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...

The Nuanced Evolution of Dr. Dre’s Compton

For the past couple weeks, my Silver Screen & Roll Editor-in-Chief Drew Garrison and I have been unpacking Dr. Dre’s newest album Compton. These 16 meticulously crafted tracks have made waves in the music industry and popular culture, not just for its connection to Dr. Dre, but also for its presence alongside the N.W.A smash hit biopic, Straight Outta Compton. After a dozen e-mails and countless chat conversations, Drew and I got down to discussing this landmark record.

KOBEsh: 16 years and all we got is a soundtrack?

That statement couldn’t be more literal, but the sentiment couldn’t be further from the truth.

For the past 16 years, it’s a disservice to say that the hip-hop world has been waiting for Dr. Dre’s follow-up to 2001 because it’s actually been the entire music world was left wanting more. Rumors floated in and out of circulation, with co-producers, co-writers, guest rappers, recording studio engineers and personal friends alike slyly admitting that they in fact, had been working on the long-awaited Detox. The album grew in legend as the rumors, years and mystery grew in concert, with Dre’s new project becoming the hip-hop cousin to Axel Rose’s Chinese Democracy. And even as that fabled record finally came to life in 2008, Detox was nowhere to be found. Popular culture wondered if the years of speculation would indeed lead to anything of substance.

The good doctor, it seems, is not without a sense of humor.

Just as we came upon a second decade of anticipation for Detox, Dr. Dre’s new record, Compton, ironically appeared out of nowhere.

With 16 brand new tracks, the Dre-helmed album is, in a word, dense. So dense, in fact, that it’s taken myself and my co-writer Drew Garrison over a week to digest the entire work and come up with some thoughts. There is so much to Compton musically, thematically and lyrically that unpacking it in a single sitting is impossible. “Density” is the most anyone could really get out of one listen, in all sincerity.

I’ve got a ton of thoughts about the record, but Drew, let’s start the discussion here: what’s the first word that comes to mind when you think of Compton?

Drew Garrison: Evolved.

Dr. Dre’s probably most known for picking apart smooth samples and laying out perfect drums over the top of it, but Compton is a lifetime’s journey away from The Chronic. Considering it’s been over 20 years between those albums, and Andre Young isn’t busy taking us on a ride through his sweet chariot anymore, it’s only fitting the album is in a different world thematically. He’s a successful businessman, one of the most respected figures in music history, and is finally ready to share the latest chapter in his life.… Read more...

What do the Dodgers really need at the trade deadline?

There’s no doubt that the Dodgers need another starter. There are less than 70 games left in the season and I, like everyone else with a pulse AND an emotional investment in this team, can’t really see a future where Brett Anderson (as good as he’s been), Carlos Frias, Brandon Beachy (fresh off TWO TJ surgeries), Mike Bolsinger, Zach Lee and maybe even the likes of Trevor Cahill make 40 starts between them. Well, I could see that future, but it wouldn’t be great for the Dodgers.
It’s not that LA can’t get serviceable starts by any combination from those players–they can–it’s just that you’re betting on Black 15, Red 28 and Red 12 rather than plain old boring Red. It’s a huge gamble that those arms are going to get the Dodgers to the postseason… and we’re not even broaching that subject yet. Anderson could break down any day (and he has), Beachy is going to be inconsistent at best after his injuries, Bolsinger has inexplicably gotten through half a season despite throwing two pitches, Frias has been solid but just for stretches and guys like Ian Thomas, Lee, and Cahill can’t be trusted for more than a spot start.
That being said… the cavalry is on the horizon, theoretically. David Price may be available. Cole Hamels has been and forever will be available. If the Dodgers want to create the best 1-2-3 punch in the league, it’s more than a possibility.
The real questions are: would that be worth the cost? And is it necessary?… Read more...

The Lakers signing Rajon Rondo may be inevitable

For the past several seasons, the focus was on the summer. The 2010 NBA champions had become a quickly fading memory and it became apparent that the team needed to reload. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol were entering their mid-thirties and the next generation of championship contending Lakers were not in sight. As the team was routinely without first round picks (and when they had them, they selected well out of the lottery), the focus gravitated towards, of course, summer free agency, The Lakers needed to bring on some new blood with cold hard cash–the idea of building through the draft was not exactly the first option.
The rebirth of the Lake Show pointed to July.
That aforementioned summer was almost one year ago. And the 21-59 Lakers are the product of how that summer went.
The front office went after all the top guys of that class, offering maximum salaried deals to LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dirk Nowitzki. They struck out each time. Instead, the team kept their flexibility rolling until the next summer, replicating their plan for another year. The organization is holding out hope that summer 2015 is wholly different from summer 2014 and the rebuild can truly jump start.
However, looking at the landscape of the league, it doesn’t appear that it’s going to be as easy as all that. In fact, this supposed free agent bonanza might be as limited as it was one year ago. The last man standing–and maybe future Laker–could be Rajon Rondo.
Rondo’s pedigree isn’t hard to see. Four-time All-Star, two-time First Team All-Defense, two-time Second Team All-Defense and a 2008 NBA title at the expense of Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. He’s an all-world passer and such a fierce competitor that he’s earned the pronounced vocal respect of the Black Mamba himself. He’s a proven star in many respects and one still in his twenties.
But it seems like the reasons not to sign him far outweigh the reasons in favor of it. Harrison Faigen covered many of them here, the least of which includes the emergence of Jordan Clarkson and the fact that Rajon Rondo…might not be that good.
However, looking at the landscape of the league and where the Lakers are at, I see Rondo’s signing as an inevitability rather than a simple theory. Let’s take a look at the reasons:
(Read on for them reasons at SS&R!)

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The Evolution of Kendrick Lamar

(My cohort from Silver Screen & Roll–SS&R Editor-in-Chief Drew Garrison–put together something of a different flavor: a deep dive into the world of music. Certainly something different than we usually post at MAMBINO, but I threw in a Giannis Antetokounmpo reference just to keep us in the sports stream. Enjoy!)
KOBEsh: In late September, Kendrick Lamar suddenly released “i” into the digital ether, a mysterious new single off his mysterious new album with a mysterious release date. No one quite knew when the world would see the rest of the material from the highly anticipated follow up to the critically acclaimed debut record but one thing was for sure—”i” let us know that at the very least, Kendrick wasn’t going to just put out Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, Part 2.
After months of speculation, one of music’s worst kept secrets is finally out: a couple of weeks ago, hip-hop’s hottest act Kendrick Lamar released his highly anticipated sophmore album To Pimp a Butterfly overnight. The clandestine album has almost become a prerequisite these days for artists of Lamar’s stature–after all, haven’t we gotten to the point where if Jay Z or Beyonce or Kanye West released an album with a four month run-up, wouldn’t that just feel out of the ordinary?
Let’s start off here: what were you expecting this album to be, even before you heard “i”? Did you have expectations? And then when you finally heard To Pimp a Butterfly, what was you instant reaction?
Drew Garrison: I didn’t have any expectations for Kendrick after really digging GKMC and swinging down to embrace Section.80. It definitely felt like Kendrick’s next album was going to be a significant release for music, and certainly feel like it’s an album of that magnitude. I think the instant thought once the final time K.dot yelled “PAC” cut out was just how dense the release is. This album isn’t a slice of cheesecake, it’s the whole thing. In one sitting. Game on. … Read more...

Has Vinny Mac lost his touch? Royal Rumble 2015 Preview

It’s been a long journey filled with Fandango reboots and Nursery Time with Roman Reigns, but we’re finally here. The Road to WrestleMania begins this Sunday. There should be a noticeable difference in the quality of WWE programing in the next few weeks. After all, this is the time of year when writers will employ slightly more long term booking, as WrestleMania is only two months away.
You’ll have to excuse me if I’ve been a little down on the product lately, as CM Punk’s podcast with Colt Cabana was disheartening. Vince McMahon’s surprise appearance on the Network with Stone Cold was even more worrisome. We’ve been saying it for years, but I think it’s finally true; the 69 year old Vincent K. McMahon is out of touch. He no longer knows what the audience wants. I’ve had to get my wrestling fix outside the confines of Monday nights. Not like that’s been a bad thing.… Read more...

The San Francisco Giants make it historically difficult to be a Dodgers fan

It’s been 56 days since the San Francisco Giants won their third World Series championship in five season. I know the days. It’s tattooed on my brain. That’s how long it’s taken me to write this article–enough time to heal and get up from off the floor.
I couldn’t watch the World Series this year. Not an inning. As a huge Los Angeles Dodgers fan, seeing our time-tested rivals play for yet another title was just too much for me to grit through. It was a feeling I had become accustomed to—a very same set of stomach acid-inducing ulcers that burned the lining of my gut two years ago. And then two years before that. Worse yet, I knew it was coming.
From the moment that Brandon Belt hit a monstrous home run in Nationals Park during their 18-inning slugfest with Washington (the same night as the Dodgers’ lone playoff win), I knew that there was no stopping the Gigantes as they walked down the golden road they were all-too familiar with. It was the same formula I had seen twice already in the last five years—dominant starting pitching, an unheralded bullpen that would bend but not break and a motley set of hitters whose stars aligned all at the same time. I knew the recipe. I could smell it.… Read more...

Trade Analysis: The Dodgers’ big week

Dodgers get: SS Jimmy Rollins, 2B Howie Kendrick, SP Brandon McCarthy, C Yasmani Grandal, RP Chris Hatcher and minor leaguers C Austin Barnes, 2B Enrique Hernandez, SP Joe Weiland
Dodgers trade: 2B Sweet Dee Gordon, SP Dan Haren, SS Miguel Rojas (to the Marlins), CF Matt Kemp, C Tim Federowicz (to the Padres), SP Andrew Heaney (to the Angels)
The Dodgers–and their new executive team–began a complete makeover this week…and they’re probably not done yet.
Even in the midst an incomplete offseason, it’s clear that new President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman and his GM Farhan Zaidi are prioritizing defense over everything else.… Read more...

Julius Randle’s injury clarifies the Lakers’ roadmap

There’s nothing good about Julius Randle’s injury. No matter what anyone may say, a young, promising power forward has been sidelined at the advent of his NBA career. My colleague Harrison Faigen tried to find silver linings peering through this horrific injury, putting a reluctant smile on an other morose situation. However, in my opinion, there’s really nothing the Lakers gain in a positive sense. All this injury does is clarify what the Lakers do going forward.
Two games in, the Lakers look extremely far away from anything resembling a playoff team. Yes, it’s only two games, but their two performances, not to mention their preseason games, indicate systemic flaws in the very infrastructure of the team itself that aren’t necessarily beholden to a small sample size. The offense is an absolute mess, one that won’t be fixed by the addition of a single, solitary three-point shooter in the form of Nick Young, or can be helped exponentially by Kobe taking even more shots. The defense is even more inexcusable–I don’t know that I need to expound on that. The Lakers look like a lottery team, pure and simple. As currently constructed, there are very few onlookers who would actually suggest this team could make the playoffs.
At this point, the Lakers could take their season in several different directions. Do they stay the course, save up their assets and hope that, with time, the team can become more competitive than they are in their present state? Do they try an open rebuild, trading away valuable role players like Jordan Hill or Jeremy Lin for draft selections or young blue chippers? Or do they take a combination of their nearly $30 million in expiring contracts, young players and draft picks and try and trade for a disgruntled superstar that wants out of his current situation?
It would seem Randle’s injury has ruled out that last direction.
(Read on, sadly, at Silver Screen & Roll)

 …

The 2014-2015 Lakers and the Quest for 20

Several years ago, Boston College’s favorite son, Jared “The Junkyard Dog” Dudley (though by opposing ACC crowds, he was often called “Jared Ugly”) came to the Phoenix Suns in package with Jason Richardson. Dudley never should have made it even that far in the NBA.
A first round pick by the Charlotte Bobcats, the San Diego, CA native was actually projected to be a second round draft pick. The reigning 2006-2007 ACC Player of the Year had decent size at 6’7″ and 220 lbs, lacked the explosive athleticism that many other small forwards carried at that position. Critics claimed that Dudley’s lack of lateral movement and vertical lift would limit his NBA career, making him a League also-ran rather than the, I daresay dominant swingman he was during his college days.
What many didn’t consider was while Dudley was limited in athleticism, he was not at all limited in his work ethic. Through his endless hustle, grit and an unfathomably improved three-point stroke, JYD morphed into a phenomenal NBA role player with the Bobcats and then with the Phoenix Suns. More than that, he morphed himself into a man who has made over $30 million dollars in his NBA career.
Still, his athleticism, or lack thereof, has still partially defined his career. Throughout the 2010-2011 NBA season, Dudley’s teammates on the Phoenix Suns derided the baby-faced small forward his almost complete inability to dunk the basketball during in-game play. Even during his college career, Dudley was never known as a powerful player that could take it to the rack, but rather as a guy who relied on a solid mid-range game and contact at the hoop to get his points. Dunking–i.e., jumping off the ground with explosion–was simply not in the cards. Apparently, this was the case during his professional career.
And thus came the Quest for 10. Please see this article.
In the spring of 2011, Jared Dudley completed his seemingly impossible quest to complete ten dunks during the season. This man–an unlikely NBA player from the outset–defied the critics, his teammates, the very laws of physics and the constraints of his own human vessel to conquer this very personal journey.
As we reflect on the Quest for 10, can YOUR….Los Angeles Lakers complete their Quest for 20?… Read more...