"The Other Dream Team," that marvelous documentary about the tough-as-nails and inspiring-as-hell 1992 Lithuanian national team includes a bit of back story, establishing that Lithuania has loved hoops for most of a century. As soon as I heard they loved hoops in the 1930s ... doesn't it go without saying it's still hugely popular now? Honest question: Has any country ever fallen out of love with basketball?
Chris Douglas-Roberts, once a malcontent on the Nets' bench, who spent time playing in Italy, tells the Lakers' Mike Trudell about lessons learned: "The best way in this league is to keep your mouth shut at times. It's not just about basketball. If you're better than someone, you aren't always going to play over them and you just have to swallow that."
Add this name to your "people not to mess with" list: James Johnson.
Thought about Brian Windhorst's fascinating story about cap space, the Lakers, and LeBron James. So many fans are so annoyed at the thought that James and/or the Lakers might be thinking that far ahead. But this creates an absurdity. As a player or team you simply must think that far ahead. It'd be crazy not to. But knowing that it annoys people to think you'd think like that, you have to pretend you do not, or risk stirring up a heap of scorn. So really smart, strategic thinkers feign happy-go-lucky, drifting through life innocence. Except when they don't! Here, in a great piece of timing for me to make this point, is the Lakers' confirming 2014 is entirely on their minds right now
Danny Nowell recently moved to Portland, where Blazer culture -- a high-octane tangle of thoughtful intelligence, homespun boosterism, and evil corporate over-lording -- is dizzying. He writes this for HoopSpeak: "It seems crazy that so intelligent a town would have fans like the Blazers do. The widespread lack of perspective here is positively Heinsohnian: fans still remember Rudy Fernandez not living up to “All-Star” potential, I have read a BlazersEdge comment saying Will Barton might be the next Allen Iverson, and every single time anybody eats anything with more than a dozen calories in it, a nearby Blazers fan makes a Raymond Felton fat joke. Blazers fans’ continuum of expectation and disappointment is utterly polar. Raymond Felton was a franchise point guard before he was the most reviled local athlete in recent memory. Damian Lillard is already being compared to Derrick Rose and Kyrie Irving in earnest. The team is either once again contending to add to its already considerable legacy, or it’s losing because of a series of curses no other franchise could hope to understand. And once again, this phenomenon is not steered by the staid suburban Blazers fans. Loyal though they be, those kind and gentle souls are not the reason for the warped perspective. It’s the farm-to-table set here again, the exact people you’d think would be too self-aware for true mania. My hunch, though, is that these are precisely the sorts of fans who are least apt to understand the NBA’s ways. Portlanders support institutions like restaurants, markets and bars with the expectation that their support is a sort of engagement; they will good establishments to succeed, and that establishment comes to reflect a little bit of its customers’ ethos. Consumers are partners and guardian angels. NBA teams, of course, are totally insulated from this symbiosis, and the Blazers are a particular affront. Portlanders expect the team and its players to be shaped in their development by the collective will that shapes everything in this town, and failing to do so is a betrayal. But even by the standards of a legalistic and impersonal league in which all fanbases must make concessions to the machine, the Blazers are a cruel and fickle mistress. Paul Allen’s superyacht style of leadership is not exactly a seminar in community engagement, and his vindictiveness is such that the Blazers reportedly avoid dealing with teams over even the stupidest of beefs. That this man, with his secretive, petty ways and his megacorporate success, would have ultimate control over a team in this town is so incongruous as to be absurd."