Basketball Reasons, an NBA place

An NBA place from an NBA writer

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Carmelo Anthony’s ‘unfinished business’ with the Knicks

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(Cary Edmondson - USA TODAY Images)

Carmelo Anthony tested the free agency waters this summer but in the end the promise of a new era led by Phil Jackson, calling Madison Square Garden home and some “unfinished business” with the New York Knicks kept the prolific scorer in the Big Apple.

Anthony spoke with reporters during Knicks media day about his free agency process, saying ”from a basketball standpoint it probably would’ve been maybe the greatest thing to do, but for me personally I wouldn’t have felt right with myself. Knowing that I wanted to come here, I kind of forced my way here to New York and I have some unfinished business to take care of.”

Anthony’s correct. He did force his way to New York. After leading the Denver Nuggets to the playoffs for seven straight years — a streak that dated back to his rookie season — he was done being dispatched in the Western Conference. New York needed a superstar to bring a new era of basketball greatness to the city. The Nuggets needed a premium package to absorb the hit losing a player of Anthony’s stature would mean to the franchise. Ultimately they found the right mix of players and contracts and Anthony was set to be the Knicks’ renassaince man.

Only it hasn’t gone that way thus far.

Sure, Anthony captured a scoring title in 2013, but the Knicks have seen just 17 playoff games since he joined the franchise in 2011. They missed the postseason entirely last season despite a weak Eastern Conference that continues to improve while the Knicks stagnate. The kind of success the Knicks, and Anthony, are starving for is the kind of success their two new leaders — Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher — know a thing or two about.

New York needs more than the Triangle offense and “championship experience” to deliver a title, though. We’ve also learned the Knicks need more than Carmelo Anthony’s devastating array of offensive skills to score the level of success that’s been alien to the franchise since 1973. New York begins a long transition this season, trying to find the right mix of personnel that will thrive in a new system. Tyson Chandler, their defensive anchor, was shown the door in favor of a great shooting point guard in Jose Calderon. That’s only a small step in the Zen Master blueprint.

Jackson and Fisher were given the opportunity to have the kind of weapon needed as the centerpiece of the Triangle offense, but it wasn’t painless. Anthony’s extension won’t give the Knicks the kind of salary cap flexibility Jackson publicly challenged the superstar to give him, eating up $124 million over the next five seasons. Anthony wanted to be paid like a superstar, and the Knicks rewarded the one-time scoring champ with the kind of salary figure he felt he deserved.

For now, though, the Knicks are stuck in neutral. Their salary structure left little wiggle room for Jackson to work with once he climbed on board. The Knicks will have to stomach paying the frontcourt duo of Andrea Bargnani and Amar’e Stoudemire a combined $34.9 million before Jackson has the kind of canvas necessary to paint dreams of a Larry O’Brien trophy into the minds of Knicks fans and their franchise centerpiece.

Anthony knows it won’t be an immediate turnaround for the Knicks. The roster remains largely unchanged, and a new system without all of the puzzle pieces in place can only go so far. He’ll remain patient, for now, but it won’t last forever. Just ask the Nuggets or, better yet, ask the man himself.

”I’m willing to be patient. Now how long I’m willing to be patient? I can’t really tell you that,” Anthony told media. “But I’m willing to be patient. I’m willing to take risks, I’m willing to take that chance.”

It’s patience and the desire to deliver on the promise of titles that has Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks married heading into a brand new season. For now, at least.

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Growth, decay, transformation

Walter White lived a life defined by neutral colored clothing and teaching basic chemistry to a classroom of students that didn’t give a damn about what he had to say and could never understand what he wanted to say, but this is the place where Mr. White summarized Breaking Bad and gave his most important lesson:

"It is growth, then decay, then transformation."

Growth

Walt was growing from the first moment he was on screen, in his undies, recording a message for his family. Growing into a second life — a split personality — he could never imagine would become the infamous man named Heisenberg. International meth dealer, murderer of DEA agents, destroyer of families.

He grew, and he grew, and he grew — oh, how far Walter and Heisenberg took one another. The cancer had gone into remission and he amassed $80 million worth of greenbacks. A mound of money that Skyler White had “no earthly idea” how to quantify and Huell turned into a day-bed. No matter how uncomfortable those hard, tightly packed stacks of money felt against his back it was a thrill he couldn’t shy away from.

That stiff bed provided more satisfaction to Huell than it ever has, and possibly ever will, to the traumatic duo of Walt and Heisenberg.

The two peaked — they reached their goal and had nothing left to achieve. His money was made — the era of Mr. Blue Sky had come to an end. From using Badger, Skinny Pete and Combo as drug peddlers on enemy corners to Lydia blowing Europe’s hair back, they did it. Mr. White was back in control, Heisenberg could go into hibernation.

He climbed to the top of the mountain and became the world’s finest meth cook. An achievement he could never lay claim to as Walter White but his buddy Heisenberg could hang his pork pie hat on. The growth had stopped, there was nothing left to wait for but decay.  

Decay

Five-and-a-half seasons of Breaking Bad have been about the growth of a meth business empire. The decay has come swift and without mercy for both Walter and Heisenberg over the final half-act of the series. The calculated professor of destruction finally began losing.

Heisenberg lost his partner in Jesse Pinkman, his empire to neo-Nazis and wide-eyed student of Mr. Heisenberg in Todd, and what had kept him alive this long — his fast-acting, problem-solving brain — to the emotions of Walter White.

Walter lost his only confidant and pseudo-son in Jesse, his brother-in-law and justification that Heisenberg’s an ay-ok kind of guy to associate with so long as family wasn’t hurt, and then lost the fruits of his labor. Seven barrels of Walter White’s money taken away. Seven plaques commemorating Heisenberg’s ultimate accomplishment of creating an empire stripped.

The money mattered to Walt because he wanted to provide for his family. The money mattered to Heisenberg because it was proof of his power.

Then, Walter lost what he had always claimed to be fighting for — his family. Skyler, Flynn and Holly White were gone. All that was left for Walt was to run. He was hiding Heisenberg, a monster that left ASAC Schrader missing his days of tagging trees, and everybody knew.

Heisenberg was Walter. Walter was Heisenberg. They lost it all when their worlds collided. The cancer was back, but the decay wasn’t complete. Out of a travelling propane truck and into New Hampshire, the two had emerged from the womb the Vacuum-guy provided as one. Blinded by the light of a new, fabricated life surrounded by pure white snow. Nothing left but to sit and rot in a cabin while anxiously waiting to read month-old newspapers and find his vein for chemotherapy.

Finally, Walter’s desperation built enough strength for one last hail mary out. He would ship his little bundles of justification to Walt Jr. like a box of “I’m sorry” chocolates to the family he left behind. Maybe if he could find a way to still provide money to his family there’d be reason to try and fight the decay. His finger too small to wear his wedding band, his connection to life costing $10,000 an hour, his pork pie hat hanging like a trophy of past glories that could never be relived. Buried in the secrets held in the desert with Hank Schrader and Steve Gomez.

Walter found out what we knew — money could never bridge the distance between Albuquerque and the horrible deeds that forced him to become Mr. Lambert. It was over. The mighty Heisenberg reduced to giving up to the DEA for the second time in the span of three episodes after fighting and manipulating for survival through five-and-a-half seasons.

Walter turned himself in again and sat at the bar, waiting for the handcuffs to be slapped on his wrist once again. No last meal, but one last drink. The fire that had propelled him to become an internationally recognized drug kingpin was but smoldering wreckage. He reached the rock bottom of his life while Jesse sat handcuffed at the bottom of a pit. Both helpless to the circumstances around them, broken and given up. 

The decay was complete.

Transformation

There they were. Gretchen and Elliot. Belittling Walter White’s achievements for the world to hear. The name? That’s all Walter White contributed to Grey Matter?

The transformation began. You could see it boiling in Walter’s face. Whistling like Gale Boetticher’s boiling tea kettle, bubbling like a beaker during a chemical reaction. The way he squeezed the life out of an already-lifeless napkin. The fire was re-lit, only needing a spark to ignite the rubble.

Walter White underwent a transformation as police surrounded the dingy bar. The final progression in this story. Whatever it is that returns to New Mexico won’t be the frantic, helpless man trapped in a downward spiral we witnessed through the final episodes. That man is gone, left behind on the empty stool and half-empty glass.

Grey mattered after all.

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Tangent on Dwight Howard and the Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers should have given Dwight Howard the world. Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak should have gritted their teeth and let words about how badly they wanted — no, needed — to sign the superstar center slither through the cracks during their free agency “meeting.”

They should have muzzled Kobe Bryant. They should have told their old, washed up franchise player — who just put up career-high shooting efficiency and assist numbers — that his time was done and he needed to scoot the fuck over.

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Filed under Lakers Dwight Howard NBA Los Angeles Lakers

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Break in case of emergency

I’m looking at a blank page knowing this is the last time I’ll have a fresh document to process words on for quite some time. I’m giving up because I’m not strong enough to see this through to the end. I can’t see this through to the end because I’m hanging on by a thread.

I’m broken because this is what I love and want to give everything to. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out. I don’t know if it’s you or me, writing. It’s one of us, and we can’t go on. Not like this – not without significant change.

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Advanced stats don’t matter

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Advanced stats in the NBA are great. They provide data that is otherwise unavailable at the click of a mouse. Dwight Howard’s career 20.8 percent rebounding percentage, LeBron James’ insane 41.8 assist percentage with the 2009-2010 Cleveland Cavaliers, Ray Allen’s .708 true shooting percentage through the 2010-2011 NBA Playoffs all tightly packaged, gift wrapped and slapped with a poorly selected bow akin to Saul Goodman’s selection of dress shirt, suit jacket, tie and pocket square.

The thing is, advanced stats don’t matter.

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Some thoughts on failure and seeking opportunity

Opportunity.

Opportunity is a funny thing. Not ha-ha funny, but peculiar funny.

One day in mid-July you’ll feel you have a phenomenal opportunity in front of you, but within a month you’ll find that it was but a mirage. Maybe it will pan out in a month, but when opportunity becomes something you desperately need to pay bills, sitting and waiting for it to come to fruition is no longer an option, and It becomes failure.

So you become proactive. You check the weather in all the places you think you can find that elusive opportunity, only to find it’s all the same inescapable lukewarm temperature.

Is it a lack of individual talent, experience or trust? That’s when doubt begins to creep in like smoke between the cracks of your door.

Second-hand smoke can be lethal. Do your best to avoid it.

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