Hound on hound

It ain’t Isiah, but for now, Babcock will have to do. Mere hours after I explained why the Knicks' embattled GM was doing his fair share of Association-destroying, the Raptors cut ties with the man whose track record can be most generously described as pitiable. The latest of many executives seemingly incapable of making a sound decision, Babcock’s most legit move involved snaring an All-Star in the Best Draft Ever; on the other side of the scales of justice, we find a delightful medley of the historically incompetent (giving away Vince, the immortal Araujo pick) and the subtly inept (overpaying for Rafer, losing ‘Yell for nothing). Usually it's just local fans who have strong feelings about GM's, but while Dumars and Donnie Walsh have become national celebrities through their cunning, Babcock's name is widely synonymous with sheer indeptitude. Just as we call for coaches’ head on the daily, whether or not we care about the fortunes of the team they lead, Babcock stood as an insult to the Association we fans deserve. Yes, he made decisions that lent an unfair advantage to some lucky opponents—whether it was those drafting after him, those chasing free agents when he’d mismanaged his money, or, as we saw so recently, any future All-Timer who happened to catch fire against them in a game. But more to the point, he was the front office equivalent of that “how is he a starter in this league” guy, someone whose very existence flew in the face of everything superlative we want to believe about the National Basketball Association.

What makes Babcock or Isiah so galling is that you, me, and everyone we know could, if given the opportunity, probably craft a more perfect basketball union. This isn’t a “my kid could do that” argument, but the fairly obvious contention that, judging from their professional histories, we hardcore basketball fans know as much about personnel, scouting, common cap sense, and abstract strengths and weaknesses as the clownier of the GM’s. I’m not claiming to be a master technician of the game, or even a particularly sound exec. Compared to Babcock, though, I feel myself to be highly qualified for the position of handing out millions to nervously assessed journeymen.

Now I speak: why is it that we spend so much more time shitting on coaches than GM’s? I know that Babcock and Thomas hear it at their respective arenas, and Matt Millen has been forced into the defensive crouch of a hurried tyrant. But for every extreme case like this, there are umpteen million examples of coaches getting called out on the regular, dramatically and often without much provocation. Granted the coach has more of an effect on the day-in, day-out performance of the team. His role, though, means nothing without proper execution and a roster that loves itself. As in, blame the system all you want, but how can you grasp the system when the actors come up lame? I know that in some far-off land, a man with hair in his ears and eyes holds out for a firebrand whose shouting vaults players into excellence. These figures, though, are by far the exception; for the most part, coaches are limited by what their squad is capable of or willing to make happen on the floor. And since this varies wildly from game to game, based on opponent, travel, change of the season, and players-only chemistry issues (in basketball, the coach is far more helpless in this respect than in football), it’s hard to get an accurate picture of just how great or terrible a coach actually is. As DLIC has said, this is a league of players, and especially in the case of a players’ coach like Doc Rivers, it’s just not always clearly his fault.

This is not a defense of crappy coaches; I'm just suggesting that it’s the GM we’re probably in the best position to criticize. He deals not with the vicissitudes of a long, misshapen season, but with the long-term prospect of an asset’s value and worth. Just as I rarely presume to know what the experience of playing in the NBA is like, I find it hard to endlessly feast upon the problematic intersection of coaching’s idealism and the messy tract of practice (“in practice” and “PRACTICE?!?!”). The Babcocks of this league, though, disappoint me in the very department I spend so much time visiting, getting maximum leeway and the luxury of pure principle. Not only do I think I could GM the Raptors, I also think that next time we kill a coach for “his” actions, it would do us well to look just as hard at the GM. We probably have much more of a right to knowledgably take him on, can pinpoint more clearly where he screwed up and, of course, he’s the one who handed a struggling coach those pieces in the first place.

Some random shit that might well be the beginning of a new series, NFL Homo Semiotics:

1.Did anyone else find it as weird as I did that, when Gillian Barber introduced the finalists for “NFL’s Sexiest Man” last weekend, they were Favre and Neil Rackers, a kicker? This probably belongs under “NFL Racial Semiotics,” since the NFL is, I don’t know, more than seventy percent African-American, but I know that even suggesting that Favre and Rackers might not be the best-looking NFL'ers might make some people uncomfortable.

2. Like two weeks ago, Colin Cowherd revealed his “man-crush” on Bill Bellichek. Last time I checked, the trailblazing quality of the “man-crush” was that it trafficked in some level of homo-eroticism; has Brokeback Mountain so traumatized sports talk that only unattractive, deathly boring figures—who safely rob the expression of all its sexual connotations—are now eligible for “man-crushes?”

Seriously, sports talk and American masculinity in general is mildly obsessed with joking about that movie. I can't figure out if this is a good or bad thing.


At 1/27/2006 1:32 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

neil rackers was my fantasy football savior this year, and i can't say i had any clue what he looked like until the google image search i just did. i don't get it, he looks like any other white guy, honestly. he's supposed to be sexier than tom brady?

good point about GM's. if you look at the best teams in the league right now, they all have great GM's. they also all have great coaches, which complicates things.

At 1/27/2006 1:59 PM, Blogger Brickowski said...

put Rackers in jeans, shitkickers, and a white hat and he looks like 14 different kids from my high school football team (keep in mind i attended a football obsessed 5A public HS in Texas). but more to the point, how is it possible for a kicker to be considered sexy? i guess his look would be appealing to the middle-aged housewife set that an "NFL's Sexiest Man" contest inevitably targets, but even they have to understand that kickers are to be mocked and scapegoated, not lusted after. maybe we should defer to ian since he’s more of an authority on football and all things sexy.

is there anything funnier than a Frey picture right now?

At 1/27/2006 2:09 PM, Anonymous T. said...

And yet . . .according to my Bennetton Nation group of racially mixed friends - that same white-dynamic doesn't apply to the equally heavily African American NBA. Sure, there's plenty of Wally and Kyle/Ashton fans, but most of my female friends (or gay male friends for that matter) point their longing sighs towards Chris Webber, Vince Carter, and this being Houston. . . Jim Jackson.

I haven't seen Brokeback Mountain - not for any sort of gay or non-gay reasons, but for more the reasons that I don't care for romance movies of any stripe. I didn't line up to see the Notebook either.

That being said, I'll probably end up renting it because I do like most Ang Lee movies - the Hulk aside - and aside from Dances with Wolves, OSCAR victorious westerns are usually fine films (and here I'm thinking about 'Unforgiven').

Shoals, that email is coming, I swear.

At 1/27/2006 2:36 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

it's actually kind of insane how much more accpetable it seems to be for fans to find black nba players hot. you get d-wade and tony parker on 50's most beautiful, but with the nfl entrants are almost always white qb's. even as a heterosexual male, i think i've ended up in multiple conversations about what nba players are truly handsome. the closest i've ever come to that in football was when, after i got pissed off about this fox thing, two people pointed out to me that shaun alexander was good-looking.

i personally liked barkley's take on brokeback mountain: it's a romance about gay cowboys. that's three things that just don't particularly scream out to him (and myself) as a moviegoer. that said, it's above all else a certified ang lee psycho-pastoral banger, and i can't really say i regret that i got girlfriended into seeing it.

t, take your time. thanks to this half-assed grad student life of mine, i've been knee-deep in weekend leisure since yesterday.

At 1/27/2006 3:23 PM, Blogger Brickowski said...

i figured this was where shoals wanted to take the conversation in the first place. i've had lots of conversations with women about attractive basketball players, but can't think of a single one about football players. however, i'm wondering if this has more to do with sport than race. i know a lot of women who really like basketball but would never watch a football game. my girlfriend (a former Sooner, i should add) can't stand football but thinks robert horry is the sexiest man alive. plus, basketball just seems to lend itself more naturally to this sort of "hot or not" analysis: no helmets, fewer clothes, no fat lineman, etc.

i think america would have been just as appalled if nicollette sheridan dropped her towel for artest instead of T.O.

and maybe this is the exception that proves your rule, but:

i didn't even know there was an SI for women. is it just athletes in bathing suits?

At 1/27/2006 3:45 PM, Blogger emynd said...

I do think the "no helmets, fewer clothes, no fat lineman" has quite a bit to do with it, but that makes the conversation a lot less interesting. I also think the NBA's "style" factors into attractivity here. It's not a coincidence that one of the heroes of the league's style--Allen Iverson--is the man I most often hear women of all colors and creeds swoon over. In fact, I've got quite a healthy "man crush" on the man myself (no brokeback).

In other news, "Broke Backerack" is that new slang.


At 1/27/2006 3:53 PM, Blogger emynd said...

This is a league of mostly likable personalities.


At 1/27/2006 3:55 PM, Blogger Brickowski said...

"even as a heterosexual male, i think i've ended up in multiple conversations about what nba players are truly handsome."

classiest (no homo) ever!

At 1/27/2006 4:11 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

one of the funnier things that's ever happened in this life we call shoals came last month, when i caught a gay co-worker of mine looking at pictures of wally and rhapsodizing about the "hottest nba player." i was so enraged that i immediately set out to prove him wrong, but hit a roadblock when it turned out that he wasn't into black guys. luckily, it turned out that he'd spent some time in the former yugoslavia and found the men of the balkans astoundingly good-looking. i ended up spending the next two hours showing up various euros, and getting him to admit that wally wasn't the sexiest player in the league.

(no homo note: i'd already been through this once when my girl and a friend of hers, both of whom had the hots for delfino, asked me to show them some other international players of note)

i forgot who he ultimately decided beat out wally, but he did out of nowhere ask me the other day how darko was doing.

it is amazing how many people at my work try to engage me about basketball whether or not they care all that much. i guess i'm that discredited as an academic. or i've brought it on myself by spending most of my shifts checking my own fucking blog for comments.

At 1/27/2006 5:08 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

let me clarify something: the above "enragement" was due to my abiding hatred of wally

At 1/27/2006 5:23 PM, Anonymous T. said...

no fat lineman, etc.

no fat lineman, but a few Mel Turpins, Kevin Duckworths and Thomas "Two Sandwiches" Hamiltons.

Plus a lot of really ugly guys - and here I'm talking to the 2001 Sacramento Kings and the 1985 Milwaukee Bucks, and the 1986 Boston Celtics.

At 1/27/2006 5:45 PM, Blogger Neil Scientist said...

Physiognomic training might have something to do with it. Not to get all H. Brown on everyone, but basketball players are distinguished by their extraordinary length. Football players strengthen their neck muscles to protect against the violence of the game (cf Tiki, S. Alexander who are good-looking guys with scary necks). Their necks are all but compressed into shoulders, to the point where they look sort of like rigid Samoans, while basketball players look like average people, but extended. No homo.

At 1/27/2006 6:46 PM, Blogger Brickowski said...

where else can you find a paragraph that begins with "physiognomic" and ends with "no homo"?

this has nothing to do with homo semiotics or even basketball, but it has EVERYTHING to do with style:


be prepared to waste an hour.

At 1/27/2006 7:38 PM, Anonymous T. said...

While everyone (and their mothers) love the '95, I am a HUGE fan of the underrated and slept on '98s.

At 1/27/2006 8:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris Andersen dismissed from the NBA -

Aside from Michael Ray Richardson, who just gets kicked out of the league? How does this happen? Is this why he kept missing all those dunks at the All-Star Game? So many questions. . .

At 1/27/2006 8:38 PM, Anonymous the sockk said...

That article really leads away from the idea that it was pot or steroids.

At 1/27/2006 8:48 PM, Blogger Ian said...

Yup...make sure you're the first guy in your area to make the requisite "this bird's gonna fly" joke. I'm almost certain it was the yayo, but I wouldn't at all be surprised by PCP.

At 1/27/2006 8:50 PM, Anonymous the sockk said...

Personally, Wally gives off too much of this kind of vibe for me to consider him attractive.


At 1/27/2006 9:39 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

"The drugs on that list are amphetamine and its analogs, which include methamphetamine; cocaine; LSD; opiates, including heroin, codeine and morphine; and PCP"

this might be the queston of the century; do we look for something that would explain the birdman's unique style of play, his many shortcomings, or just what it would make sense for an nba player to abuse regularly? or if we're assuming spot use, which crowd do we think anderson hung with?

this is actually making me realize what a complex, or maybe just ambiguous, man he is.

all humor aside, it's probably coke. though i hope you spent the last few seconds daring to dream.

At 1/27/2006 9:43 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

ian, i wrote my comment before i saw yours. that was the first thing i thought of when i hit "cocaine" on that list.

in a more poetic world, it would be pcp. it's to drugs what anderson was to the league.

At 1/27/2006 9:48 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

last thing, really. . . he's an itinerant with an uncertain future who currently rests in oklahoma. that's like part of the chemical equation for meth.

At 1/27/2006 10:10 PM, Anonymous the sockk said...

Maybe Kaman was selling Birdman his ADHD medication.

At 1/28/2006 10:24 AM, Anonymous drazen petrovic said...

my (completely uneducated) guess is that it was some form of opiates - i'm thinking birdman liked his pharmaceuticals. maybe being in oklahoma contributed to an oxycontin habit? he just doesn't strike me as the cocaine type. when i think of cocaine and basketball together i'm more in the direction of vernon maxwell and david thompson. but not birdman. who knows though - basketball mystery of the year for sure (followed closely by whether or not isiah actually did it .... he's turning out to be just as puzzling and enigmatic).

and going back to an earlier conversation - i do agree that, by and large, basketball players are more handsome/attractive than football players. in a no homo way i think guys like rashard lewis, iverson (who has a terrific smile when he actually lets it out every once in a while), amare stoudemire, kobe bryant, aforementioned dwade and parker - all very handsome guys. lebron's quiet confidence and astounding physique make him a really interesting guy to look at. the same thing applies to chauncey billups, who can't really be considered "handsome" in the traditional sense, but whose leadership/floor general role and basketball savoir faire make him a pretty sexy dude ... some of these fools don't know how to dress though. like did anyone see that press conference kobe had a few weeks ago with that polo sweater? i mean okay, the vneck or whatever with the button down under it is pretty kanye west, but dude's probably pulling $30 mil a year all told, why the fork is he running around with some $60 polo sweater he just copped at dillard's? so fresh and so clean! i wear nicer shit than that and my salary is only five figures and it starts with a "3" .. (nothing against polo either, i love polo, but this was like polo chaps kind of polo ... awful)

At 1/28/2006 4:04 PM, Blogger S-Love said...

The mystery of drug suspensions bothers me. Also, it seems the rules call for a 10 game first suspension. When did Anderson get that first suspicion?

If it's pot, this strengthens my opinion that the league should not test for pot, the most benign drug and the drug that lingers in one's system the longest. However, it's probably something harder: you have to be on something to think, as Birdman does, that Metallica is still a good band.

Another site showed Anderson's picture last year and this year. His neck is awfully big this year. If he'd started sooner, he might have killed Szerbiak a few years ago.

The league has lost a high energy supersub interior defender.

And Drazen, how is heaven?

At 1/28/2006 4:15 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i take back everything i said about being over artest. from the star, via inside hoops:

"He celebrated his fresh start by christening a new jersey number. After wearing Nos. 15, 23, 91 and 15 again in his stops in Chicago and Indiana, (Ron Artest) went for 93. The inspiration for it came from a hip-hop album by the group Souls of Mischief called "93 'Til Infinity." For Artest, the number symbolizes an unlimited future and a release from emotional burdens. He certainly was in a light mood following Friday's game." Indianapolis Star

"Pressed by a reporter for an explanation for the numerical change, (Ron Artest) smiled and said, "Just stare at it for two hours, you'll see what I'm talking about."

"I'm just telling everybody you don't realize how nice a person he is until you play with him," Miller said. "He's just a big kid. He's got all kinds of remote control cars and all that stuff like I do. I think that's why we get along so well." Indianapolis Star

and isiah releasing a statement saying "i am not in love with that woman?" who was it that said this season sucked??

oh and nike, a little late on those that suns colorway for the air flight 89's.

At 1/28/2006 4:29 PM, Anonymous aug said...

I'm not gonna lie. My friend and i have kept up with the NFL's sexiest man thing on the foxsports website the whole season and have had arguments on who was more attractive late into the night. The fact that the 4 didn't involve Jason Taylor, DARREN SHARPER, David Carr with long hair, and Tom Brady makes me upset and questioning my heterosexual taste in men.

I agree about it being harder to tell good and bad coaches than it is with GMS. Coaching basketball, i have had a rough season this year. We just got blown out last week and it's just been tough overall. I was blessed with the least talented team in the league however and i'm trying to get them ready for the tourney(everyone gets in). It's hard for me to tell though if we're losing because we're obviously less talented and the kids just won't listen to my simple instructions of fundamentals(boxing out, help defense and passing the ball around) or if i'm just not doing as good a job coaching as last year(i had a lot of talent, but they also executed more. It kind of bothers me because it's hard to see where i stand as a coach. We had a good practice last night and they're ready for the pistons. GMs have it rough though. I remember going to the Orlando Magic Basketball Camp some 8 years ago and john gabriel spoke to us and i think all the kids wanted to boo him good.

At 1/28/2006 5:35 PM, Anonymous d. doyle said...

isaiah is a weenus who fakes ankle sprains and sexually harasses execs.

At 1/28/2006 7:06 PM, Blogger jon faith said...

Roy Tarpley was booted as well.

At 1/28/2006 7:17 PM, Blogger Brickowski said...

this season really jumped off in the last week. i knew it was only a matter of time, but even i couldn't have asked for this many little blessings in a week's time: suns-sonics, t-mac's return, 81, isiah, peja sad and alone in a philly hotel, birdman, ron emailing, ron's return, and boston Wally. and tonight i get KG and Ricky D in the flesh!

A-plus is famous, so get the anus!

At 1/28/2006 7:25 PM, Anonymous drazen p. said...

i dont know dude, i have serious, serious doubts about this harrassment claim. it just doesn't add up to me. frankly, if isiah wanted to get some pussy on the side (certainly understandable, dude is human) i doubt he'd be pushing for it from a 43-year old mother of 3. not to take anything away from anucha or anything. and the sort of 'talking points' about this case hardly have anything to do with sexual harrassment or isiah thomas. it's more like she feels like she has some dirt on the knicks (marbury's cousins got jobs they didn't deserve - big fucking deal, right? - and are assholes, dolans gardener got a bullshit job as well, she incidentally claims that all those guys were also harrassing her and were aggressive, isiah's deal with the strip club, etc - and wants to get a payout or else she'll try to bring the organization down. the knicks looked into this whole thing independently before this went public and decided it was a fight worth fighting. not that they're saints or anything, but it leads me to believe that she either can't prove the case if it is true, it isn't true, or they have some seriously fucking mean lawyers who will find a way to win if/when it goes to court.

there was also an article in this morning's post (for whatever it's worth ... coming from the ny post) about how she was a power hungry exec who had already turned herself off to the players well before isiah even arrived. the issue had to do with something she said to marcus camby when she was new on the job. so all the noise about how stephon marbury was acting out isiah's wishes and how the players turned on her because he wanted them to could turn out to be completely bogus.

i don't know .. i'm also really skeptical of claims like this in general because at my current job and the one i had previously there were some female employees who made some shockingly innacurate claims similar to this to get a leg up ... so being smart, ambitious, classy, whatever else she might be doesn't preclude her from trying to shake the organization down. this one bitch i work with now ... man she's so far removed from reality it's not even funny. it's really kind of scary and i have to go out of my way to avoid her at all costs.

so this anucha browne sanders woman could also have a warped perception of herself as an executive - apparently that's what was at issue with her .. she thought she was a little more important than she either was or was given credit for being by the players - so this could be just a really ugly way for her to get a reality check.

At 1/29/2006 3:09 AM, Anonymous T. said...

Brickowski - don't forget - Feb 1 (or maybe even tomorrow) the return of Yao Ming.

At 1/29/2006 4:25 AM, Blogger elandfried said...

Somehow I don't think those would have been Drazen Petrovic's last words.

At 1/29/2006 4:52 AM, Blogger elandfried said...

One more thing to add to this week's NBA resurgence: Qyntel Woods, leading scorer.

At 1/29/2006 10:01 AM, Anonymous drazen p. said...

hey man, qyntel can play. he's not a "balla" or anything, but he's doing good things right now. he's a very good rebounder for his position and has sticky hands, if you know what i mean .. if it's in his vicinity he's going to grab it. his offensive game is okay - it's a bit unrefined and he's not the kind of athletic slasher everyone thought he was going to be when he entered the draft, probably because he's much bulkier now and just doesn't have the lithe kind of build it takes to play that way, but his shot is there and he can hit it when he's open. he doesn't force it either, which is good.

i was surprised. part of the problem with qyntel is that people put far, far too much stock in predraft scouting reports, especially internet scouting reports, and so a lot of people have already written him off as a failure. well he's clearly not the guy everyone thought he was going to be, but that's fine. he's good at what he does, and he doesn't seem to have any delusions about his importance or ability. that's probably why larry brown is taking a little shine to him right now.

i don't know where his head is right now because i haven't heard any interviews with him since he came back to the league, but i'm hoping that he put his checkered history behind him and got it together, because he's almost certainly going to earn himself a contract pretty soon here. if i had to guess i'd probably put it somewhere in the 2 yrs/$3 mil category, but he is playing for the knicks after all .. so he'll probably end up with the full midlevel exception for the next 5 years or something like that ..

At 1/29/2006 12:56 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

now that i've officially back to being the nba's single greatest advocate for truth (translation: I LOVE THIS FUCKING GAME!!!!!!!!), i have another wretched request to pleafully make of our many readers.

anyone go to the mci center regularly? last time i was in dc, i got this insane arenas shirt, black with his face on the front. however, when i washed it, the size became too unspeakably slight even for me. to make matters even more upsetting, it's the only one of the series not on the nba store site. if anyone's planning a trip there sometime soon, hit me up on the official (freedarko@gmail.com) and hopefully you can save my soul.

At 1/29/2006 1:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i can get you really mean igor rakocevic shirts?


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