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The Starting 5: Appreciating NBA Fan Fiction

Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops content from around the Internet

1. Waiting For James Harden, Or Scenes From The Houston Rockets’ Players-Only Meeting – Alex Siquig, The Classical

You can write about basketball from an analytical standpoint, breaking down plays and statistics to gain deeper insight into a team. You can write about basketball from a human standpoint, profiling players and examining team chemistry to understand why they play. Or you can treat loving the NBA like any other fandom and just go in on esoteric tumblrcore fan fiction, as Siquig does here. His story walks the line between reality and absurdity like a drunk pedestrian at a traffic stop, swinging wildly between worlds. In one moment, Ty Lawson is bemoaning Houston’s lack of interior defense; in the next, Trevor Ariza ponders the significance of chasing an NBA title in a world full of terror, fear and pain. It’s simply a joy to read, especially the rousing, well-considered speeches of Dwight Howard, as he tries to inspire courage and pride in his team.

2. Sixers’ Losing Gets Ugly – Will Leitch, Sports On Earth

The Sixers are the NBA’s drunken uncle at Thanksgiving, a tragic spectacle most are content to ignore until they do something particularly heinous. Their 31-turnover debacle against Indiana the other night was a spilled the gravy boat on grandma in the middle of grace type of basketball game, and there are some gems in the newest round of pieces. Here, by pulling in non-sports examples of tanking’s highs and lows, Leitch contextualizes the Sixers, acknowledging their future hopes without forgiving the present. The vision of Brett Brown, a talented and serious coach who seems to be teetering ever more unsteadily on the brink of emotional collapse, is an enjoyable new layer to the misery in Philadelphia that can go unconsidered. There’s a lot of focus on how fans suffer in Philly, or how a player’s development might be impeded. It’s nice of Leitch to give Brown some shine.

3. Dwight Powell: Dallas Mavericks PF Has Star Potential – James D. Tillman III, Hoops Habit

In all fairness to both Tillman III and Powell, “star potential” may be a bit of a reach 12 games into the season. That said, Dallas is wildly outperforming expectations, and Powell absolutely plays a role in that. He’s clearly improved from last year, and has apparently been working his ass off to do so. But more importantly, after years of trading away every pick and prospect to bolster the roster around Dirk Nowitzki for another playoff run, Powell is an exciting young player with potential. As good as Dirk has looked this year, the day is going to come when he’s not wearing a Mavericks uniform on opening night. Powell makes that a little less terrifying.

4. Michael Carter-Williams Takes Step In New Direction, Releases Dress Shoe – Tim Newcomb, SI.Com

The continued escalation of the sneaker wars is flooding the market with signature shoes, and the Harden 1 hasn’t even dropped yet. That’s what makes Michael Carter-Williams’s new shoe so exciting, or at least a welcome change of pace; when’s the last time you heard about an NBA player designing a signature wingtip, let alone one that looks this good? They’re elegant and eye-catching at the same time, with a slight pop of color that really makes the whole look shine. Plus, MCW and Allen Edmonds are donating 10 percent of sales to Special Olympics Wisconsin, so it’s as classy to buy a pair as it is to wear one. This should also prove once and for all that Russell Westbrook is a legitimate trendsetter; it’s hard to see the MCW5 existing in a world without the Westbrook 0.

5. Breaking Down the NBA’s PER Metric – Ben Dowsett, Basketball Insiders

If you are a big dumb idiot like me, or perhaps simply new to the world of advanced statistics, this is a really helpful article. PER gets mentioned daily if you’re following the NBA, but aside from knowing that it stood for player efficiency rating and the league average would always be 15, I had pretty much no idea what it meant. Dowsett makes all those conversations a lot less opaque by simply explaining where PER came from, what it measures and where it falls short, with helpful examples to make the picture clear. His caution that PER doesn’t measure team chemistry seems unnecessary, since numbers have never been great at telling you if two dudes like get along, but other than that the article, like the stat itself, is incredibly helpful.

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