing for the fences, an All-Star pitcher minus the off speed pitch, a mix tape rapper. He may become HUGE, or remain an urban legend from the rough Fresno State streets. Who knows. Might as well check him out...

Michael Jackson was the greatest artist of our time. He revolutionized the industry, made it cool to wear red leather jackets in the heat of summer, and still gets burn on the wheels of steel if a party's going South. He's the man. RIP.

Enough said. See me in the comments.
Mike Benjamin, II

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Everybody needs something to inspire them.

Jesus had our sins and hate from all sides. Ron Artest had the Malice at the Palace. Garfield has lasagna. Travis Henry has his alimony payments. Eddy Curry has his dream concept of a drive-thru Denny's. We all need some inspiration to kick our lives into overdrive.

For me, good music inspires me to write. No, not YOU, Justin Bieber. I went back to my roots, back to my tribe, A Tribe Called Quest's "What?" from The Low End Theory, and decided to take down the big hoops questions entering Summer 2010. (LeBron...please DON'T stay.)

(Brought to you by James Harden's beard and the letter J.)

What's the impact of marrying a Kardashian?
Uhh, that's easy. Genital warts. (I kid, I kid!)

So, Lamar won another title, this time with the ugliest of the Kardashian trio on his arm. If I'm Liza Morales...I'd be pissed if Lamar decided to leave me for that downgrade. It's like Bill Gates using an IPod and immediately putting out a press release declaring Zune's better. Come ON.

However, the Kardashians are all about results, not excuses. They get their men in the end (Kim/Reggie) and win titles (Super Bowl, NBA Finals). Half the time, they even get face time. (Yup, I didn't see Khloe's face either at the NBA Finals...thank God.) So,'s time for you to go ahead and start dating Phil Hughes. Or Joba Chamberlain. I think he could use the pick-me-up.

What will the Nets do with the #3 Pick?

Ooh, what glee! Rod Thorn, Russian Mark Cuban, and Kiki Vandeweghe's corpse get to choose from the tattered remains of DeMarcus Cousins, Wes Johnson, and Derrick Favors! Whoopee!

So, if you're the Nets...what do you do? Draft a player that you don't need (with Brook Lopez beginning to show signs of All-Stardom) or trade out of a bad draft for a player you can use. I think that Rod Thorn's playing it EXACTLY as he should:

As usual, Thorn offered no guarantees that he won't trade one of the team's top two players. There have been rumors that the Nets might pursue point guard Chris Paul through a trade. Since they don't seem to be all that high on any of the players they are likely to get with the No. 3 pick, such as Georgia Tech's Derrick Favors, Kentucky's DeMarcus Cousins or Syracuse's Wes Johnson, they could trade the pick to get an established player.
Sounds good to me. NO gets cap relief, and Nets get a dude to get BL jams. Too bad Monty Williams would be SCREWED.What has become of Ron Artest's legacy since June 17, 2010?
If William Shakespeare were alive in 2010, I love to see him go on a meth-induced rampage, decking those losers that perform plays in his name in local American parks, cursing the women who play the women roles in his plays, and hugging guys like Ron Artest. Because you see, Ron Artest is the epitome of Hamlet. Is Ron crazy, or is he acting crazy?

I love him because while Kobe represents what we want to be, Ron-Ron represents us. He's a character in a forsaken movie treatment, flaws and all. I'd talk more here, but I don't want to spoil the surprises I've got up my sleeve in a few.

As for his legacy, I bet nothing's changed since the 'ship. Heck, the kid gloves are off now. He's got free reign to become the "craziest" NBA player since Rodman. I fully expect to see him sitting on Dr. Drew's couch next to Big Bad Voodoo Daddy in seven years.

What does Kobe's hand look like with one on the thumb?

Pigs in a blanket. Not as good as Jordan's. Not as bad as fat Star Jones's. Is that enough?(Excuse me...just thinking about fat Star Jones made me want to barf. Gross.)

Now that that's settled, where do we place Kobe in the Canyon of Heroes now that he's secured Ring #5? He's clearly in the Top-10 (and a 1st ballot HOF, but so was Jerry Sloan and C. Vivian Stringer). Kobe probably needs another regular season MVP (1 to Jordan's 5), Finals MVP (2 to 6), and finish over MJ on the all-time scoring list (+8,000 points to go). And I think he's still got a-ways to go. Mike Jordan did his damage in 15 years (12 minus the #45 half season and the Wizards years). Kobe's gonna need at least 17 NBA seasons to pull that off. Ouch.

Young Kobe was eager to squelch the Kobe-McGrady debate (successful), and Old Kobe is still trying to define himself as the G.O.A.T. (still unsuccessful). We'll see how this turns out.

What's the deal with airplane food?
Sorry, too much Seinfeld. Reruns on FOX at 11:30!

What would the 2009 draft lottery look like one year later?
Evans-Curry-Young Money-Lawson-D. Collison-Beaubois-Rubio-Harden-Williams-DeRozan-Flynn-Hill-Clark-James Johnson-Casspi. Whew. Last year was really a bumper crop as far as PG's go. If you didn't get one in that '09 draft, you're pretty much sunk. After John comes the pu-pu platter.
What would have happened in the '10 NBA Finals if Boston had Stephen Curry instead of Rondo?
Boston would have won, hands down. I wasn't initially sold on the premise, but a long conversation with the Sports Yoga (my boy JL) forced my hand.

Here's the situation: Stephen Curry can shoot. Rajon Rondo can't. Sure, Rondo's super exciting with his thefts and speed layup drills, but that's null and void once we get into crunch time. He's a liability at the line (shot 29% in the Finals) to the point where the C's played 4-on-5 offense down the stretch. With Steph Curry, Kobe's extending his defense out to the three. This keeps Kobe from feeding on those cheap rebounds (which became new fodder for the "Kobe Lover" argument Ratchet Set: See! He can even rebound!)

Check out their splits from last year (2010):
Curry (80 games): 18-5-6, 46% FG, 44% 3FG, 88% FT
Rondo (81 games): 14-4-10, 51% FG, 21% 3FG, 62% FT

The numbers are nearly identical. Remember, Curry was playing with half the D-League last year, so you'd expect those assist numbers to balloon. Rondo was playing next to three future HOFers and a solid center. Danny Ainge, if Golden State calls your personal line with a Rondo-Curry trade, you'd at least have to pick up, right?

Example: Rondo's that amazing 4'11'' girl that you dated for a while but dropped for good reason. Sure, she's hot and generally not a bother to hang with, but eventually...the questions WILL start to surface. What happens when you need to take a family photo? Will you kids be unequivocally short? Can you even bring her to Six Flags without feeling like a rube? Can you resist the urge to use her head as an soft drink surface? You can't. No matter how great she might be at other things, common sense tells you that you've GOT to trade up for a taller babe. Right?

Man, I am such a jerk.

What's the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen?
Faith, or the lack thereof in Dwight Howard.

When the Magic were making noise as the pesky #7 seed that got to lose to Detroit, I penciled him in as a more physical/less cerebral David Robinson, or an upgraded model of Bill Russell. Now? He's fast becoming an weird amalgam of Darrell Dawkins and young Dike Mutumbo, minus the gusto in traditionally static celebratory expressions. And that's if he stays in shape. One knee injury turns him into both Darvin Ham and an obscure Jeopardy question:
For 400: He led the league in scoring for a decade, but never led his team to the playoffs during that span.
Who is Mitch Richmond?
CORRECT! (Applause...)

What did Shaq's ex-wife do to keep Basketball Wives from ending up on BET?
I don't even wanna know.

What's wrong with Mike Di Antoni?
Nothing and everything. He has the ability to draw oodles of talent from retreads like Eddie House, but is notorious for trapping bench players in warmups. He coaches offense like Norman Dale but defense like Shooter. Like Batman, Mike D plays the role of hero and villain perfectly. That's why most New Yorkers'll never realize how terrible he actually is.

I'm in the anti-DiAntoni camp. I think the league's fully implemented Seven Seconds or Less (SSOL) technology, and that any new wrinkles he's added while in the Big Apple have already been debunked and shredded. Unfortunately, I also think LeBron's in this camp with me, which is why he'll won't dare show his face in New York unless he's hosting another episode of SNL.
What can I do to end this piece?
Awwwwwww, here it goes. Out.
M. Benj, II

Friday, June 4, 2010

Celtics Pride?

I realized something last night: I like the Lakers team. I hate Lakers fans.

You've met them before. They appear in your congregations and water coolers, looking like fans of the home team before going rogue. They open up sports converations with blaspheme like "Kobe's the best player of all time." They rock fedoras and Ed Hardy shirts (at least that's what they wear in my nightmares) , and have a smug sense of entitlement that we dually despise and crave.

These are Lakers fans.

They laugh at your team's ineptitude. They make you answer "Kobe as defender" questions, even though that idea is so 2005. They pour gin and juice on everything when Kobe hits a gamewinner because they can afford it. They think they are the coolest fans in the world. And they tell the rest of the NBA to stay thirsty, my friends.

So...for everything that is holy and right about the NBA, I'm rooting for the Celtics. The green and gold know the feeling of sucking for an entire decade (90s). Los Angeles has only been under .500 three times since the 1974-75 season. Plus, I think this Wesley Snipes-level black Boston team totally subverts the archaic Celtics imagery of the 1980s.

Yes, I know...I'm a Knicks fan. But don't get mad at me yet. I've got my reasons.
1. Nate Robinson
As Knicks fans, we LOVE to count the amount of guys that make it to the NBA Finals...without the Knicks. Since the Ewing-era, we've had suckers like Nazi Mohammed and Trevor Ariza touch the ugly gold trophy without us. (We also had a penchant for grabbing garbage players off winning teams. I'm looking at YOU, Howard Eisley.) Nate, welcome to the wish list.

Nate's only been the only reason to watch Knicks games over the past five years as Isiah wrecked the salary cap (Jerome James, et al). He gave us street cred at All-Star weekend (even though Iggy deserved to win). He, along with Jamal Crawford, laughed at the concept of shot selection. Seeing him in a Celtics uniform makes me feel like Jennifer Aniston as she watches Brad Pitt make out with Angelina Jolie Voight on Access Hollywood, only now she's two years removed. You know, in an "at least he's happy now" moment.

(You know what sucks? If Jen, Brad, and Angelina were black, this would've been par for the course. Heck, the whole thing sounded like a director's cut episode of Girlfriends. Damn it all.)
2. The Celtics and Knicks aren't real "rivals".
People seem to think that the Celtics/Knicks have a rivalry akin to that of Yankees/Sawx or Jets/Pats...but that's not true. There hasn't been a time in NBA history where both teams were great at the same time. When Russell reigned, the Knicks were meandering through the East. The fusion of Clyde and Black Jesus was drowned out by the NBA/ABA showdown. Bernie King was a role player to the Bird protagonist. And we watched idly by as the rejuvenation machine powered the 2008 model to a championship.

Yeah, I don't love the Celtics. I envy their success. But at least they've never made me bleed my own blood before. I have Michael and Reggie to thank for that.

3. The death and resurrection of Rajon Rondo.
Remember when the Pittsburgh/Seattle Super Bowl when the Steelers won even though Ben Roethlisberger only completed nine passes? I do. That's kinda how the last C's/Lake Show Finals played out. Rajon Rondo played like garbage, Kobe defended him by crouching down in the paint...and the C's won anyway. Unfortunately, Rondo caught the "in spite of" disease from Tony Parker (see: '03 Finals) and was almost traded off before the 2008 Draft.

No longer. Rondo's a beast. He powers this new-look Celtics machine, and is totally responsible for this team's desire to snag Ring #2. Another W would vindicate his standing in the eyes of everyone who hasn't watched a lick of hoops all season. (Just so you know...he's here for good.)
So you see, I have to root for the C's this time. History (and annoying Laker fans) have forced my hand. Let's just hope the Celtics can throttle the Lakers quickly, because I have a feeling this Cinderella carriage is about to turn back into a pumpkin.

Enjoy the best Finals in recent memory, people.