The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops content from around the Internet
It is really unfortunate for the Brooklyn Nets that Bill Simmons is a Celtics fan. If he rooted for any other team, “The Trade” as Kharpertian calls it in his piece, would be an embarrassing curiosity. Instead, you can almost hear Simmons salivate every time he mentions the Nets, which he does with the insistent regularity of a 17-year-old boy who just had sex for the first time. Kharpertian’s is a more levelheaded, although no more optimistic, take on the team, addressing their flaws while highlighting the few bright spots in this inevitably dark season. He covers the Nets exceptionally well for a site that is likely not a part of most fans’ media diet, and should be added to your rotation if you care at all about what happens with this team. Plus, the story includes a video of Andrea Bargnani shooting the second he touches the ball, set to M.O.P.’s “Ante Up.” It’s delightful.
It’s easy to forget that Rolling Stone regularly features high-quality hoops content, so shouts out to Tom Ziller for the reminder this morning. Also if you’re reading this and somehow haven’t already, you should subscribe to his exceptional newsletter. Tien-Dana takes a broader view of the Nets here than Kharpertian above, delving into what the team stands for with a rather enjoyable extended Icarus metaphor. The two articles complement each other nicely, giving you a complete picture of the emotional and practical realities of the Nets this season.
While we’re dealing with the season’s depressing subplots, it is both cruel but fair to discuss Kobe Bryant. He too is suffering from a Bill Simmons effect, although it’s less the Sports Guy’s specific comments and more how acceptable he made it to bring emotion into analysis. As a result, there are a lot of folks who hated Kobe over the years gleefully mocking his admittedly horrendous play, and scoffing at the idea of him joining the Olympics roster in 2016. Dwyer gives the idea more even-handed consideration, and his conclusion that Bryant playing in Rio would unfairly deny a younger player a chance at the gold is the right one. And his final thought, that “No player – be they Kobe in his prime, Kobe missing two-thirds of his shots, or any random American NBA player – should be shamed out of at least wanting to play basketball for Team USA” is on we should all remember.
If O’Connell is making these “Watching….” pieces a weekly feature, Vice Sports could turn into a must-visit site on Tuesdays. Like his feature on Leonard last week, there is a wonderful combination of beautiful writing and clear understanding of the game, resulting in a cohesive point of view, elegantly expressed. He inverts the shock you feel whenever Steph Curry misses a jumper, describing the unique mix of expectation and awe that is beginning to define his game. It’s a new way to describe the sense of inevitability growing around this Warriors team, and how “no matter how much something amazes on its own merits, repeated enough it risks becoming rote.” No matter how perfect it may be, there are only so many times you can watch the same movie before you want to see something new.
Man, what spectacular timing on this piece. Mere days after the broader world of NBA fans was introduced to Johnson’s vision behind the camera, via Kelly Olynyk, a large burrito, and some rehosted Snapchats, we get a peek into the Celtic forward’s broader creative endeavors. It’s an excellent story, for the same reason people keep talking about Tim Duncan’s Black Jack Speed Shop; the little human details about a player who is capable of seemingly impossible things let fans relate to them a little better, understand them a little better. That it is focused on Johnson, an underappreciated veteran who is known more for hustle and tight defensive rotations than any highlights, makes the piece even better.