*All data is prior to Thursday games
1. Gor On Outta Here, Dragić
2. Get Your Boos ‘Ere
Booing is kinda interesting when you think about it philosophically.
It begs a larger question of what role fans play in sport as a whole (really, this is just Devin Booker vs The Raptor all over again).
Certainly, they do play a part. While on a rules/procedural-based level they don’t, we all accept an unwritten agreement of interaction between players and fans.
(We also know that fans are involved by funding and enabling sports to operate at the level they do.)
From Night League to the NBA, the “way to go, Janey”, the jeering, the roaring, the swirling of towels behind the free-throw line, the “D FENCE, D FENCE”, the “dun nuh nuh nuh nuh Charrrrggeee” all have psychological, and in turn physical, effects on players and the game. Home court advantage is not just about cooking and beds. Were those verboten, well, we’d need a Cone of Silence separating the two entities.
Teams and players utilize fans involvement too. Players “raise the roof” as a call to arms; footballers splash into awaiting arms of glee to celebrate their shared joy after a Touchdown; arenas go out of their way to beseech a deafening decibel, otherwise known as the “6th” or “11th” person, to obfuscate the opposing team’s communications.
The fans are, albeit small, one of infinite tactics teams leverage to win.
Booing falls within similar bounds. Its purpose is to overwhelm the subject with noise and attention, ultimately, breaking their concentration or demonstrating, in a sort of schadenfreude way, allegiance to their own.
(I’d even argue heckling is acceptable, so long as it’s tasteless, respectful, hopefully entertaining, restrained, and selective. As a kid, I recall a [well-oiled] section in the university crowd chanting a random opposing player’s number every time he touched the ball, all game. Totally harmless, hilarious, and maybe with the slightest net positive outcome, particularly, on the free-throw line.)
There’s clearly a line on how we treat athletes. They are not objects. They are not assets. They are people. They deserve our utmost respect for what they do night in and night out.
But booing is not the same vitriolic acid racists in Salt Lake City or courtside assholes pushing Kyle Lowry or sociopaths wishing LeBron’s kids dead spew. Those people should be banished to some island where they can indulge their miserable, immoral, entitled lives in unity living off of cold turnip and black licorice.
Rather, booing is a form of sport’s civil protest. Sometimes, ironically, it’s a sign of respect. An acknowledgment of how threatening an opposing player can be. Many a pre-game intro is chorused with boos from above.
Or, enter Goran Dragić or Vince Carter, it functions as a way to express and process discontent. Fans invest time, money, and energy into their respective sports teams. When a player or opposing player offends their team, booing lets them know that fans aren’t just about to let that disrespect fade into the ether.
On Tuesday, Scotiabank went full negative orchestra every time Goran touched the ball for the Brooklyn Nets. It was relentless.
Some didn’t exactly praise it.
And I am sure others found it unbecoming or lowly or whatever. Josh and those naysayers are wrong though.
Goran deserved all those boos and more for two reasons.
First, I am not so sure what Josh is saying is completely true. Obviously, J-Lew knows more than I on the inside track, but it’s hard to believe that the MetaBrain of Masai and Bobby refused to leverage the experience and ability of a veteran point guard full stop.
They probably did tell Goran they’re going youth movement and that his minutes would be limited-to-none. So?
You get paid to do what you’re mostly told. And what if the youth movement fails – ahem like the last 3 months. Maybe, suddenly, that patience and buy-in would have paid off and you’d be playing for a team rising up the standings not plummeting them.
I was a Goran believer for this reason.
Yes, I feel spurned. That’s beside the point. He bailed on this team. Youth movement is not an excuse, Toronto traded for someone nearly as old.
No, Goran forced his way out because he thought Toronto wasn’t good enough for him. Fans had to let him know how wrong he was.
Second, asynchronous expression by fans – negative or positive, so long as it’s respectful (disrespectful positive cheering is known otherwise as VUVUZEULAS) – is acceptable.
Besides, towards the end it was no longer asynchronous. What better way to demonstrate the fan-player dynamic than how Goran responded in-game:
And, confidently(?), doing it again on Instagram outside the game…after…a loss…and scoring…10 points…
I completely acknowledge that any “anger” and “disappointment” and “booing” fans experience is and should be superficial. Expressions empty of true emotion.
We all participate in a collectively imagined reality insisting all of this really matters. All we must do is take one baby-step away from that fantasy, and, poof, we good.
I would honestly hug Goran if I met him right now. I love his game and loved it in Phoenix and Miami long ago.
But he betrayed us, he got what he deserved on Tuesday.
3. Stuffed Freddy
4. Too Alone Freddy
I know it’s blasphemy to do this, to criticize Freddy All-Star, but I’m contractually obligated to once-in-a-blue-moon say something bad about our beloveds [I don’t have a contract, headhunters please come knocking].
Freddy gets his shots blocked more than most of his caliber.
This year, Freddy has had a shot beyond 20 feet blocked 9 times. That’s not a lot seeing as he’s hoisted 530+ shots from that distance or beyond.
It is a bit more than other guys – like Steph Curry (7) and Donovan Mitchell (1) – who shoot the same volume from similar distance.
What’s concerning is at least 5 of them have occurred in Freddy’s last 3 games.
Usually, the opposite leaves me incredulous. I’m always amazed at how accurate Freddy is with a hand in his face and by his launching from an intergalactic station where no one’s even in the same planetary system to challenge anyway.
So, when I see these blocks, it’s glaring.
The third block is both Freddy and Precious’ fault. It’s a horrible screen, partly, because Freddy doesn’t wait long enough for it to be set and partly because Precious is as upright as a clown on stilts. Harrell drops, Freddy makes the right read, but Scary Terry easily fights over.
In the fourth – I know this was a 2-for-1, but still – Freddy has Okongwu in space and Precious on an open roll. Not an ideal decision to heave.
If anything, the last block by Trae is an argument for Freddy being less than healthy. Shot clocks dying down, he just lazily punts a leaner.
We could attribute all these to just that. Freddy was playing hobbled. Fine. Then stop reading. That’s my observation for the week. Finito.
Oh hey? Still reading? I do think it’s indicative of something a bit more problematic with Freddy at the helm.
To me, they suggest this larger problem of predictability and immobility – which are intertwined. Everyone knows Freddy wants to shoot the 3 – they constitute 65-80% of his total shot attempts – including his teammates who often end up as an audience. That’s not an ideal offensive set. Having one lone six-footer battling a readied defence.
Those resulting situations are both on Freddy and on the coaches.
Kevin O’Connor, for The Ringer, talked about Freddy’s poorer isolation numbers (he’s fifth in points per possession on the team and second in isolation possessions).
I wouldn’t immediately put too much spice in that latte. Freddy is often the safety guy for an expiring shot clock, which happens often: Toronto is second in shots with 0-4 seconds left on the shot clock and fourth with 4-7 seconds remaining. Freddy takes the most shots, by a small margin, with 4 seconds or less on the team and 2nd most with 4-7 seconds left.
Kevin is still on to something, though. Toronto can get stagnant with Freddy as the primary ballhandler – whether it’s forced or by choice. To make his actions more unpredictable, particularly, in the playoffs when defences are readied and locked in, there needs to be more diversity.
It’s funny, at the beginning of the season, I was bellowing for more Freddy P&R with Co. (he does lead the team in points per possession at 0.97 and in frequency). Now, I’m thinking we ramp it down some.
Less Freddy as primary initiator and more high and low post-actions, dribble-hand-offs, and inverse pick and rolls with Scottie, Pascal, Thad, and Gary.
With Pascal, previously, playing All-NBA level, Scottie, suddenly, the spawn of Anthony Mason and Sean Livingston, and Gary, technically, being the most efficient player in isolation on the team, having Freddy as the catch-and-shoot guy makes whatever action he’s not involved in exponentially more perilous.
It’ll also buy him more time to get a breather and get his shot off.
5. Basketball Accessibility
Look, sometimes, I think, what the Hell am I doing writing about basketball when so much more is going on in the world that should be criticized, analyzed, or celebrated.
I’ve accepted it, but sometimes, I have to broaden my perspective too. Just to feel like I’m doing some incremental part.
I was reminded of that twice in the past few days.
I’ll just tell you, as someone who has an intimate perspective on the disability community, it’s so fucking hard to have a physical or developmental disability in our able-bodied world.
Absolutely, fucking horribly difficult. Keep that in mind when you go to a Toronto bar and it’s packed, noisy as all hell, has two steps in the front door, and a 17th-century French prison in the basement for a bathroom, for example. Or, snow blocks every sidewalk ramp. Or, some TruckTrudeau dingus parks in the Accessibility Stall. Keep an eye on your brethren.
The basketball community knows to look after its own full well.
On February 28th, Matt Devlin’s son, Jack, manager of the University of Iowa men’s basketball team, nailed a half-court shot.
This isn’t about the shot. Even though it is about the shot. Like, look at the team go absolutely berserk after he hits it. Gives me tingles.
This is about the way Jack, who lives with a developmental disability is attending college, living on campus, and participating with an NCAA basketball team. That takes a lot of discipline from Jack and that takes patience from a whole whack load of students and professionals. Matt explains the program here:
Finally, I was watching the Phoenix Suns half-time show.
The performers were the Hip Hop Homies with Extra Chromies – possibly, the best name ever – a dancing troupe of people with Down Syndrome.
You’ll rarely see a group of people both working so hard and having a blast. Way more entertaining than watching a dude nearly step on his Taco Bell dog running around or Plate Spinning lady or the Contortion Steel Drum Yoddling Twins.
Again, the dance team was provided the opportunity to strut their stuff in a space that so rarely affords the time or patience for anything other than the most ablest of able-bodies.
We need more of all of this in our everyday lives and in every sector and industry. From small stuff, like having goddamn ramps in your establishments to big stuff, like the REACH program Jack attends, consciousness about accessibility and diversity in this world can go a long way for a lot of people.