NBA Playoffs Preview: Atlanta Hawks

The Jazz June - The Boom, The Motion, and the Music (2000)

Let me spoil this one from the start: just as the Atlanta Hawks have a bunch of guys who all play exactly the same position, The Jazz June had three (!) guitarists.

Usually we like to keep the punchline hidden til at least two-thirds of the way down the post, when you're on the hook to sign up for our newsletter or to see some sort of usgoldbureau.gif banner ad you didn't expect. Gold is the only store of value that's never been worth nothing, after all, and just look at this chart and imagine how rich you'd be if you'd bought some gold back during the halcyon days of ought-six and held it til now:

click to enlarge the image; then call your broker!

Of course, if the adage Negative Dunkalectics's own "Kirk Krack" invented the other day about how "you can't live in gold!" is true, I might as well invent two other similar adages just to make this post look like less of a mess:
  1. "You (usually) can't form a great band around three guitarists!" &
  2. "You (usually) can't win with an NBA team comprised almost entirely of 6'7" athletic guys who all basically play the same position!"
Ok: that's a little too baggy to make a memorable adage, so let's just call it a parable.

According to the Rigorous Schedule we've set for posting these playoff previews, I was supposed to schedule this to post in the afternoon yesterday, before the Hawks got blown out in last night's game against the Pacers. After giving some serious thought to firing myself from ND, I realized that this one extra game helped prove my thesis, viz., that the Hawks will get knocked out in round one by the Magic AND that they're condemned forever to be a middling team that wins 45 or so games and loses in round one until their management understands the concept of "comparative advantage."

Since you're unlikely to dust off your Ricardo, comparative advantage succinctly entails that enormous gains in wealth and productivity come from specialization and trade through which people can complement each other's special skills. Read this thing Don Boudreaux wrote (then send some hate mail about how I posted a link to
Ricardo’s result, which still holds up today, is that what matters is not absolute production ability but ability in producing one good relative to another.
Ann and Bob are the only two people on an island. They use only two goods: bananas and fish. If Ann spends all of her working time gathering bananas, she gathers one hundred bunches per month but catches no fish. If, instead, she spends all of her working time fishing, she catches two hundred fish per month and gathers no bananas. If she divides her work time evenly between these two tasks, each month she gathers fifty bananas and catches one hundred fish. If Bob spends all of his working time gathering bananas, he gathers fifty bunches. If he spends all of his time fishing, he catches fifty fish. If Ann and Bob do not trade, then the amounts that each can consume are strictly limited to the amounts that each can produce. Trade allows specialization based on comparative advantage and thus undoes this constraint, enabling each person to consume more than each person can produce.
Got it??? 

Let's just say that NBA teams have adapted different positions in order to utilize different players' complementary skills best and to make teams that are more than the sum of their parts, including point guards adept at passing, penetrating, and knocking down threes and big men who can post up, rebound, and block shots. Compared to these specialists, 6'7"-6"10" wing players are generalists: good at many things, but great at nothing in particular. Like Andre Igoudala.

And, wouldn't you know it, the Hawks's roster's filled with generalists: they even famously passed on exceptional specialist point guards Chris Paul and Deron Williams to draft the prototypical Hawk, Marvin Williams. Check out the roster:

(Editor's note: here's the place for a bad joke about how if the Hawks ever move to Seattle with their current roster, they should call themselves the Washington Generalists. Also: you're fired.)

sorry -- I forgot to move the mouse pointer. deal with it dog.gif

I have to imagine that the Pape Sy draft pick took place after somebody in the Hawks's front office read, saw the line "NBA Comparison: Marvin Williams/Josh Smith/Josh Powell/Joe Johnson/Damien Wilkins," and immediately thought "now THERE'S the guy we want!" This year the Hawks have no first round pick (they dealt it away to the Wizards in the Kirk Hinrich-Mike Bibby trade that later ruined the Miami Heat's chances of slowing down Derrick Rose in the playoffs), but you'll never guess who projects them picking in the second round:

Anyway, just as the Hawks limited their team by drafting a bunch of guys who aren't complementary because they all duplicate each others' skillsets, The Jazz June limited themselves by also having a bunch of guys who duplicated each others' skillsets: three guitarists.

The Jazz June's lesson for the Hawks is that this usually doesn't work out! Somehow people remember the band with nostalgia but let us never forget that almost all of The Jazz June's records were mediocre. They Love Those Who Make The Music was one of the most average products of the myriad Promise Ring/Get Up Kids clones and The Medicine wasn't much better. 

Similarly, the Hawks got blown out yesterday by the Indiana Pacers.

Of course what makes a parable more complex than an adage is the fact that it includes more than one event... and in the story I'm making up on the fly here, that second event is a reversal! Are you ready?

Even though almost all of The Jazz June's records were utterly mediocre, The Boom, The Motion, and The Music turned out to be slightly better than mediocre! I might even call it good! I can say without hesitation although probably still in an unenthusiastic monotone that I enjoy listening to it.

Similarly, the Hawks's four fans are really going to enjoy it if their team of Marvin Williamses ever manage to break through and get swept by the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Follow @negativedunks on twitter if you wanna read some jokes like this periodically:

For more Emo Spring NBA Playoff Previews, click here and wallow in a weird combination of nostalgia and embarrassment!

NBA Playoffs Preview: Denver Nuggets

Orchid - Dance Tonight! Revolution Tomorrow! (2000)

The biggest surprise during the 2nd half of the NBA season has been the success of the Denver (K)Nuggets. As with most teams who trade their superstar away for young players and assets, they were expected to struggle. Take the Utah Jazz...please! However, a few days after Denver made their blockbuster trade with the Knicks, picking up Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, and Ray Felton, they beat the Celtics on national television, finishing the game off on a dominating 16-0 run. They would eventually win 17 of 22 games and position themselves as a dangerous playoff team, an unknown quantity in an age where teams are stacking together star players in order to compete for a title.

The Nuggets are doing it a different way, through a 10-deep rotation that spreads the wealth as much as any team we've seen. Take a look at these scoring averages since the trade was made:

Danilo Gallinari - 15.5
JR Smith - 14.4
Nene - 13.7
Ty Lawson - 13.6
Wilson Chandler - 12.3
Ray Felton - 11.0
Kenyon Martin - 10.7
Aaron Afflalo - 10.7
Al Harrington - 8.0

There hasn't been a team this socialist since Adam Morrison retired to focus on his poetry. The Nuggets are smashing the star-ocracy and sparking a team construct revolution. If you think Paris 1968 was bad, you watch: Denver 2011 will be worse!

Orchid didn't think Paris 1968 was bad at all. In fact, they spent the late 90s-early 00s constructing fast, chaotic, and strangely beautiful songs about philosophers and revolutionaries. On the track "Victory Is Ours" off their EP/10" Dance Tonight! Revolution Tomorrow!, vocalist Jayson Green screams "I was born in 1968/I was born in '68/And I'm born again!/Fresh face for the stenciled walls/Debord is always right here", referencing Guy Debord and the Situationalist International. Greene furthers the motif in "I Am Nieztczhe":

I make the sounds you can't understand
This is my critique!
This is my subversion!
This is my revolution!
I make the sounds that you can't understand

It is hard to understand how a trade that deals one of the top 10 players in the league and a point guard who at one point played in 7 straight conference finals would actually benefit a team. From Charles Barkley being traded for Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang, and Tim Perry to Kevin Garnett being traded for Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, and birthday cake dunking specialist Gerald Green, these "3 quarters for a dollar" trades tend to leave a team in shambles and perpetual rebuilding mode.

Denver subverted this trend by making sure the 3 quarters they got were legitimate starters, and holding out for a 4th quarter (Mozgov), who the Knicks barely could afford to part with considering their lack of size. GM Masai Ujiri masterfully used a team that Melo showed no interest in playing with (New Jersey) as a bargaining chip and made sure owner Stan Kroenke was involved in order to bring the Knicks buffoonish owner James Dolan and his trusty sidekick Isiah Thomas into the process. In the end, the team that normally gets burned shifted the paradigm and created a blueprint for future trades of this magnitude.

Orchid's lyrics made bored art school kids take notice, but their real appeal was in the fast drumming and secretly brutal guitar riffs, with songs rarely surpassing 2 minutes. Early splits with Pig Destroyer and Combatwoundedveteran gave them cred from a crowd who would rarely admit to liking anything associated with the "screamo" label. On the other hand, those who were more in touch with their feelings enjoyed the melodies while still being able to spaz out in a more accessible way.

While the Nuggets lack a star in the front court, the size and strength they can feature with the likes of Kenyon Martin, Nene, Chris "Birdman" Andersen and even Timofey Mozgov and Kosta Koufos can create matchup problems for any undersized opposition (any wonder why likely 1st round opponent Oklahoma City made sure to get Kendrick Perkins?). The Nuggets can throw out a secretly brutal lineup of 7 footers and physical power forwards if they feel like it. They can also go super small and fast with Ty Lawson, Ray Felton, JR Smith, and Aaron Afflalo. They are just that fucking deep. And their 22 game run is a critique of top heavy teams like the Miami Heat. This is their subversion! This is their revolution!

Follow Schmucko on Twitter for more Mozgov discussion, and for more Emo Spring NBA Playoff Previews, click here and wallow in your weird combination of nostalgia and embarrassment.

NBA Playoffs Preview: Los Angeles Lakers

Fugazi - Red Medicine (1995)

It’s 12:20 a.m. on March 11th and Kobe Bryant is practicing his jumpshot. The fact that he’s practicing it on the floor of American Airlines Arena surrounded by media is neither here nor there. The Lakers just had their eight game post-All-Star break winning streak snapped by a Heat team that were in a five game slump. And Kobe’s poor shooting was partly to blame. So here he is, jaw jutting out, working the floor like an autistic kid pacing in the throes of a spell.

I don’t wanna be defeated.
I don’t wanna be defeated.

It’s 1980 and Henry Rollins just hired Ian Mackaye to work at the Haagen-Dazs in Georgetown that he manages. He’s 18 years old, and working in an ice cream shop isn’t his only after school activity. He also plays in bands around town. And he recently left his band The Teen Idles to start a new band, one where he gets to be the lead singer, called Minor Threat. He doesn’t realize it yet, but he will one day hate ice cream, and he will soon make an impact on the world of music that will change the game forever.

Kobe Bryant started young, too. He went to the NBA straight out of high school, the first guard to ever do so. And he made an immediate impact. But it wasn’t until Phil Jackson took the reigns of the Lakers and introduced them to the triangle offense that Kobe Bryant was able to really change the game.

The triangle offense is like chess, the fundamentals are simple but mastering it is exceedingly difficult. The beauty of the triangle is that it gives each player handling the ball several options. They then react to the defense to decide. It’s an offense that, when used most effectively, utilizes everyone on the floor and allows teams to keep moving the ball until they find the best possible shot. It is antithetical to the kind of isolation offensive schemes that teams used to put the ball in the hands of their best scorers. It assumes that everyone can score given the best shot.

Without the triangle who knows what all Kobe could have accomplished? He had yet to win a championship before Phil Jackson arrived in L.A., but he was an All-Star, he was playing with other All-Stars like Shaquille O’Neal, and the Lakers were looking like they were on the way back. But it was clear that the triangle provided Kobe precisely what his game lacked: trust in his teammates and the ability to make plays off the ball. There was a mystical quality to Phil Jackson, burining incense in the locker room and leading tai chi sessions before shootarounds. Its only fitting that he chose the most mystical of offensive schemes as his wheelhouse. The team is a single entity unto itself. There are no individuals. Everyone is a part of every play. Feel your teammates. Feel the defense. The triangle was dynamic and chaotic at the same time. There were no set plays but the players all knew instinctively what to do. And what they did was win.

Ian Mackaye started Minor Threat so he could have the microphone. He was tired of playing bass. He wanted the spotlight. And when he had it he didn’t disappoint. Minor Threat was in your face, they were intense, they were angry, and they drew a following like no other hardcore band before them. And any honest accounting would have to give Ian the credit. The music, the attitude, the message, the entire thing was an extension of Ian’s personality. But after Minor Threat broke up, Ian floated around looking for a new project. Then he met Rites of Spring’s Guy Picciotto. Fugazi was born.

Fugazi wasn’t anything like Minor Threat. The music was more complex, the influences were more diverse, the lyrics were more abstract, but most importantly, the band was more than just an extension of Ian’s personality. His influence on the band was undeniable and was key to the music they made, but it wasn’t overbearing. It was complemented by the other members, especially Guy, who brought a sensibility to the music that was almost a perfect yin to Ian’s yang. The signature to Fugazi’s musical style was the interplay between Guy and Ian both through their guitar work and in their lyrics. Often they would play dissonant rhythms that, if you took them on their own you may never think would work together, but when they played it seemed perfect. And Guy would complement Ian’s churlish vocals with his own high-pitched hollerings. The result was a sound that, like chess, was fundamentally simple but exceedingly complex in its execution.

I’m sick with this.
Situation avoided?
Or just missed?

Kobe took a lot of heat for his post-game shootaround after the March 10th loss to the Heat. Critics were quick to point out that the arena had its own private practice facility that he could have worked out in. He was accused of mugging for the media, trying to stay the center of attention after the loss. He was accused of being a baby, a sore loser. But there’s a bit of a mystical quality that follows these world champion Los Angeles Lakers. And this shootaround felt like a harbringer of things to come. It felt like it might be more than just a tantrum or a stunt.

The Lakers gave up on the triangle eventually. And its no coincidence that their abandonment of the triangle in favor of the high pick and roll really picked up in 2004 as they went into a rebuilding phase. They didn’t give it up entirely, just sort of went back and forth between attempting the triangle, playing some bastardization of the triangle that involved getting the ball to Shaq then Shaq dishing it out when he got double-teamed, and just looking for the high pick and roll whenever they were in a pinch. The perfect syncopation of dynamism and chaos gave way to just simple chaos. And the Lakers stopped winning.

Enter Pau Gasol. Tall and lanky, a big guy but considered brainier than brawny, Pau would become the Guy Picciotto that would allow Kobe Bryant and the Lakers to get their syncopation back. His fit with the triangle was obvious. A great passer, he often led the team in assists while running the triangle. He exposed Lamar Odom’s limitations as a triangle big man: Odom didn’t pass enough and when he did he didn’t pass well. Gasol could score, but he could also create scoring opportunities for his teammates by reading the defense and playing well off the ball. The triangle was back, and the Lakers were the only team in the NBA who could play it. No one could imitate them. All they could do was adjust their defenses accordingly. L.A. went on to appear in three straight finals, winning two championships back to back.

It's August 7th, 1993, and Fugazi is playing a show down the hill from the Washington Monument on the National Mall. There are probably a thousand kids there. Fugazi is at their high water mark with the release of In on the Kill Taker, a record that challenges any simple definition for their music, but is powerful and beautiful all the same. Making music like this has a wonderful quality of being impossible to imitate yet easy to inspire. Countless bands in the 1990s, a period whose music was defined by cheesy grunge bands with countless cheap imitations, were inspired by Fugazi’s willingness and ability to do something different. But very few were able to do it the same way, which is Fugazi’s true gift beyond their music itself. Changing the game, challenging musicians to be creative, to not just copy whatever record companies were throwing at them. Fugazi, in being the greatest band of all time, was upping everyone else’s game.

This is the point.
This is the manifest.
Reason for the gathering?

Kobe Bryant and the world champion Los Angeles Lakers went on from that March 10th loss to the Heat (and Kobe’s late night jinxbuster shootaround) to win their next 9 straight games. It’s Phil Jackson’s last season with the team. Kobe has promised him a 12th championship on his way out. Right now they are in a three-game losing skid. There are new, young, exciting teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Chicago Bulls who are knocking on the door. And there are the aforementioned Miami Heat, not to mention the Boston Celtics, who want a chance to expose the Lakers as has-beens. They seem pretty sure they have the Lakers figured out, and that they can take the crown.

In 1995, Fugazi followed up In on the Kill Taker with Red Medicine. True to form, it was a completely unique sound, an experiment that defied definition. While fans of Fugazi will debate until they are blue in the face over which is their best album and why, everyone sees Red Medicine as a tipping point for the band. There are two Fugazis, the band before Red Medicine and the band after. One thing is true: the record challenged their fans. You are either with us or against us. There will never be another Repeater. Shaq isn’t coming back. You can shout "Waiting Room" at our shows, we aren’t going to play it. You can show up during halftime and fuck with your Blackberry the entire game, we aren’t playing for you anyway.

Whoever wins the 2011 NBA championship will have to get through the Los Angeles Lakers first, be it literally or spiritually. Because one thing is for sure, they have changed the game. And in doing so, they upped everyone else’s.

I don’t wanna be defeated.
I don’t wanna be defeated.
I don’t wanna be defeated.
I don’t wanna be defeated.

David Hill is a writer in Brooklyn, NY. He hates the Lakers but he loves Fugazi. Follow him on twitter here.

The rest of Negative Dunkalectics' band-inspired NBA playoff previews can be found at the following links:

NBA Playoffs Preview: Chicago Bulls

Honeywell - Industry (1993)

This week we're taking our belts off and really letting the emo hang out! I took off work for this.

When the ND braintrust handed me my walking papers for this playoff preview, you bet I groaned. This band and this album name are positively google-proof. I actually had to go way the way out of the way and read a myspace site just to find a dinky non-official site with a spotty biography! I know what you're thinking: what's myspace? Ask your grandfather.

If that weren't enough, this album, unlike most albums, was available only on a run of 250 or so lps and never even made it to CD (Tweet this guy why not. Never stop tweeting that guy.). Even Chris couldn't point me to a dece torrent site to refresh my memory about the damn band. My record player broke years ago, although it still occupies a ceremonial space on my authentic hoosier cabinet (autographed by Tyrus Thomas) where I keep most of the Etsy keepsakes my wife forces on me after we've had a good cry.

Anyway, if you don't already know, this album sounds like an animal being ripped apart. It's the most punch-you-in-the-face screamo album in a world where they are in legitimately short supply. Plus, it's a baffling mystery how this thing got made. Fifteen years ago, all we knew was that a couple-four seventeen-year-old reconstructed skinheads found out you could hook up a distortion pedal to the vocal mike, strum some octave chords and get a drummer that pounded, hit record, yell "fuck," and make history. It's a crazy, noisy, bent album; satisfying beyond its intention. It's almost a perfect record, though seemingly made by accident.

All of which reminds me of a Bulls team that started the season stocked with a bunch of free agency also-rans and headed for a lousy second-round playoff exit. Here's some more comparison:

Derrick Rose's 3 point range: Ok, so Thibs rolled up to Club Berto this summer with some sick defensive strategies (read: 2-3 Zone) in five-inch binders labelled "How To Win," handed them out, played that Ray Lewis "Defense wins championships!" clip to get everyone psyched, and then yelled "Oh yeah, Derrick, learn the three ball (ya rite)!" The rest of the Bulls had a good chuckle. Luol luolled. But guess what, Derrick diid it, and that really put the Bulls (and defenders) over the top (of screens) this year. And if you think that was the best result to ever come from a joke, check this out! Honeywell invented screamo--as a joke!
Their new sound was frenetic and harmonically complex, and the finishing touch started as someone ribbing Josh a little bit. During a rehearsal, someone jokingly suggested "Hey Josh, why not try screaming like a girl?" Josh gave it a shot and the band told Josh to stick with it...Hence, the start of "Screamo", whatever that's supposed to mean.
Yes, whatever that is supposed to mean.
Honeywell didn't invent screamo, Allen Iverson did: Ok so we know the Inventing Screamo thing isn't exactly true (Either Billy Florio or Billy Werner did, duh--ya heard my beats on the radio), but theirs was the definitive statement. But neither is Derrick Rose's genius completely authentic. Derrick is but the evolutionary Allen Iverson, who after all started the whole "dominant little guy" trend in the NBA. But with Derrick, like H-well, everything he does feels like a revelation. Especially for me-- I'm a wholly post-Jordan Bulls fan located now on the east coast. I moved to Philly seven years too late. I never really knew the fun of some miniature acrobat having an MVP season. So each time Derrick backflip dunks on a 7 foot stiff, I feel like I've found something new again. Same with each time I slap on Industry.

Over 15 minutes of Side A of this record is taken up by an unlistenable yet uninterrupted sample of a French lesson: Keith Bogans starts for the Chicago Bulls. Not everything in this world is perfect or how you want. Sometimes Side A of your favorite LP has only seven minutes of actual music.

Honeywell was from Cupertino (or nearby): So obviously one of their fathers was rich and worked for Apple and was the guy who invented the iPod. Because only rich kids with the really successful dads can be goofy and fuck around in arty screamo bands for a decade or more. The Honeywell crew stayed in bands together forever. Their ultra-privileged, go-nowhere lifestyle is demonstrated by the names of their next few projects:
If not for the strict ND style sheets banning subtle visual puns, there would have been a Joakim Noah draft day outfit visual pun here.

Next year, Carlos Boozer will break in half while being shipped to the highest bidder on ebay: For real. Plus this happened to my lp.

Anyway, this is the great flukey one-and-done emo album. The Bulls are the big surprise and will win the championship! Go Bulls! Buy postal insurance!

Warning: these lyrics are NSFW:

For more Emo Spring NBA Playoff Previews, click here and wallow in your weird combination of nostalgia and embarrassment!

NBA Playoffs Preview: Orlando Magic

I Hate Myself - Ten Songs (1997)

When I read the I Hate Myself Wikipedia page to prepare for comparing them to the Orlando Magic (all three of us are from Florida, so it makes sense), I came across this little gem:
In author Tao Lin's 2007 novel, Eeeee Eee Eeee, the main characters drive around Central Florida listening to I Hate Myself.
I'd never heard of Tao Lin before and I'll probably try to forget about him after I click "PUBLISH POST" and I also don't need to read Eeeee Eee Eeee now, since I kinda lived out at least that quoted bit in the late 90s.

Nonetheless, the fact that the Wikipedia page totally hedges on whether or not I Hate Myself was a joke band (it cites "speculation that I Hate Myself were poking fun at emo/screamo bands" while suggesting that the band "got their name from going through and experiencing depression") makes me wonder whether Eeeee Eee Eeee features the scene as an earnest attempt at diagramming sentiment or a parody of the scene's kind-of-silly sentimentality. Maybe the point's that in these Contemporary Days when literary writers just transform themselves into memes and write novels that apparently might as well be Tumblrs it's impossible to tell earnestness from parody since Authentic Sentiment's always already scripted as sentimentality?

You know what? Who cares!

I Hate Myself were totally a joke band. Maybe those dudes were depressed (they were living in Gainesville after all) but I defy you to listen to I Hate Myself's Ten Songs LP all the way through while driving around Central Florida and afterward not to believe that the entire thing's a joke.

Read the lyrics from "Caught In A Flood With the Captain of the Cheerleading Squad" and tell me that they aren't a joke:
how's your bell-curve?
mine's right-skewed average low. very low.
and the river - she has grown very high.
fell from the sky.
and i'm wasted on cancer and bible school - not like you.
yeah, you're wasted, full and drunk from too much rain
and pain and anger at tumors like me.
if it would make you comfortable, i'd jump out of this tree,
or maybe we could get married and be happy.
these few words could be the last we ever speak.
do you think, maybe, you could love me or like me maybe?
maybe you'd look at me, you'd talk to me,
we could marry, live in this tree.
but it's unlikely. you don't like me,
and i don't like me, and it's unlikely.
It's parody!

Having spent X years of my life researching satirists and the formal characteristics of satire, I understand that sometimes parody imitates the thing it mocks so closely that it's hard to tell the difference. But even then the joke's on readers (or listeners) for taking it seriously. Somewhere, some kid's thinking the lyrics on Ten Songs Really Truly describe how he's feeling at the moment. And the joke's on him for having his feelings scripted out already. I won't be reading Eeeee Eee Eeee, but it's also probably a joke: a very lucrative joke.

To be fair, all of screamo basically verged on self-parody even before it got recycled, so I can kind of understand how people outside of Florida believed that I Hate Myself wasn't a joke band. They were definitely much more subtle than my other favorite Florida joke hardcore band, Jud Jud:

I saw Jud Jud play their only show on a Halloween night at 403 Chaos in Tampa and they made noises like that for like 25 minutes, punctuated by numerous declarations about how they invented straight-edge and so on. Subtlety, thy name is not...

The point of all this is that the best way to understand the Orlando Magic is on the model of the "joke band": a joke team.

Sure, they look like a real team, are likely to finish with the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, and pass as a title contender after somehow miraculously (someone unsubtle might say Magically) making the Finals a few years back. They've finally got a real NBA arena, a player who passes as an MVP candidate, and some other players who look like stars (which prompted one of the Negative Dunkalectics braintrust to suggest comparing them to Planes Mistaken for Stars, since "they've got a lot of players mistaken for stars.")

Even so, they only make sense as a joke!

How else can you explain their utterly dumb Rashard Lewis free agent signing a few years back that inadvertently gave the team a totally unique identity: a group of three-point gunners surrounding a great rebounder who loves to block shots out of bounds -- and back to the other team. When it turned out that the Hedo-Rashard-Dwight trio Magically actually worked because it presented matchup problems for every team except the Lakers, GM Otis Smith then immediately ruined a good thing by letting Hedo Turkoglu depart in free agency and making a joke trade for Vince Carter. Later when Smith was given the opportunity to recreate the quirky matchup problems by dealing half-man, half-amazing for Jason Richardson and Hedo, he took an extra totally capricious step and dealt Rashard Lewis for a worse player with a worse contract, Gilbert Arenas.

Somehow they continue to pass as a real team, win games, get home court advantage against the Hawks, have their star appear in McDonalds commercials, and so on. Still, I'll only take them seriously if they knock the Bulls out in Round Two. If and when that happens, I'm happy to revisit the question of whether or not I Hate Myself were a joke band.

PS: Go Heat!

Follow my very personal Twitter account if you infrequently would like to see which nutty articles from Econlib and Longreads I "liked" on Instapaper. And follow @negativedunks if you wanna read tortured yet concise jokes about basketball. For more Emo Spring NBA Playoff Previews, click here and wallow in your weird combination of nostalgia and embarrassment!

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NBA Playoffs Preview: New York Knicks

Sunny Day Real Estate - Diary (1994)

During the summer of 2003, I was living in a hovel on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, working a shitty internship, and my entire social life consisted of either going to Saturday matinees at ABC No Rio or taking the train to New Jersey to attend shows with my one friend with whom I shared common musical tastes.

One day I decided that instead of being a constant spectator, I could learn an instrument and maybe start a band of my own. As one would do when one makes $250 a week, I bought a used $40 bass on eBay. During the next few months I learned to play 5 songs on bass, The Police's "Message in a Bottle", Sisters of Mercy's "Lucretia My Reflection", The Strokes' "Hard to Explain", The Misfits' "Last Caress", and the opening riff to what became my favorite song to play, Sunny Day Real Estate's "Seven".

There's no happy ending to this story. I never started a band. I never ended up making any other friends at shows. I never learned any more songs on bass and that $40 investment is currently collecting dust in my closet. However, I still listen to "Seven" regularly 8 years later. Diary, the influential Sub Pop band's debut album, is considerably top heavy. I would always listen to the 1st 3 songs on repeat, while occasionally trying to slog through the rest, hoping tracks like "Phuerton Skeurto" would hit me the same way that "In Circles" did. Eventually I stopped trying to appreciate the album as a whole and just enjoyed the best aspects of it.

I've had a similar relationship with the 2010-11 Knicks. Going from a team with 1 great player, a few solid starters, and a good bench, to a team with 2 great players, an aging point guard, and a bunch of glorified D-leaguers has not been an easy transition. Watching guys like Jared Jeffries, Roger Mason, and Shelden Williams emerge from the rubble of a blown up roster was particularly painful as the Knicks suffered losses to sub .500 teams like the Pacers, Cavs, Bobcats, and Bucks. But in the past few games, Carmelo Anthony has put the team on his back, averaging well over 30 points a game, scoring in his usual effortless fashion, and even playing some defense, most recently on...Travis Outlaw. Ok, so Carmelo's defense isn't exactly Scottie Pippen incarnate, but the effort is appreciated.

Watching Melo and Amare trying to co-exist among a seemingly lost Landry Fields, an overworked Toney Douglas, and an overmatched Ronny Turiaf has made me appreciate their individual greatness, while acknowledging that the rest of the team doesn't quite stack up to a 2011 contender. In the same vein, Diary's 1st 2 tracks, "Seven" and "In Circles" are among the best opening songs on any album I've ever listened to. The 3rd track "Song About an Angel" is slow, meandering, with sporadic moments of brilliance, a good transition into the muck that follows. I call this the Chauncey Billups track.

Perhaps I'm being too harsh on the rest of the Knicks. I am still a huge Landry Fields fan, especially his work on the "Andy and Landry Show", and I love Douglas's defensive effort, though he tends to think he's Monta Ellis on the other end. By the same token, I'm probably being too harsh on side B of Diary, as it's collecting dust along with my bass, while I listen to mp3s of the 1st 3 songs and play heated sessions of iPhone NBA Jam. If the Knicks can make a 1st round series against Boston or Miami interesting, maybe I'll give "Grendel" another chance.

Follow "Good ol' Schmucko" on Twitter, you can read him yelling when the Knicks are losing. You should do that actually. And for more Emo Spring NBA Playoff Previews, click here and wallow in your weird combination of nostalgia and embarrassment!

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RE: Negative Dunkalectics' Playoff Previews

If you're one of the thousands of regular unique visitors to this blog, you've probably noticed that we have interrupted our daytime feasting of philosophical and economics texts over the last couple of days to present to you a unique vision of an NBA playoffs preview, where we've been comparing old albums (largely in the Fourfa tradition) to this year's crop of postseason contenders. Boy, digging through my vinyl MP3 collection has been fun in the process, a real trip down memory lane. The following is a (continuously being updated) list of our playoff previews:

Eastern Conference:
Western Conference:
This has taken a lot of collaborative work to put together, more than we've ever done with this site: a lot of heated arguing about what team the Oklahoma City Thunder and both Texas teams will be, tears (appropriately), and trying to avoid begging the dude from Saetia to write about himself.

Appreciations for the posts should go to the ND braintrust who've been helping out with this, and engaging in a daily, topical conversation: Kelly, Dennis, Tom, Dave and Kevin. Many of them lived through the age of these bands, went to their horrible shows, and bought their terrible 10" records. Let their names remain anonymous until we make a real contributors page. Have a great day! :(

NBA Playoffs Preview: Miami Heat

Rival Schools - United by Fate (2001)
Long after bands started putting out blatantly commercial records in order to solidify “emo” as an awful post-grunge rock paradigm, Rival Schools formed as a “supergroup” comprising members of Quicksand, Gorilla Biscuits, Youth of Today and CIV (oh, and Iceburn Collective). Rival Schools isn’t really like any of those bands, nor is it really like the Doghouse/Vagrant-style groups that were very popular then. In retrospect, they seemed to have followed somewhat in the footsteps of much more commercially successful alternative rock bands. Gray days in rock music, indeed.

My friend Ryan, who lived around the block back then, was obsessed with them when the record came out, undeniably hyping them up as a “next great thing” to listen for and to save future rock music from Shifty Shellshock. Although I liked their sound and listened to the record a lot when it came out, United by Fate had emptiness and vapidity beneath its surface that betrayed the pretty great sources from which it originated. They could’ve been better: more imaginative, more elaborate, and more of everything we wanted to “break through.”

A couple years later, I read a great story about an ancient show which typified the performances of the golden era of bad emo. I'm probably bound to secrecy about the exact details, but the story ends with the entire band rolling around on the ground (long finished playing one second of blast beats), weeping and crawling, as one member kept crying about how worms were dying because of humans putting concrete on the ground. The one other thing I can mention: that band was RentAmerica! :(

Somewhere between the two, we have this year’s Miami Heat team.

What kills me the most about the songs on United by Fate (and the Heat) is how close they are at times to brilliance yet how consistently they remain too harmlessly boring to be great. In a typical song like “Undercovers On” (which is actually one of the better songs on the record), the audience is presented with the following in a mid-tempo, plodding chorus: “Your undercover’s on / you’re acting kind of warm / But soon you’ve got to leave / There’s something you need.” Lame metaphors about being a spy aside, that’s about as lyrically complex as Walter Schreifels got with Rival Schools, and the disappointing thing's their deliberate plainness: the ordinary results of such an (in the eyes of people who loved what Quicksand or Gorilla Biscuits stood for in the early-mid 1990s) exciting premise.

Similarly, the Heat’s “complexities” (or lack thereof) were widely criticized earlier this season, as many analysts recited tomes about the simplicity of Eric Spolestra’s plays, with armchair sauciers deglazing those words into a “Fire Spolestra! He’s an idiot!” reduction. But those plays frequently led the ball into LeBron James’ hands, driving from the top of the key being guarded by five guys, just like in Cleveland. In Toronto, Chris Bosh made a video where he dressed up as a used car salesman, imploring the viewer to send him to the 2008 All-Star Game through a bizarre, hilarious display of showmanship and charisma – something largely missing from his role and gameplay in Miami. While James is Schreifels, Bosh remains a parallel to the forgotten member of the group, Iceburn Collective bassist (and Rival Schools afterthought) Cache Tolman.

On the cusp of the playoffs, the Heat’s experiment feels like an exhilarating idea with a tiring execution. But if “supergroups” like Rival Schools and the Miami Heat generally result in disappointment, then why are our expectations so high? Unlike in the epoch of Rival Schools, which seemed like a breath of fresh air when the most commercially successful rock acts were seriously Creed and Limp Bizkit, the Heat have come to grow in a world where the NBA has been exciting for years. They should be making things better, but like United by Fate, they will likely come up just short of awesome.

Negative Dunkalectics co-editor Chris Sampson can be found on Twitter here, as well as on YouTube, watching Wu-Tang Clan videos that had dinosaurs in them. For more Emo Spring NBA Playoff Previews, click here and wallow in your weird combination of nostalgia and embarrassment!

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NBA Playoffs Preview: Memphis Grizzlies

Welcome to the Negative Dunkalectics' NBA Playoffs preview, or as we would like to call it, "Emo Spring"! Over the next couple of weeks leading up to the first game (whoever vs. whoever, we'll figure it out later in a compendium post on April 15), we're going to present a unique, weird and possibly stupid way of looking at this year's playoff teams: through the lens of bands who stopped being relevant in the minimum of ten years ago! On that note, let things begin with the probable eighth seed of the Western Conference (also known as "the perennial fifth spot in the East"), the Memphis Grizzlies:

The Appleseed Cast - The End of the Ring Wars (1998)

One of the things that makes me appreciate the Appleseed Cast’s first record is how it, like many debut records by bands of this ilk, is how it combines a series of derivative marks typical of this post-hardcore/emo period into a very engaging piece of work. Surprisingly, I didn’t hear this album until after the band had lurched into the mid-oughts, turning into a still-alright indie band who composed concept albums that rock critics liked. It remains to be seen how I could’ve had such little direction in my taste, missing out on one of the most interesting bands that had populated an era I had really enjoyed when I was in high school. How could I miss something when it was so obvious?

Very similarly to this, many fans of the sport didn’t realize that Memphis still had a professional basketball team and that they weren't still whining about losing Pau Gasol. In fact, they are bound for the playoffs.

Like the Anniversary, the New Amsterdams and countless other bands, the Appleseed Cast hailed from Lawrence, Kansas, an all-American college town and home of the University of Kansas. While there are two one-time students from that school on the Grizzlies roster, it remains to be seen whether or not Xavier Henry or Darrell Arthur were fans of the mid-late 90s emo bands that had been borne in their alma mater.

Regardless, they are spiritually kindred, as the tempered angst in songs like “On Sidewalks” recalls nothing more than the disconnect that Marc Gasol may have felt in some ancient Catalonian hotel after being thrown into a “one-sided trade,” or how the quiet sadness evoked through “December 27, 1990” resonates with how O.J. Mayo has found himself for his entire career.

The coup de grace on this record is the epic “Dreamland,” which combines the classic post-emo/hardcore element of dual guitars howling in different directions for almost six minutes with the prototypical novelty of having two dudes yelp separate refrains as a crescendo rises towards the finish. “There’s no denying this is what you are” is the main exhortation, and this phrase can be similarly associated with the two most important members of the Grizzlies in this playoff run (as long or as short as it may be): Zach Randolph and Tony Allen.

Much derided over the years, Randolph found himself freed by the insult of being traded for Quentin Richardson in the summer of 2009. Since then, he has provided a quiet consistency with which he could be regarded as no less than “underrated.” Like Randolph, Allen has always been underrated, except for the part about being considered one of the best perimeter defense players in the league. Apparently Boston forgot about that, and as they scramble with the irregularity of Sasha Pavlovic (ugh), Allen has held his own in Memphis and become a better player. [Cue joke about punching O.J. Mayo into a bench role on an airplane.]

It is hard to root against a team that was told that it was an also-ran before the season began, but with the opportunities that the collapse of the Suns and Jazz have provided, Memphis have taken advantage of this weakness in the West to become one of its most riveting teams. The Grizzlies, bound for the playoffs for the first time since Pau left, are one of the most feared opponents in the first round; bound for a mixed up San Antonio, the odds are against them, but their hearts are in it. They've been forgotten about many times, their players mocked for selfishness or headiness, but now they work together as a team. This playoff run is just in time: and just when everybody forgot about them, just like I forgot about that first Appleseed Cast record.
Negative Dunkalectics co-editor Chris Sampson can be found on Twitter here, as well as in Boston's remaining independent record shops, perusing through the used seven inch singles looking for a gem to rip into MP3 format for sharing on elite torrent sites. Just kidding. For more Emo Spring NBA Playoff Previews, click here and wallow in your weird combination of nostalgia and embarrassment!
(Click here to read more Negative Dunkalectics!)