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A Requiem for Grantland

“I am going to write for Grantland. I am going to be very fucking good”
 
Four years ago, that was my mindset. I was going to write for Grantland. And I was going to be very fucking good.
 
In mid-2011, I was still wondering what to do with my life. I had just joined a company in the marketing wing, signing up to be a lowly executive assistant and holding out hope every day that my betters would throw me a scrap of real work. In between my long days of answering phones, creating meeting invites but generally doing a whole lot of nothing, I would write. And then I would write. And then I would write some more.
 
I’d write about my hatred for Adrian Beltre, the inevitably unpredictable nature of the baseball playoffs, how unstoppable Albert Pujols was, the frustrating nature of Lamar Odom’s being and of course, the top 10 ugliest players in the NBA. Starting as a mortal Blogspot site, thegreatmambino.blogspot.com was a place where we cut our collective teeth. Along with some of my idiot friends, we increased our output and tried to get content flowing nearly every day. Some of the posts were great–I would hold up this Jeremy Lin article up against anything I’ve ever written–and some of them weren’t. I mean, some of them really weren’t. But either way, we were writing with purpose. At least, I was. I was trying to get better. To be great. To be good enough to be a staff writer for Grantland.… Read more...

To see how “a potential juggernaut” can go wrong, the 2013 Dodgers must look to the 2013 Lakers

This offseason was one of the most anticipated in Los Angeles franchise history. The entire industry looked to So Cal as the front office made massive moves that changed the complexion of the league. Though there were minor transactions in the form of tasty appetizers, the main course was yet another superstar player joining the team. Though it seemed for the past year that any person who had paid attention to the sport knew that he was eventually going to end up in the City of Angels, the fanfare was just as pronounced.
 
The payroll skyrocketed to another dimensions, forgoing any potential consequence of a soon dramatically changing luxury tax, the harshest penalties of which are reserved for those who repeatedly go over the set salary line. Of course, none of this mattered with brand new television contracts guaranteeing the team literally billions of dollars over the next twenty years. The organization spent and spent, with each new acquisition leading to an e-mail or text from my dad saying “And we got that guy too?”. These new offseason personnel additions–not one, not two, but several–aren’t without their questions. Concerns regarding how close or far these players are from the ends of their careers, their game-time potency and most importantly, how well each guy will catalyze with a team full of highly compensated stars are key to a successful season. As much as throwing money on the situation can help, there’s no telling how well these men will play together and how they’ll deal with the massive expectations set in front of them.
 
As if those weren’t high-profile problems enough, the squad is led by young coach will be tested with the hardest task of his career: having to soothe the egos of players making $10, $15 and $20+ millions of dollars annually, while figuring out a rotation that is certain not to make everyone happy.  Expectations are higher than they’ve ever been in Los Angeles, where an appearance in the championship round is merely a prerequisite, not a goal. The only measure of this team–in how much it cost to assemble the prospects and future considerations it took to do so–is hoisting high that gold trophy at season’s end. In Southern California, it’s not just championship or bust–it’s championship or “who are you?”. There is no alternative.
 
I was just talking about the Los Angeles Lakers.
 
I was just talking about the Los Angeles Dodgers.
 
For a fan base stretching from Lancaster to Long Beach, imaging a season gone horribly wrong shouldn’t be much further away than a drive on the 5 freeway.… Read more...

Bad NBA Contract of the Week: Charlie Villanueva

(In the vein of the highly esteemed David Shoemaker, AKA The Masked Man’s Deadspin column entitled “Dead Wrestler of the Week”, we here at MAMBINO are going to parse our way through the worst contracts the NBA has to offer. Part dedication to the great men who have swindled their way to big checks, part commemoration to GMs that should have been fired and part commentary on the ills of a capitalist society gone wrong, we’ll be here every week with a look at the L’s worst deals)
 
Charlie Villanueva
 
Contract: 5 years, $35 million
Signed by:
Detroit Pistons
Salary this season: $8 million
2013 Slash Line: 7.2/3.8/0.7 in 52 games
Expires: 2014

“My comment to Charlie was in fact ‘You are cancerous to your team and our league.’ I would never be insensitive to the brave struggle that cancer patients endure. I have lost loved ones to this deadly disease and have a family member currently undergoing treatment. I would never say anything that distasteful. The game of life is far bigger than the game of basketball.”—Kevin Garnett

 
And with that eloquent statement in response to a most heinous allegation, the Big Ticket simply said what a lot of us were thinking.
 
No, not about cancer, although I’m sure there’s not a person alive who doesn’t want the disease eradicated.
 
About Charlie Villanueva being cancerous to the team and perhaps the very league that team operates in. Whether he’ll admit it or not, Charlie V is a physical manifestation of the precipitous decline of Detroit Basketball.… Read more...

Andrew Bynum still affects the Lakers, even from 2,300 miles away

(My latest from Silver Screen & Roll)
 
After an 80-minute workout, a sweat saturated Andrew Bynum talked to the Philadelphia media while staring straight through them. It was the same faraway look that he had given the Los Angeles media for seven years; a trained, halfhearted sense of etiquette that made him seem patiently aloof. In the Sixers training facility, Andrew was asked repeatedly about the state of his problematic knees, ones that had dampened his playing career from blossoming into full-on super-stardom. Talking with his usual tones of misplaced bemusement, Bynum said “I’ll definitely be back sometime this year, I’m focused on getting back and being right versus trying to rush.”
 
As sure as the first part of his statement was, the second seemed to be a very carefully placed caveat on what seemed like a guarantee. Drew’s statement was a conflicted as his hair that day, a brilliantly compelling skull half immaculately braided and half out of the Don King playbook. Less than two weeks later, Bynum found himself backtracking, admitting that he might not play at all this season. The Philadelphia 76ers season has been an abject disaster without the big man, falling almost completely out of the playoff picture.
 
It’s been strange to see Bynum give continuous updates himself on what seemingly should be a team issue. John Black, the Lakers PR czar, leads a tight-lipped operation out of Downtown L.A. and El Segundo, keeping roster-related information at a premium. Throughout Drew’s tenure as a Laker, the organization gave hazy updates on whatever their center’s latest malady was, keeping fans and the media speculating rather than dwelling. It’s a testament to just how strong a hand the Buss operation was when seeing just how much commotion Bynum has caused without stepping foot onto the court.
 
Considering that these injuries appeared during summer conditioning and bowling of all things doesn’t bode well for the big man.
 
Regardless of what’s coming out of the former lottery pick’s mouth, the bottom line is that the man hasn’t played a single minute of his new team’s 56 games this year. He has been sitting out with bone bruises in both knees, and battling chronic soreness and swelling. Bone bruises vary in severity and disability from person to person, but obviously with Bynum, the problem is more than just an inconvenience. He can’t yet do any physical activity without pain, which a salve of months-long rest was supposed to help heal. Worse yet, these latest injuries seem to be mostly non-contact based. Though he battled problems all throughout his Lakers career, Bynum’s medical absences were all tied to freak on-court contact injuries in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Considering that these injuries appeared during summer conditioning and bowling of all things doesn’t bode well for the big man. More than likely, Bynum’s enormous seven foot, near 300 pound frame simply isn’t equipped to withstand the rigors and stresses that an intensely physical NBA game places on him. There are some who speculate that he may never be able to play a full season ever again.
 
For the Lakers and their fans, watching Bynum’s erratic behavior from afar has been illuminating, comical, and sad usually all at once. With every ridiculous sound byte, we’re reminded that “close-out games actually aren’t that hard” and with every tale of season-endin… Read more...