What We Wanted to Happen in Cleveland

I’m going to make this brief; like the citizens of Cleveland, I have a lot of resumes to put in. There is an unconscious desire that drives every person’s values and opinions on various matters, a desire that is never expressed (or even thought about) for fear of exposing the subconscious id. Most of you are aware of that, I hope. We should have known what would happen in Cleveland last night. I think we knew all along that it was going to be a complete massacre (figuratively speaking), a dusting of a really bad – mediocre, at best – team by a pretty good playoff team. But what did we want to happen?

I had to go through hundreds of smug Free Darko tweets to get to this one that I thought perfectly described the fervent desires of those watching last night: "I hope Cleveland stays peaceful & won't treat #LeBron James like #Ron Artest @Detroit 6 yrs ago". Except we all did! Everyone in the world wanted a physical, tight game until the fourth quarter, then for a crowd of drunk assholes to nail LeBron in the head with full cups of beer, then for him to react [in some Real fashion] and for everybody to violently storm the court like a ‘50s state high school championship. Instead, the Heat licked their lazy maws and you can probably remember how unwatchable the game was after that. "Reality" returned to Quicken Loans Arena pretty quick with a 4,000-point deficit to make up.

Like me, you probably have friends who are attracted to Premier League soccer and exhibit disgust at the thought of sitting down and watching men throw a ball through a hoop for two hours. The game last night was undoubtedly watched by millions of non-basketball fans, looking forward to an entertainment event similar to The Running Man, just hoping that LeBron would do something unhinged and get swallowed up by the earth as a result. I mean, even the President said it was going to be "brutal"!! But as the reality of that horrible game set in, our desires of primordial violence faded into the darkness. At least the GSW/PHX game was entertaining.

Age and Enforcement

Despite the Miami Heat’s proclivity for appearing on national television this year, I haven’t seen too much of Juwan Howard appearing in uniform. His appearances on the sidelines wearing warm-ups notwithstanding, the elderly Howard has apparently turned into a ghastly anti-Scalabrine after his bodacious foul on the Wizards’ Hilton Armstrong the other night. Howard’s frown remained painted across his face as the encounter escalated. While most of the attention has gone towards Hilton Armstrong’s initial foul (and his semi-humorous explanation after the game), the reckless abandonment of mores – really, the only person acting intentionally during the sequence – was obviously Howard.

A million years ago, when my father was teaching me about the history of the game, ol’ Pops delivered a great assessment of the Celtics’ teams he had grown up watching. There was Havilcek, Jones, Russell… and then there’s the twelfth man who beats the shit out of somebody when Red says to go. It’s a familiar role to veterans past their usefulness. Thusly, that’s the role that Howard has grown into during the waning years of his career. His line of “fouls per 36 minutes” is pretty awesome (at least in foul league terms) since he played with the Mavericks four years ago.

I’ve been wondering about the psychological condition of some of these older, washed up players for awhile. I guess that for some players, the amount of money that they’re getting paid makes up for their diminished roles on whatever squad picks them up for the season. Jerry Stackhouse didn’t give a fuck, for example, about the Heat waiving him to sign Erick Dampier. Howard, denying the Minnesota Timberwolves a chance at his washed up greatness after a trade from the Rockets in the mid-oughts, found probably way less playing time on the Mavericks – in Dallas, he rounded into form as a far overpaid asshole with a penance for enforcement. After a couple other years of playing forgettable professional ball, he found himself on the Blazers, where he was beloved for the first time in years. Quickly he corrected the course and signed with the Heat, bound for seventy wins and a ring...

In comparison, there’s a player like Shaquille O’Neal, whose dominance is felt in a creepy, distant echo from the past, as a backboard bends under his tremendous weight or something. His allegiance is also tied to success. It was widely reported when O’Neal joined the Celtics over the offseason that he was willing to be their twelfth man, their enforcer -- it was actually a duty he was relishing. But his torrent of personality overshadows the work that he does on the court, which is far superior to Howard even as an enforcer, and besides shitty pick-and-roll defense better than any of the other old guys on the Heat. His proclivity for a ridiculous public life informs how aged his game is, and makes it even more transparent. He is a magician.

Since Howard and Shaq were both products of the same era, and bound by comparisons to players from the same era even older than they, they remain unfortunately analogous. But where Howard will very occasionally put up fairly decent numbers with a limited game (like he did in a span last season), Shaq performs in the same fashion he always has. His evolution is stagnant: he has his moments, but he’s never going to beat Andrew Bynum, never mind Pau Gasol. But the numbers or matchups don’t matter – ask Kendrick Perkins who will be starting when he comes back. Ask who the defensive enforcer will be. As Shaq goofs for the camera, Juwan Howard will be on the wicked Heat, doing mean faces on the bench.

The Mike Conley Game b/w Schmucko's shot clock theory

As one of the few defenders of the 5 year, $40 million extension for Mike Conley and an NBA league pass subscriber, it is not uncommon for me to spend an idle Tuesday watching the Memphis Grizzlies. I even once spent $240 for 4th row tickets to see the Grizz live while stopping over in Memphis en route to lose a bunch of money playing Blackjack in Tunica, MS. Imagine my delight when I witnessed the mighty Grizz hand the Lakers their 3rd loss in a row on Tuesday, and Mike Conley having one of the better games of his career, going 10-13 for 28 points and...3 assists. Ok, so maybe he won't be mentioned in any Chris Paul vs. Deron Williams debates anytime soon, but considering one of the freshmen in his class at Ohio State is STILL PLAYING AT OHIO STATE, I'd say there's some tremendous upside potential there.

All of this is unnecessary background for what I call Schmucko's shot clock theory. With about 28 seconds left in the Lakers/Grizz game, the Grizz rebounded a ball with a 2 point lead. A lot of times, the losing team in this situation would foul, hoping to extend the game, and not wanting to risk having little to no time left once they get possession. The Lakers instead decided not to foul because they figured they would play defense and hopefully get the ball back with 3-4 seconds left for a final chance to tie or win the game.

Unfortunately, the Grizz make Andy Reid look like John T. Reed when it comes to clock management. A few weeks ago, they blew a 4 point lead with 3 seconds left to the Phoenix Suns, which included an unintentional made free throw by Rudy Gay. In this case, instead of playing the clock down to a few seconds, the 40 million dollar man drove the lane with 10 seconds left, turned the ball over, and the Lakers had a semi-fast break going to possibly tie or win the game. Fortunately for the Grizz, the ball ended up in Ron Artest's hands and he was blocked by Gay at the buzzer, ensuring that The Mike Conley Game would live on.

Here's how Schmucko's shot clock theory could've easily prevented any of this from happening. Let's say Conley dribbled the ball down to 1 second on the shot clock (5 on the game clock): What is to stop him from then arcing the ball super high in the air (while still aiming for the rim), which would run the remainder of the time off the clock? By the time the ball either hits the rim or goes into the stands for a 24 second violation, the game would be over as the game clock does not stop until the ball hits the ground. I've never seen a team do this but also don't believe there is any rule against it. As long as a shot is attempted, the refs can't rule that there was any funny business (Section II, Article j). Of course, if this was successfully achieved, teams would realize that they'd have to foul early in the shot clock and it'd never happen again. But until then, any NBA player or coach reading this can feel free to be the first and last tester of my theory, and all I ask is that you make a guest post on Negative Dunkalectics if it works. I'm looking at you, Landry Fields.