JR Smith suspended for drug policy violation

According to multiple sources that probably wouldn’t get something like this wrong, JR Smith has been suspended five games for violating the NBA’s substance abuse policy.

The NBA says Smith’s suspension will commence from whenever he is deemed physically able to play. Smith is currently recovering from a pair of minor knee surgeries conducted in mid July.

As multiple-game suspensions are typically only wielded after a player has failed multiple drug tests, logic has it that JR botched his wiz quiz at least three times.

Which naturally invites the question: Is that decision made by league doctors, or team doctors? If it’s the latter, what’s to stop them from clearing Smith two days before the start of the season, even if, in reality, he’s only 75 or 80%. Is that allowed?

I don’t know. I don’t know anything anymore. I feel betrayed.

No I don’t.

I’ll leave it to the peanut gallery to sort out whether this is a) simply JR being JR, b) a frustrating episode in what has otherwise been a slowly-unfolding story of redemption, c) a clear sign that JR is out of control, has a significant addiction, and should seek professional, ongoing help immediately. Maybe none of the above. Maybe all three at once.

Following his dismal Playoff performance this spring, rumors abound that JR’s late night ways — partying til 4am bloodshot-eyed all the while — were negatively impacting what by all accounts had been Smith’s best season to date, and the Sixth Man award and bevy of career-high that were its highlights.

Despite the relatively short suspension, the Knicks will doubtless miss the mercurial Earl, who emerged as the team’s secondary scorer and the offensive focal point of a number of secondary units a season ago.

Iman Shumpert, Metta World Peace, Beno Udrih, even rookie Tim Hardaway, Jr. — all of these guys will be asked to step up in Smith’s absence. Which, given the unpredictable nature of his injury, might well have been the case anyway.

Still, this isn’t the kind of circus you want swirling around all the talk — however absurd — of contending for a title.

As it appears to be simple matter of giggle twig overindulgence, maybe it’s not that big of a deal.

Then again, Michael Beasley.

Indeed, it’s not the offense itself that’s worrisome; multiple players have been on the record stating that a vast majority of the league takes in the occasional toke. Rather, it’s the increasingly cavalier nature of Smith’s behavior, and what it suggests about his current mental state — and the possibility of other substances being involved — at which we’re right to bristle.

The NBA has long approached marijuana use the way most major American cities treat prostitution: so long as you’re not handing over a briefcase full of money with dollar bills spewing out the side to a naked woman who then has sex with you in the middle of a highway median during rush hour, you’re probably fine.

Sprinkle chunks of ganja cookies over your Cap’N Crunch every morning?* You’re kinda asking for it.

*admitted conjecture

2013 Report Card: JR Smith

PlayerID FLName Year Tm PER TS_P eFG_P PTS ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV
0 J.R. Smith 2013 NYK 17.6 .522 .484 19.4 0.9 5.7 2.9 1.3 0.3 1.8
0.054 Leandro Barbosa 2010 PHO 14.0 .526 .485 19.1 0.5 3.2 2.9 1.1 0.5 2.1
0.058 Greg Ballard 1982 WSB 17.9 .519 .479 18.2 1.7 7.7 3.1 1.7 0.3 1.5
0.061 Michael Finley 2001 DAL 18.2 .521 .487 18.5 1.1 4.4 3.8 1.2 0.3 2.0
0.063 Juan Dixon 2006 POR 14.6 .516 .474 17.5 0.6 3.3 2.8 1.1 0.1 2.1
0.070 Harvey Grant 1993 WSB 16.1 .523 .488 18.1 1.8 5.6 2.8 1.0 0.6 1.2
0.073 Tim Legler 1994 DAL 16.1 .545 .487 17.9 1.0 3.5 3.3 1.4 0.4 1.6
0.075 Eddie House 2006 PHO 15.2 .512 .503 20.2 0.4 3.3 3.7 1.1 0.3 1.9
0.079 Jason Richardson 2008 CHA 18.4 .554 .524 20.4 0.9 5.0 2.9 1.3 0.7 1.9
0.080 Scott Wedman 1980 KCK 16.9 .541 .515 19.8 1.7 5.9 2.2 1.3 0.7 1.7
0.081 Josh Howard 2008 DAL 18.3 .534 .482 19.8 1.6 6.9 2.1 0.8 0.4 1.5
0.083 Junior Bridgeman 1981 MIL 17.1 .534 .489 21.0 1.3 4.7 3.8 1.4 0.5 2.4

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Who does that?

Who jackknifes a dude’s face in an elimination game on purpose?

Who tweets out close-up photos of supermodel asscheeks – so close you could scan the lingering handprints – in the middle of the night before a game?

Srsly?

Who shoots off-balance 22-footers with 21 seconds on the shot clock?

Who the shit dyes their hair blond, gets threatened with castration by his superior if that decision isn’t immediately reversed, and decides the smart thing to do is dye it red?

The fuck?

Who drives around a $450,000 four-wheeled Apocalypse with snails painted on the side? Fucking cartoon snails with shells made of money.

Hell, who has to deny having done that?

A knucklehead – that’s who.

Few players in modern NBA history have eschewed “the easy way” quite like JR Smith. He’s the kind of guy who stops in front of a moving airport walkway for 20 minutes trying to hail a terminal taxi before angrily walking the remaining distance on foot, wondering the whole time why everyone to his left is moving so much faster.

It’s entirely possible that he’s ordered delivery and driven to Domino’s 25 minutes later to pick it up.

That famed Forest Gump refrain was originally written as, “Life is like a box of JR Smiths – ARE YOU FUCKING SHITTING ME?”

During the offseason, he’ll spend five straight days mowing his lawn with toenail clippers, then ride his John Deere down to the mailbox because he’s too exhausted to walk.

On the court, he is basketball bacchanalia incarnate, a mindblowing melding of breathtaking talent, sporadic brilliance, and Homer Simpson. Every time Earl touches the ball is like a neural-physical Russian roulette – the feel of the sweaty leather can spark in his skull a rainbow of seamless free jazz cues, or a series of small strokes. Off-ball, the potential results can be equally garbled: “Wow, that was quite literally the perfect cut at the perfect time,” or, “Oh look, JR just rotated onto that cotton candy vendor.” If you handed him a sheet that explained in the simplest terms possible how he averages 45% on catch-and-shoot threes and 8% on attempts preempted by two or more dribbles, he’d probably ask you to call his cell instead, thinking you’d just handed him your digits.

“It’s easier that way.”

And yet, for all the Jekyll-Hyde bullshit, there are these two, very crucial facts: Smith is 1) 27; and 2) coming off a season that, while not the most efficient by many metrics, saw him tally a bevy of career-highs in spite of a sky-high usage rate.

Of course, even the process of getting there — to this plateau of bona fide second gun — had to be a bone-jarring, nosebleed-inducing rollercoaster nightmare: In seven games played January 10th and 27th, J.R. was 33-119 from the floor.

Thirty-three for one hundred and nineteen.

A few months later, he went 57-102 during a nine-day, six-game stretch in late March, the apex of a spring surge that helped net him the league’s Sixth Man of the Year Award.

How did J.R. Smith handle this newfound, heretofore largely elusive respect and notoriety? By flying completely off the rails in a month-long trainwreck of batshit shot selection, ill-advised late nights out, and – perhaps most pertinent – a nagging knee injury which Smith and the Knicks waited until two months after the season to officially address, because we are the Marx Brothers of basketball. In 11 playoff Games, JR registered a PER of 10, a TS% of 43% (including a whopping 27% from distance), an ORTG of 87 (EIGHTY-SEVEN!), and minus-0.5 offensive win shares. The French in 1918 had a better spring, and they were eating dirt clods with their own blood it them three meals a day.

Given his DeLorean-esque collapse, it’s easy to forget the blistering streaks and game-winners that peppered Smith’s intermittently impressive campaign. And that’s kind of understandable. It is, after all, something of a simple fact of human wiring that we’d consciously avoid mining YouTube clips of a 3-year-old thoroughbred just months after it reared up and kicked us right in the fucking mouth. Oh, those clips are there alright. In them, and in the interceding archived game footage, you’re reminded of both how far JR has come, and how bad the interspersed stupidity begins to look by scale; the more confident the pull-up lift and flawless right-hand extension, the weirder the defensive gambles. Which is why I stuck solely to the mixtapes. There’s a reason grains of salt are so delicious by the fistful.

Then there’s his defense and rebounding, two sectors where Smith quietly made some of his biggest impacts, and put up a bevy of career bests: His 2.7 defensive win shares marked a runaway high, while his TRB% (9.3) was second only to his 2011 season (9.4), despite garnering a higher DRB% (16.3 to 15.8) and an identical ORB% (2.7 in both seasons) — chalk it up to the added minutes, I guess. Sure, he could occasionally be found leaking out too early (SHAWN KEMP JOKE) or mysteriously rotating onto massive blocks of empty space. But it was also the case that Smith’s engaged defense and rebounding proved the clandestine turning points during tough stretches — stretches where he was, quite literally, the most trustworthy player on either end of the floor. No, that was not supposed to be “terrorworthy.”

With Smith’s status for the start of the season a matter of some speculation, many will be looking for another Knick guard – this one that rare, luminous lining around said playoff shit-cloud – to assert himself as the team’s two-gun of the future: Iman Shumpert. Granted, the two’s rolls have been, and remain, distinct: Shump will likely be an opening game starter, while Earl’s role as A-1 bench punch seems destined for career’s cementing – at least while he’s in the orange and blue. Still, the two’s positional redundancy, coupled with opposing career trajectories, could render this a rivalry in the making. How a still-recovering Smith handles his return, and possible initial minutes reduction, will be telling.

But – and this is wholly to his credit – Smith has never been one to fret over such things, anyway. For all his antacid antics, Earl seems to be, by just about any account that matters, a pretty good dude. He’s beloved by teammates and coaches, hoisted as a beacon by his adoring family, and a genuine cult favorite for a fan base that doesn’t easily forsake its heroes, however prone those heroes might be to fits and starts, disastrous disappearing acts, or “good morning” tweets at 4pm.

JR Smith is a knucklehead. But he’s our knucklehead, God dammit. And if there’s a family out there better equipped than Knick Knation to deal with the next of that kin, I ain’t heard of ’em.

Grades (5 point scale):
Offense: 3
Defense: 4
Teamwork: 4
Rootability: 4
Performance/Expectations: 4
Final Grade: B

2013 Report Card: Pablo Prigioni


PlayerID FLName Year Tm PER TS_P eFG_P PTS ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV
0 Pablo Prigioni 2013 NYK 13.0 .595 .575 7.8 1.2 4.1 6.7 2.0 0.1 2.5
0.331 Danny Ainge 1995 PHO 14.3 .596 .552 15.0 0.7 2.9 5.5 1.2 0.2 2.1
0.336 Jason Kidd 2009 DAL 16.9 .550 .522 9.1 1.1 6.2 8.8 2.0 0.5 2.3
0.396 Scottie Pippen 2001 POR 15.3 .541 .505 12.2 1.2 5.6 5.0 1.6 0.6 2.6
0.414 Anthony Johnson 2010 ORL 12.4 .543 .500 11.5 0.7 4.3 5.6 1.0 0.1 2.3
0.453 Jon Barry 2005 TOT 13.4 .570 .534 10.9 0.6 3.8 4.0 1.4 0.2 1.6
0.458 Jeff Hornacek 1999 UTA 17.8 .575 .514 14.7 0.8 4.0 4.8 1.3 0.4 2.1
0.464 Anthony Carter 2011 TOT 9.2 .502 .481 8.6 0.5 4.0 5.4 2.1 0.5 3.0
0.466 Tiny Archibald 1984 MIL 10.6 .526 .495 11.8 0.6 2.6 5.5 1.1 0.0 2.7
0.475 Darrell Armstrong 2004 NOH 15.6 .525 .487 13.5 1.0 3.6 5.0 2.1 0.3 2.5
0.494 Derek Harper 1997 DAL 12.9 .516 .488 12.3 0.5 2.2 5.2 1.5 0.2 2.2
0.518 Brad Miller 2012 MIN 10.7 .542 .463 8.6 1.0 4.7 5.9 1.0 0.5 3.0

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The Kennedy killing. Beatles on Sullivan. Neil and Buzz ride the spacerock. Challenger’s loss. An Iron Curtain’s collapse. Our first black President. A bullet to Bin Laden’s brain.

If you were 1) alive, and 2) not extruding food straight into your diapers during any of these, you remember where you were. Unless, of course, you’re me: someone who couldn’t tell you his own mother’s birthday, how many stripes are on the American flag, or whether he drank coffee or lighter fluid at breakfast this morning.

And yet: I know exactly where I was when ¡Pablocura! struck me.

October 25th, 2012. New York’s final preseason tune-up against the rechristened Nets. My couch. Two-buck Chuck. A terrifying storm cell named Sandy splayed like a throwing star tumor across every screen in America.

And this. (Scroll down to first video)

I cannot say all the secrets.

He remembered me that, now.

I tried to read every offense.

Instead of to shoot over one guy to block me for sure I find open guy.

The key is to try to find open man.

It was shit straight out of Twelfth Night, sung with a sunshine smile by some sinewy Spanish siren. It made no sense at all, and yet I wanted everything he said tattooed across my freshly-shaved scalp. I’d never heard anything like it.

Three month’s earlier, the signing of Pablo Prigioni had been met by the Knick fanbase with something resembling relieved indifference. That’s what happens when your second point guard drives gin-pickled into a Cablevision telephone pole. Sure, we could recall through a fog of failure the mechanical mastery with which he’d helped conduct Argentina’s 2004 gold U.S.-urpers. Then again, we were equally underwhelmed by his comparatively muted – and injury-plagued – bronze showing in London. Which averaged out to merely appreciating the pickup precisely how Prigs himself appeared to: as an extended vacation in roundball Valhalla; the Disney epilogue to an autobiography the Buenos Aires publishing house probably wouldn’t even bother translating into English.

So when he suited up during the Knicks’ preseason slate, and the court vision and understated virtuosity started unspooling in meaningless spurts, the collective reaction was that of a parent who realizes their twelve-year-old kid is pretty good at skipping stones across the ditch puddle: it’s cute and all, but you’re sure as shit not banking on rearing the next Eckersley. Once the real season started, logic went, basketball robotics would be all we’d need – or expect – from our barrel-aged import. That, and maybe the occasional wide open three, sent aloft with all the grace of a nursing home caber toss.

But a funny thing happened on the way to garbage time chants: Pablo Prigioni still knew how to ball. He played 16-plus in the season opener, tallied 11 points, six assists, and a pair of steals in an early thrashing of the hapless Sixers, and wouldn’t tally a sub five-minute outing until two days before Christmas, presumably because the Minnesota winter caused his calves to seize up like frozen engines. His flapless chops and calming influence belied a team dynamic dominated by misfits, cast-offs, and well-meaning knuckleheads; his impact, beyond box scores.

By midseason, Pablo’s play had become a mixtape within a #knickstape: slowly midwifing the ball past half-court in spite of defenders weirdly bent on raking and humping poor Prigs at every dribble-reversing pivot; making peeps pay after one too many desert-clear looks from deep; batting, tapping, and outright snatching the ball out of the narrowest of baseline passing lanes; stubbornly refusing to convert one-foot layups with nary a defender within two city blocks; but always, always making the extra pass – the Hadron exchange amongst mere metal gears.

As the slate wound on, Pablo’s unique brand of efficient, mostly mistake-free stewardship would eventually compel Mike Woodson – beyond exotic beard juices, seldom a trafficker of the creative – to turn what had been something of a goofy anachronism into a staple of the season’s stretch: two-point guard lineups. What the Knicks gave up in size, speed, and general athleticism, they harvested by the hectare beautiful basketball: 1.189 points per possession with the two on the floor, compared to 1.05 when both Prigs and Felton were bench-bound, and 1.1 as a team.

On July 25th, after a fortnight or so of coy back-and-forths, the Knicks inked Prigs to a fresh, three-year tender for just a Smart Car under $5 million. Had the same deal been struck one year ago, most would’ve taken it as a sure sign that the team’s brain trust was skull-deep in some kind of cocaine psychosis – the necro-pangs of an organization so desperate for stability that they’d gladly pay for their own execution.

Now? Let’s just say there was much rejoicing. And rightly so. At 36, Prigs is no studding bull fucking his way through Pampas heifers. But nor has he clocked the heavy mileage of many an NBA peer. Given his first-year success, a summer of solid rest, and relative roster stability, there’s no reason to believe Prigs can’t replicate, or even improve upon, last season’s showing. The signing of Beno Udrih — a steal in its own right — could muddy the rotational waters a bit, but it also signals that Woodson may well be committed to parlaying last year’s two-point guard success into a consistent long-term strategy. Which inevitably means beaucoup burn for Prigs and — if there is a God — that charming, incoherent post-game poetry as spare and lovely as what he reads on stage.

Grades (5 point scale):
Offense: 3
Defense: 3
Teamwork: 5
Rootability: 5
Performance/Expectations: 4
Final Grade: B+

Knicks sign Udrih to one-year deal

In a move that may well bookend a surprisingly busy offseason, the Knicks appear poised to sign veteran point guard Beno Udrih to a one-year, veteran’s minimum contract, according to Coach Mike Woodson.

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In the wake of Jason Kidd’s departure, landing a third point guard to supplement Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni — re-signed to a three-year, $5 million, partially guaranteed deal on July 10th — was of paramount concern for the front office. Mission accomplished.

That the Knicks were able to land Udrih marks a small but not insignificant coup: At 31, the Slovenian point guard has plenty left in the tank, and brings a combination of size, quickness, shooting, and passing to a back-court rotation that experienced something of an accidental renaissance down last year’s stretch, when two-point guard lineups became a staple of Mike Woodson’s offense — and an efficient one at that.

Memphis and San Antonio were both said to have been in contention for Udrih’s services, but Udrih ultimately decided with the Knicks, no doubt due in part to the team’s propensity for two-headed point guard lineups.

While Udrih has never been a world-stopping defender, his offensive versatility alone — crafty in transition, dangerous on mid-range jumpers, serviceable (35% career) from deep, and capable of playing either guard spot — should proof a much-needed boon for a bench unit shaping up to be one of the deepest in the league.

An interesting tidbit from @TommyBeer: Beno is just one of four active point guards to have totaled 2,200 career assists and fewer than 1,000 turnovers. He has a tendency to get a bit cavalier with the ball on occasion, but this kind of ratio is definitely promising — particularly considering the team’s top-tier turnover rate a season ago.

According to Mark Stein, the cap hit on Udrih will be less than 900K, but the signing will move them to more than $16M beyond the tax threshold, which means the 2013-14 tax bill is up to $32,341,250. And forty cents.

Yikes.

The Knicks were considering a bevy of stopgap solutions at the position, including Bobby Brown and Chris Duhon and I’ll just end that sentence here.

Be it for fit or fashion, this was a good get. Nice going, Glen.

2013 Report Card: Sheed

PlayerID FLName Year Tm PER TS_P eFG_P PTS ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV
0 Rasheed Wallace 2013 NYK 16.7 .484 .465 17.8 1.3 10.1 0.7 1.6 1.8 1.2
0.211 Hakeem Olajuwon 2001 HOU 20.7 .526 .498 16.1 2.9 10.0 1.7 1.6 2.1 1.9
0.287 Kevin Willis 2001 TOT 14.6 .478 .441 14.2 3.5 10.5 1.0 1.1 1.0 1.7
0.305 Patrick Ewing 2001 SEA 12.9 .478 .430 13.0 2.1 10.0 1.6 0.9 1.6 2.6
0.400 Jerome Kersey 2001 MIL 12.9 .473 .464 10.7 1.2 6.7 2.2 2.1 1.2 0.9
0.459 Robert Parish 1992 BOS 18.9 .571 .535 17.6 3.5 11.1 1.1 1.1 1.5 2.1
0.513 Clifford Robinson 2005 TOT 10.3 .471 .450 11.4 1.2 4.5 2.2 1.3 1.1 1.4
0.525 Danny Schayes 1998 ORL 10.9 .479 .418 11.5 2.7 6.8 1.2 1.0 0.9 1.7
0.535 Terry Cummings 2000 GSW 14.0 .474 .429 16.6 4.1 9.7 1.9 1.2 0.7 2.4
0.605 Antoine Carr 2000 VAN 7.5 .477 .438 10.9 1.3 5.2 1.1 0.5 1.0 1.5
0.644 Kurt Thomas 2011 CHI 10.0 .527 .513 6.4 2.3 9.2 1.8 1.0 1.3 1.3
0.660 Sam Perkins 2000 IND 12.1 .555 .518 11.9 1.4 6.4 1.5 0.7 0.7 1.4

There’s a reason kids shouldn’t wake up Christmas morning to a giant Pentagon-issue Abrams tank — brand new and big bow atop the turret — chilling beneath the tree: some things are simply too powerful for children to handle properly. You need that tank to weather and ware, suffer the humblings attendant to time, grind, and grenade blasts to the frame. So that, at some point in your early 30s, after dragging your ragged ass out of bed to accept your yuletide bounty of boxers and shitty socks, your joy at finding that once destructive, now crumblingly curmudgeonly beast might be coupled with the realization that you’re finally ready to play with it, albeit briefly, before it falls apart completely.

This is the best analogy I can conjure for what it was like watching a twilit Rasheed Wallace take one final, goofy-ass spin with my New York Knicks. After two calendar years on the lam, the itch about Sheed’s shit-dishing proboscis – the limb on which he leaned for the better part of two decades – became too much to ignore. Afer signing with the Knicks in late October, Sheed whipped himself quickly into shape (a shape, anyway), earning his first burn at the tail end of New York’s opening night beatdown of the defending champs. We all remember the moment:

woodysheed2

In no time, Sheed was logging semi-serious rotation minutes, contributing in all the ways that’d made him the maddeningly gifted, intermittently unstable manchild talent we’d all grown to love: bullying brothers on the block; antagonizing the referees with his patented brand of verbal-psychological voodoo; bellowing “Ball don’t lie!” at every reasonable and unreasonable opportunity; and generally doing everything in his power to limit his movement to half-jogs between three point lines. On a second unit that often struggled for some semblance of offensive continuity, Wallace became something of bulwark against late possession desperation; just dump it down low, join in the din of “SHEEEEEEEEEE….” and hope for the best.

That Knick Knation found itself in the throes of genuine panic at word of his indefinite sidelining – the product of too much weight and too many burns on too-fragile feet that came to a head in an early December romp with the Lakers – told you all you needed to know about just how indispensable Sheed had become. Which was at once thrilling and terrifying; thrilling because he’d summoned far more than anyone had expected; terrifying because this was just another example of your team hitching way too much of its second-unit fortune on an age bracket whose chief concerns amongst the general public tend to pivot on keeping your teenage children out of jail or not pregnant and methods for reducing the risk of hemorrhoids.

Bound to boot for the better part of four months, Sheed returned for one last run in a meaningless April 15th tilt in Charlotte. He played just a shade under four minutes, went one for three from the floor, scored two points, and missed his lone three point attempt before heading to the locker room, hobbling once again. Wallace announced his retirement just days later, bookending a run that was in many ways a microchosm of the mercurial forward’s entire NBA odyssey: Flashes of basketball brilliance interspersed with flails of sheer, weird idiocy and screamingly hilarious antics all deserving of their own, special enshrinement – a one-man museum whose operational hours are midnight to three, and where the architecture is always one slipped beam away from collapsing completely. Just like the man himself.

His playing days now bygone Day-Glo, Sheed has already commenced the next chapter in one of the NBA’s all-time strange trips — as an assistant in Detroit, the organization credited with finally transforming a troubled but borderline-genius into a defensive force, a true teammate, and a champion. The hallmarks of an second NBA life are already there: yelling at refs in the waning moments of a meaningless summer league game; pulling young players aside for stern talkings to; and — my favorite so far — greeting rookie point guard Peyton Siva, walking half-dejected back to the huddle after missing a shot by four miles, with this:

“Nice pass.”

There’s a line from Hunter Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, wherein the protagonist conjures something of an in-life eulogy for his attorney and partner in drug-crazed silliness, Dr. Gonzo. It’s a crib that gets bandied about quite a bit, whenever a half-famous, half-exciting celebrity passes on. To my mind, the only person to whom it could ever righteously apply may be Thompson himself. But Sheed ain’t far behind:

“There he goes. One of God’s own prototypes. Some kind of high powered mutant never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

Misfit, prankster, loudmouth, hothead, smartass, shit-talker, clown: Rasheed Wallace arrived league-side steeped in these and too many other tags, and now leaves perhaps the most transcendent totem to each the game has ever seen. But all labels contain degrees, and it’s safe to say that Sheed, more than any other player, mostly managed to find creatively clever ways of straddling right on the razor’s edge, between risky but ultimately socially acceptable theater, and the stuff of tragic sports annals. Where stupider men might’ve spent all good graces, Sheed always kept one back-of-pocket. Where angrier men would’ve been shunned completely, Sheed saved face with whoopee chushions. Where crazier men might’ve burned all available bridges, Sheed — impossible arms their own taut cables — suspended them. Even, somehow, when he was the one being suspended.

Can Peace Go Home Again?: A conversation

By all accounts, the signing of Metta World Peace was a good thing. Low-risk, high-reward, cathartic and karma-mending — it pretty much covered all the bases. But not everyone was pleased. The following is an email exchange I had with a self-described “fan of the blog” who insisted that the conversation be reproduced only under the strictest anonymity. So here it is.
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Rab Sliverman: Winners. Champions. The true greats of the sport. Men who transcend the game; who come to define the era in which they play. You can list them with surname-free bliss.

Magic. Michael. Wilt. Kareem. Isiah. Hakeem. LeBron. Kobe. Bird.

Is Bird a surname? Okay, it is. But it doesn’t really sound like one and animals don’t count so my oh-so-salient-point and the song remains the same.

And to this hallowed registry of unfathomable athletic splendor, you think the New York Knickerbockers Professional Basketball Club and Traveling Medicine Show should ad…METTA?

I am appalled. Shocked and appalled. You dare to besmirch the memory of James Naismith himself. Men named Metta do not ply their trade in the Mecca of Basketball. These hallowed halls, upon which have trod the finest cagers in the sport, and you…you…

It’s repugnant is what it is. Metta may be a New Yorker by birthright, but the real denizens of this town know, his act won’t play. Not on Broadway, the Bowery, the Bronx or Staten Island too. Uptown, Downtown, crosstown…like the kids say, we ain’t down with World Peace.
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Cavan: Yes, let’s talk about some of these legends, shall we? One of them cheated on his wife with enough women to violate an Applebee’s fire code. Another routinely punched his own teammates in the face and just named his brother Emperor of Charlotte. One guy appeared in Conan the Destroyer. Children out of wedlock; a former SOCCER player, for crying out loud; a Los Angeles Laker; and Isiah Thomas: check; check; check; check.

Ahh, “class”. The last refuge of a sports scoundrel.

Metta World Peace will never outrun the Malice monsters; never do near enough to make people understand the name change. Partly because it wasn’t just the Malace, and it wasn’t just the name change. Partly because we as a society are quicker to forgive monsters of true power than mere men at play. He is, however, coming back to the one place where hearing his old name could conjure a memory apart. Good memories. Memories of home and a playground concrete’s tautest roots.

Don’t we — not just New Yorkers; but everyone — owe him that much?
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Sliverman: I’m glad you brought it up– the Malice in the Palace.

It sounds so benign, doesn’t it? No harm done. Just a bit of Malice, like that lovely movie with that bloviating lie-bral gasbag has-been, Alex Baldwin. But it was no mere bit of moral-free cinematic flotsam from the soulless cesspool that is “Holly-wood.” Oh no, it was an insult to everything I hold near and dear.

A man (if I dare to use such a word). A trained, sculpted athlete. 6 foot 7 inches and two hundred and fifty pounds of coiled fury. His sense, barely tethered together by his taut, sinewy, glistening, oiled, muscular, oily-muscled man-frame. At the merest provocation — a cup of lager mind you — goes tearing into the stands like wild Bengal tiger, blood and/or saliva dripping from his curled lips, his eyes shot red with unfettered rage, red as the blood that courses, nay throbs, with pugilistic fervor through every throbbing vein in his chiseled frame.

He has only one thought (if you can call it that): revenge. He wants to feel the flesh of another man against his white knuckled fists. Pounding his supposed tormentor again and again, harder and harder, faster and faster, his mind a blur, until the helpless victim is reduced to a pulpy heap.

And do you know who witnessed this atrocity?

Children. Young Children. Some as young as six years old. And do you know who possibly witnessing this atrocity right next to the young children barely six years old? Even younger children.

Won’t somebody please think of the children!
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Cavan: We overdraft our bank accounts to make sure Junior’s Christmas morning includes a nice three-hour session of Call of Duty IX: Mow Down the Foreigners on XBox 360; drag him to parades in baking heat, hand him a sparkler, then tell him to cheer humans shooting and stabbing and lighting other human beings on fire. And Ron Artest clocking some drunk shithead is grounds for shipping him to Attica?

OK.

He was 24 years old when the Malice went down. Twenty-four. When I was 24, I could barely be bothered to put pants on. I would go months — literally months — without washing my shower towel. I ate cheese six, sometimes seven times a day. I wore glasses repaired with a wad of duct tape the size of a June bug because my weekly expenses for the $300 I made working in a kitchen included rent, food, gas, drugs, and more drugs, and not saving up for a pair of glasses that didn’t melt to my face on hot days. I lived in a walk-in closet on the third floor of Washington, D.C. row house. I was seriously into Arcade Fire. In most pre-Columbian societies, I would’ve been sacrificed to the corn gods during a GREAT harvest.

He’s 33, has a chip, was sent off from LA with heaps of heartfelt praise, and is looking to close out a very, very good career by helping his childhood team take that next step — the team that overnighted him a parcel of malaria-laced elephant shit on Draft Night, by the way.

I’m all in.
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Sliverman: Fine. Let’s leave Ron’s crimes in the past where they belong. Though I notice your youthful follies did not merit incarceration. You certainly needed a good, strong bath, a colonic and a stern talking-to, but as much as you might have been (and might still be, a no-goodnik punk who’s what’s wrong with this country — where’s your work ethic and making something of yourself and bootstrap-pulling and elbow grease and putting your grimy, possibly drug-filled and -fueled nose to the proverbial grindstone?)

And he’s called Mr. Artest, not Metta or World Peace [chortles]. Snoop Doggy Dogg is Snoop Doggy Dog. Not Snoop Dogg or Snoop Lion. Puff Daddy is not Puffy is not P. Diddy is not George Sand.

Where was I? Oh yes, you ruffian kids are useless with the eye-phones and the twitterers. But enough of all that.

Let’s talk about basketball, if your substance-addled mind can still recall the rules set down by the great James A. Naismith on stone tablets and passed to Cousy to Russell to West to Havlicek to Erving where it was translated into the Elvish language of Quenya by Shane Battier.

Artest’s supposed defensive prowess has been ever-dimishing with age. The footspeed that allowed him to ably guard small, big and medium forwards alike is as much a relic of the past as my trusty rotary phone and prized IBM Selectric Typewriter.

If you think he can spread the floor, recall that he shot a putrid .403 from the field, and that was under the kindly eyes of Mike D’Antoni. He hasn’t cracked .414 since ’08 and he’s a Bargani-esque .342 from deep. If you’re expecting a Three and Dee guy, Ron ain’t it, pardon my use of low-class argot.

Want more?

I’ve got some pockmarked, asthmatic intern here by my side wielding a protractor and a Ventolin inhaler. He says these numbers is no good. He’s got new numbers. FANCY numbers. And lo! They’re terrible too! A Tee-Ess of .517 and an E-Eff-Gee of .488 and win shares? What’s that? Speak up boy! Assert yourself. You’ll never make it in this biz we call ness if you don’t learn to announce your presence in bold, robust, baritone…er…tones.

I aught to dock that boy’s salary. What? He doesn’t get one? Well, problem solved. Hmph. That’s what you get with a Princeton grad.

Right-o. Win Shares. He doesn’t get many or something. Purr? No he doesn’t purr, boy! Artest is not a cat, striking high cheekbones and devilish, vaguely Asiatic eyes notwithstanding.

Intern-kid here says his purr is no good. Hmph. Sounds licentious if you ask me.

So there you have it. A fading defensive player who only exacerbates the team’s…JUST SAY IT STOP WRITING NOTES LAD. JIM CAN’T HEAR YOU…spacing issues.

What a great addition. And that’s assuming he isn’t wearing a straight jacket and drinking from a sippy cup with his shoelaces and belt taken away for his protection while he ‘rests’ at the local loony bin by December.

Thus endeth the lesson.
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Cavan: No, he’s not a beacon of efficiency. Even after 14 seasons, his jumper’s release still displays all the grace of a broken windhsield wiper. He hasn’t had a PER higher than 15 since 2009, and and his 106 DRtg a year ago was the second worst of his career.

Still, I feel like some context is in order here. You remember last year’s Los Angeles Lakers, right? One more regular season loss, FEMA aircraft are sent to Southern California. Darius Morris played serious point guard minutes. DARIUS MORRIS! During one stretch in mid-February, they rolled out a starting lineup of World Peace, Andrew Goudelock, Earl Clark, and George Mikan. That was it — those were the only four players they had. Everyone else was in the hospital. George Mikan has been dead for eight years.

Here are the facts: MWP has one of the most intense, well-respected offseason regimens in the league; he enjoyed a bounce-back season a year ago; and he really, really wants to be here. Don’t think that doesn’t count for something.

Will he revert to Captain Bonehead between two and five times a week? Probably. Will he get ejected for sitting on someone’s head? Ten-to-one, tops. Will there be drama? Yes. Just, Law & Order Drama and not, like, Steel Magnolias drama, you know? Quick-hitting and intermittent.

You’ll come around, Rab. We’re talking about arguably the greatest New York City product of his generation; a guy who bleeds concrete and oozes 90s tough. He’s going to fit, he’s going to work, he’s going to teach, preach, and reach, and he’s going to be a blast to watch.
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Sliverman: But I jus–
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Cavan: Sorry, Rab, we’re out of time.
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Sliverman: Oh come on, on mor–
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Cavan: Sorry, this isn’t a February Bobcats game recap. Gotta keep it under 2000 words.
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Sliverman: Well can we make it a 10-part series?
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Cavan: Fine.