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Life and Times

The Life and Times of Erik Spoelstra

Dead. Man. Walking.

Since the Heat head coach could be putting his hands on his hips or his forehead for the last time in Boston tomorrow night, let’s examine how he got here.

November 1, 1970: Jon Spoelstra, a former executive for 4 NBA teams, and Elisa Celino, hailing from THE Philippines, give birth to baby Erik in Evanston, Illinois. Jon, a Dutch-Irish American, continues a long, still-standing tradition of attempting to create beautiful babies with our kind. Didn’t work out with his boy Erik, but can’t blame ya for trying, bud.

Summer, 1987: After his junior year at Jesuit High School in Portland, Oregon, Jon pulls some strings to get wide-eyed (pun of course intended) Erik at the prestigious Nike All-Star camp (now known to hoopheads as the ABCD camp) in Princeton, New Jersey. Somehow, Erik gets paired with the best high school player in the country, Alonzo Mourning.

Five seconds after getting into the Nike camp, 1987: 17-year-old Erik needs to change his pants.

March 4, 1990: Now the starting point guard for the University of Portland, Erik and his team suit up to play Hank Gathers and Loyola Marymount University. Erik stood helplessly as a lob was thrown over his head, the end result being a Gathers facial that sent shockwaves throughout the building. As Gathers runs back on defense, he collapses right in front of Erik and breathes his last breath.

No jokes here. Let’s move on.

You’re lying to me if you didn’t enjoy this movie.

May, 1992: Erik, with his college resume disclosing career per-game averages of 9.2 points, 4.4 assists, and 2.4 rebounds, garnered a spot on TuS Herten. TuS Herten was on the doorstep of gaining entrance as a franchise in the NBA a Pro-B mid-level team in Germany. Erik was given the title of player/coach, a title bestowed upon Bill Russell. So how did Erik do in such a position?

“What that really means was the head coach and I would go get some beers and talk basketball and I’d bring the basketballs to practice.”

Fine and dandy.

Erik actually also worked with a German youth team, his first real head coaching gig. He laments the days of working with 12-year-olds who couldn’t understand English as having “balls flying all over the place.” Well there goes your social life.

To his credit/dismay, Erik chose THIS…

1995: Erik gets the break before the break before the break before the break, landing a job as video coordinator for the expansion Miami Heat. Erik earns every single penny in what the team called “The Dungeon.” He goes days without returning to his apartment, breaking down game tape.

A 25-year-old male lived in South Beach and didn’t leave his place of employment for days. Days! I don’t know whether to be sad or impressed.

…over THIS.

1997: The break before the break before the break — Erik gets promoted to assistant coach.

1999: The break before the break — Erik gets promoted, adding “advance scout” to his responsibilities with the Heat. Then-head coach Pat Riley praises Erik for what Riley calls “above the brain thinking.” Riley said that Spoelstra’s scouting reports included not just the general Xs and Os, but personal stories about a player, a theme from a book Erik just read, or a news clip from yesterday’s paper. No word on whether the homeless trolls on Collins Avenue were cited as sources.

June 26, 2003: Miami selects Marquette junior guard Dwyane Wade with the 5th pick of the NBA Draft.

No matter what happens in the future, the de… Read more...

Clippers Curse is Real: Billups out for the year

This is the part where I would usually do my “Life and Times of the Los Angeles Clippers”, exhaustively detailing the most ridiculous and painful moments in San Diego turned Los Angeles Clippers history. With the news of Chauncey Billups’ season-ending Achilles tear coming to light this afternoon, I would have just another footnote to write with some hilariously appropriate jab for LA’s ugly red-headed stepchild. As a life-long Angeleno, I’ve had a front seat view as the Clips have taken what should be a luxury automobile and repeatedly crashed it head first into a brick wall, only to be repainted with the same red, white and blue colors whose stink can only be identified with one putrid source. They’re best known for being the butt of late-night television punch-lines, or one of the first ten names David Stern reads in June. Of course I think of them as a pathetic joke, but mostly I view them as a sports tragedy. In a hotbed of basketball in the second biggest market in country, the infinite resources that other small market teams would kill for are routinely wasted at the hands of an owner who knows how to do nothing but kill what he has. I’ve gone on record as saying how despicable Donald Sterling is as an owner, but I truly think it’s his flaws as a human that lead to the Clippers Curse.

Unfortunately, Simmons already did the “Life and Times of the Los Angeles Clippers” better than I ever could have. If you even get halfway through his “open letter to Blake Griffin”, you’ll see that the Clips’ history is littered not just with missteps by ownership or management, but also freak occurrences that seem to happen time and time again. A lot of people like to say that curses aren’t real, that things happen in sports, and there are so many complexities involved with having to appease millions of constituents. But I think if you read what has happened to the Clippers over the past 30 years, you’ll see that it can’t just be bad luck and the consequence of following a physical sport. No Clippers boon can bloom without it withering away and rotting soon thereafter. Just to be a completist, I’ll pick up where Simmons left off, the summer of 2009.

July, 2009: The Clippers trade Zach Randolph to the Memphis Grizzlies. Randolph would blossom in Memphis, becoming an All-Star and one of the most efficient power forwards in the league.

October, 2009: After a thunderous break-away dunk in a meaningless preseason game, rookie phenom and future All-Star Blake Griffin comes down on his left knee hard, creating a stress fracture in his left patella. This injury leaves the first overall pick out for the season.

February, 2010: With another disastrous losing season already locked up, the Clippers GM/Coach Mike Dunleavy steps down from his coaching duties, though keeping his title as GM.

March, 2010: For the second time in a month, the Clippers fire Mike Dunleavy, this time as GM of the team. Dunleavy reportedly finds this out through internet reports and friends, rather than the organization. You stay classy, Donald Sterling.

April, 2010: Dunleavy reports that despite having a guaranteed contract that runs through the end of the 2011 season, the Clippers had stopped paying him, on the grounds that he voluntarily resigned from his duties. The amount is roughly $6.5 million dollars.

February, 2011: Blake Griffin is named as an All-Star reserve, the Clippers first representative since Elton Brand. He also is selected for the dunk contest during All… Read more...

The Life and Times of Timberwolves GM David Kahn

David Kahn is the General Manager for the Minnesota Timberwolves. This is Kahn’s fourth career; he began as a sportswriter for the Oregonian newspaper in Portland, then moved on with a law degree to working for the prestigious sports law firm Proskauer Rose. After several years working as counsel for the NBA, Kahn took an opportunity to work within one of its franchises as an executive with the Indiana Pacers. I’ve read conflicting reports about Kahn’s role; some say that he worked directly under President of Basketball Operations Donnie Walsh as General Manager, but that he was mostly involved in the business development side of the Pacers (and their arena, Conseco Fieldhouse), rather than player acquisition or movement. Whatever the case in his somewhat murky employment history, Kahn went on to gain employment under Glen Taylor and his Minnesota Timberwolves, taking over for NBA Hall of Famer and former Wolves GM Kevin McHale.

Kahn’s 3-year stint as GM has been, to say the least, somewhat rocky. Caught in a rebuilding movement amidst the trade of franchise cornerstone Kevin Garnett, Kahn was charged with molding the team’s future starting from the ground up. Some of the incumbent Timberwolves were forwards Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes (both obtained through dealing Kevin Garnett to the Boston Celtics), Kevin Love, 2nd year man Corey Brewer and a bunch of other guys. Other than that, the foundation was Kahn’s to create.

Over the next few seasons, his decisions bordered between questionable, confusing and idiotic. Coupled with an arrogant attitude and a face that belongs to a villain in a Die Hard movie, Kahn and the Timberwolves have quickly became the laughingstock of the entire league. Here is a brief timeline of some of our favorite GM’s more…interesting decisions.

May 2009: Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor hires Kahn as the new President of Baskebtall Operations

Draft night, 2009: In his first public night on the job, the Timberwolves’ rebuilding movement would immediately feature Kahn’s fingerprints all over it; Minnesota had been gifted 3 first round picks that year.

With the 5th pick, Kahn raised eyebrows immediately by selecting point guard Ricky Rubio, a teenage Spanish phenom who everyone knew wouldn’t be coming overseas for at least 2 years. Moments later, with the 6th pick, he selected Jonny Flynn, a 5’11” point guard from Syracuse. 12 picks later, Kahn drew audible laughs from the room and the analysts on ESPN when he chose, yes, another point guard, Ty Lawson (later that night traded to the Nuggets for what would eventually turn out to be small forward Martell Webster from the Portland Trailblazers).

Somehow, Kahn had chosen 3 point guards, two of which were under 6′ tall and one of which that wouldn’t play until 2011. Just to compound the unintentional hilarity of his first summer on the job, he then signed another point guard, Ramon Sessions, to a 4-year, $16 million dollar deal. Even though he would have the two point guards he just drafted still on the team within the life of the deal. Yes, David. Yes.

August 9th, 2009: Kahn hires Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis to a 4-year deal for $8 million. Rambis would be fired two years later, after a 32 wins in a possible 164 games, good for a .195 winning percentage.

Draft Night, 2010: Kahn selects Wesley Johnson, a 23 year-old junior small forward from Syracuse. Left on the board were Greg Monroe, DeMarcus Cousins and Paul George, all of which have shown more progressio… Read more...

The Life and Times of Milton Bradley

I’ve committed nearly 1,000 words to describing the life and times of Metta World Peace, or the baller formerly known as Ronald Artest. The reason? He crazy. He is absolutely, 100% batshit crazy. His now 10 year NBA career has been peppered with half-naked appearances on late-night talk shows, job applications to Circuit City with NBA Commish David Stern as a reference and a small altercation in Auburn Hills, Michigan. But even at the zenith of Metta’s insanity, he never, ever came within the same stratosphere of craziness of one Milton Bradley.

Now if you don’t know who Milton Bradley, his name is just as real as Metta World Peace, no matter how dubious your belief may be. Mr. Bradley is a former Major League Baseball player, whose career as an outfielder and designated hitter have spanned across stadiums in Cleveland, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, Chicago and Seattle. To say his career has been star-crossed is an insult to the definition of a word usually reserved for men who have simply donned several uniforms or a spotty injury history. Bradley’s time in the major leagues has been a series of incessant injuries, unbelievable outbursts, and quotes that I couldn’t make up if Richard Pryor, Tina Fey and Larry David were my crew of writers. His escapades make Metta World Peace look like Keyon Dooling.

Milton, a former Dodger, only came back into my sphere of consciousness because of news of his arrest for spousal abuse and subsequent arrest within the last month. As I started reading about Bradley’s latest brush with the law, I started to think back about his altercations over the years and knew that it was time for THE GREAT MAMBINO to present…the Life and Times of Milton Bradley.

April 15th, 1978: Milton’s mother decides that it would be a good idea to name her son after her husband, Milton Bradley, Sr. This isn’t an unfortunate case of a person being named Julia Roberts and then having the famous actress come to prominence during her adulthood. Milton Bradley, the board game creator, died in 1911. By 1978, when Milton was born, the Milton Bradley company was already one of the most successful toy makers in America, with hits like Chutes & Ladders, Concentration, Candyland and Twister. I am strongly of the belief that Mrs. Bradley sentencing her son to a life of teasing and ridicule created the base for instability and madness that led to this post.

2001: During his first full season with the Indians, Bradley becomes so inebriated at a restaurant that he is taken to a local hospital by emergency medical workers. I don’t know what restaurant it was, but I’m really hoping it was a Denny’s.

July 29th, 2003: Bradley, after arguing with umpire Bruce Froemming’s third-strike call, was ejected from a game against the Oakland A’s. In his argument with the umpire, Bradley contended that Froemming “didn’t understand” the game and proceeded to throw his bat and helmet in Froemming’s direction after he had been chucked. In his defense, Bradley said that “he already took the bat out of my hands; I was just giving it back to him”. Still angry, Milton claimed that pitcher Mark Mulder wasn’t called on more “than two balls in a row all night”. Mark Mulder finished the season with a 15 wins and a 3.13 ERA, walking only 40 batters in 186 innings. Bruce Froemming, who Milton said “did not understand” the game of baseball, finished his 50-year career a few years later.

September 4th, 2003Read more...

The Life and Times of Metta World Peace

Ron Artest is a fine name. But what does that name really mean? Is there a message I can grab from those two words? When I hear the name “Ron Artest”, do I leave richer for the experience? No. No sir, I do NOT. But a name like Metta World Peace? That’s a message.

About a month ago, Lakers forward Ron Artest decided to change his name to Metta World Peace, petitioning the Los Angeles Municipal Court with the proper paperwork. Hopefully Metta himself did not fill out the forms.

This is not a post to debate the merits or disadvantages of such an action; it’s stupid. There, argument settled. But this did get me thinking that this little stunt of Mr. World Peace is just one in a long line of illustriously madcap ideas that he’s had. In fact, if I were to make a list of all the ridiculous things he’s done over the past 10 years, I’m not sure that changing his name to Metta World Peace (by the way, is his last name Peace? Or is it World Peace? And can you imagine Marv Albert calling a Lakers game next year? “And World Peace, from the corner…YES! METTA WORLD PEACE, WITH…THE….DAGGER!”) would even stand out. Well, you be the judge. Presenting the Life and Times of Metta World Peace.

June to September, 2000: Metta applies for a job at a Chicago Circuit City, primarily so he could take advantage of the store’s employee discount. Under references, he used Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Krause. As for his previous work experience, he wrote “NBA Player”.

June to September, 2001: World Peace guards his idol and former Chicago Bull Michael Jordan. Metta plays with such tenacity and intensity, that he in fact breaks two of Michael’s ribs in the process. In a summer pick-up game.

February 23rd, 2004: Out for a month due to thumb surgery, World Peace shows up at an Indiana Pacers practice wearing a bathrobe over his practice gear. He says that the robe was a reminder to “take it easy” following surgery.

November 11th, 2004: World Peace reportedly gets suspended by then Indiana Pacers coach Rick Carlisle for asking for a month off to recuperate from “exhaustion”. “Exhaustion” from promoting a new R&B record he produced. World Peace and Carlisle later said that it was all a misunderstanding and though World Peace did ask for time off, he “said it the wrong way”.

November 9th, 2004: World Peace, along with Ben Wallace, triggers a brawl that would eventually involve the entire Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers and patrons of the Palace at Auburn Hills. Maybe you’ve heard of this. I hope it’s on youtube.

November, 2005: World Peace shaves “Tru Warier” into the back of his head, as promotion for his record label. David Stern was excited at the notion, saying how happy he was that his players were such enterprising young men.

December 12th, 2005: After missing 86 games (including the playoffs) with Indiana the previous season due to suspension, World Peace constantly claims how happy he is to finally be returning to the Pacers for the 2005-2006 season. He asked for a trade just a month later.

July 9th, 2006: With the Sacramento Kings, World Peace jokingly threatens to kill teammate Bonzi Wells if he did not resign with the Kings that summer. Wells somehow lived to sign with the Houston Rockets instead.

June 17th, 2008: After the Lakers lost the deciding game 6 to the Boston Celtics in the 2008 Finals, World Peace, fully dressed, walked into the Lakers’ shower room after the loss. He then proceedRead more...