Hole or Pile
First off, Ziller has suggested that Thunder/Grizz is the new Bobcats/Hawks, and I'm inclined to agree. I feel like a turncoat for saying this, but as Dr. LIC noted a few weeks back, the Thunder are rad and lose a ton of games. Perfect! And they're about the most god-foresaken outpost of NBA basketball available. The game with Cleveland yesterday was bound to end as it did, but certainly felt like a battle. Westbrook's the wild card, Durant the edgy craftsman, Jeff Green has become Jeff Green. Combine those with a high pick, and Presti might not built another Spurs, but a team with serious mind control powers. Now let's see what he does with a coach, or when Ibaka comes over.
And now, to address something fairly stupid from the comments section, or to wit, something I should've brought up a while ago. In case you hadn't heard, Gerald Wallace lost his faher and grandfather in the last two weeks, and has been caught up in a whirlwind of grieving, driving around the Deep South to attend funerals, missing a few games, and surfacing periodically to absolutely destroy whoever happens to be playing the Bobcats that night. This was contrasted with Josh Howard's collapse, which some have attributed in part to a death in the family. The implication being, in fairly typical sports terms, that Wallace was a man and Howard a fragile piece of cunt. You could also argue that McGrady's personal history, while more dire than Howard's, also fails to display this same stoicism, or ability to use tragedy as motivation. In fact, working against the likes of McGrady and Howard is the cliche, discussed in the book, of sport-as-salvation or escape.
I still believe what I put down in print about how hard it is to separate T-Mac's on-court woes from what's he dealt with away from it, to the point that he seems haunted everywhere. But this isn't some third option, after Wallace's play (either clinging to normalcy, comfort, or taking out the pain on someone) or Howard's inability to deal. I think it's pretty obvious that, just as each death brings with it a completely unique range of emotions—based on the timing, the relationship with the deceased, and the personality of the survivor—the way athletes view sports in times of crisis is just as varied. I know that, the more times "sports" figure in a sentence, the more we expected pre-programmed, cliched, or robotic. Sports is there, and the closer one gets to it, the more he's forced to get in line and choose from a handful of time-honored storylines. Really though, given the range of emotions that go into playing a game, and how much those vary from person to person, why would that element of the equation be any more stable than the loss of a loved one?
If you think basketball is just another job, then fine. Players can either take time away, return immediately and feel better for it, or be noticeably off for months. Or we can see each of these very human instances as a chance to learn something not only about how these people deal with death, but also how they view the game. To be sure, it's a complex, sometimes contradictory, interaction. But it's far more honest than pretending that everyone feels the same way about basketball, a job that inspires great high and lows, deals in huge swaths of stress and release, and couldn't possibly inspire a set number of reactions—especially when intertwined with something as personal as death.