Hoops Exchange Pt 2: Magic and Twitter

For part 2 of our Hoops Exchange series, Andthefoul.com’s Jhony Gutierrez joined me for a quick Q & A.  Topics included rule changes, Magic Johnson’s tanking comments and our early season MVP.

Lamont Peoples:
Here’s my first question – which of these commercials do you think is funnier?

Both of them are great, especially if you know the NBA and the reputations, real or perceived, of the players involved. They won’t get me into a Foot Locker anytime soon, but I laugh every time I’ve seen them and can’t decide which is funnier. I am leaning towards the Harden one.

Jhony Guiterrez
I thought Foot Locker did a great job tapping into humor stemming from well-known NBA storylines, and as a result, it reached its target audience: hoop heads on social media.

NBA athletes are continually benefitting from the exposure that social media allows for. No longer do they have to be a star in a major market, they can now pull off sponsorship deals that resonate from anywhere in the states (not that Houston and S.A. are small markets per se), which creates great opportunities for video content like Foot Locker created.

From a comedy standpoint, both tickle my funny bone, but I think Harden’s has a better effect. In fact, it’s ironic that Tim Duncan’s spot, upon second viewing, suffers from what they’re making fun of in the video: dullness. I love the guy as a human being, and he’s an exemplary champion, but even his spot is a little dull. It’s like a joke within a joke within a joke!

Here’s where I give the Harden spot the edge: whereas Tim’s video is a shot at his personality, Harden is directly making fun of his basketball skill. How many Vines have we seen where James Harden falls asleep at the wheel, his guy flies by him, and he’s left guarding nobody? “Ask around – I’m the last person you’ll ever see being defensive.” On point!

Your review of each commercial was spot on. Part of me is glad to know that I’m still a member of some marketing department’s target audience. The rest of me doesn’t care. Que sera, sera. I’ve theorized in the past that playing in big market matters less and less in this day and age. A player can build his “brand” wherever he plays and I think Anthony Davis is well on his way to doing that.

If you could pick the next rule added or removed by the NBA what would it be? I’d like to see the clear path foul rule eliminated or, at the very least, have it not be reviewable. The rule had noble intentions as it was designed to prevent teams from taking away the fast break – one of the most exciting plays in the game. Fast breaks can lead to beautiful basketball, get people out of their seats and feed the highlight reels. They’re also momentum-swinging plays and almost guaranteed scores. It is or was smart to take a foul to prevent a fast break. Hence, the rule and the penalty – a clear path foul results in FTs and the team keeps possession.

Either players and coaches are dumb and are ignorant of the rule or they’ve evaluated the rule and penalty and decided to commit the foul anyways. The clear path foul isn’t accomplishing what it was intended to do and needs to be tweaked. All it does really is slow the game down. Even more so if they have to use replay to determine if it was a clear path foul.

The clear path rule, in its current form, favors the offending team insofar as momentum goes, as you correctly pointed out. Of course, during a situation where a game is extremely close, the points and the ball would have a huge effect on team possessions and potential points. However, in periods where the score doesn’t justify causing a clear path foul, the rule does prevent momentum highs and robs us of beautiful throw-downs.

It took me a while to look through my memory bank as I searched for a basketball rule I truly detest. There are plenty of NFL rules I’d like to do away with, because they truly don’t make any sense: why should any man ever be ineligible to catch the ball? Illegal formation? Why does that matter as long as my entire team is behind the line of scrimmage?! But, alas, that’s not the sport in question.

The only NBA rule that often annoys me is the kickball rule. I’m not advocating that kicking the ball on purpose, or kicking the ball forward to advance possession is something I would like to see, but the part that annoys me is when accidental kicks are called and the game is forced to stop. If there was a way to differentiate between intentional kicks and accidental kicks, which would minimize the amount of time the game is stopped, I would be all for it. I’m not sure how you could feasibly make a rule that accounts for this scenario since judging intention is subjective, albeit blatant in some cases, however, this specific rule has a tendency to annoy me every time it happens.

There’s a substantial number of hoop ideas that have been thrown out by NBA Twitter, which we could probably spend time analyzing, but for the sake of existing rules, I’m going with kickball.

I too was baffled by those NFL rules you mentioned and questioned them for a while. It all seemed so trivial. Even the explanation I got from my uncle, who played football at Cal in 80’s, wasn’t enough for me. He said those rules were there to help defenses because without them offenses would have an unfair advantage. Then I saw some old football clips from before these rules existed and it all made sense. Offenses would line up and put everybody in motion multiple times. You can sort of see it here.

The kickball rule has never bothered me so much. Like you said, to try to determine between an intentional kick vs an accidental is tough to do and not easy to make a rule about.

Let’s bring this local. Magic Johnson gave an interview where he said he wanted the Lakers (and Knicks) to tank. If memory serves me correctly he took a far different stance when Byron Scott was hired as head coach. As you pointed out, the comments came out on the same day he was awarded some Sportsman of the Year award. Magic then took to twitter to further explain his quotes, stating that the Lakers have cap space, the next draft will be littered with future NBA superstars and that it doesn’t make sense to draft between 10-14 in the lottery. He needed reminding from Kevin Ding that the Lakers lose their pick to Phoenix if it falls out of the top five.

Magic is NBA royalty and will be forever, especially in Los Angeles. He was also my favorite player and childhood hero growing up. Since he pretty much begged Lebron to do the dunk contest a few years ago, I almost want him to shut up. A lot of the stuff he says are just – I’ll say laughable for lack of a better word. He’s a partial owner of the Dodgers, not the Lakers now, though he does have some honorary vice president title. Whenever he talks about the Lakers now, including being overjoyed with the parting of Mike D’Antoni, he comes across as the ultimate, ignorant fan. Take all of the worst stereotypes people say about dumb Lakers fanboys and that’s what he sounds like now. Thoughts? JG: I absolutely love Magic Johnson—past and present! Do #MagicTweets not bring you as much joy as they bring me? Despite the array of Captain Obvious tweets and his preferentially incisive, and at times seemingly contradictory opinions, there’s something refreshing about a legendary figure expressing emotional honesty as it relates to his former team. The fact that Magic does it with authority and without consequences makes it that much more enjoyable as a spectator. See, the Lakers narrative, for better or worse, is told through such rose-colored glasses by their representatives and the media who cover them that it’s refreshing to see Magic Johnson go off on the topic of the day that ails his former team. Whether it’s respect, fear, or a smart approach to covering the most prestigious brand in the NBA (I’m putting my money on the latter), hardly anyone (locally) ever dares venture into a public, honest assessment of the Lakers or Kobe Bryant. While the latter is still untouchable, the former has been losing that impenetrable luster ever since that disastrous season with Dwight Howard, thanks largely in part to Magic Johnson’s rants. Before that, writing negatively about the Lakers was like being a Lannister and going against the family—you just don’t do it lest you’re ready to pay with your life.

Additionally, public statements by Magic Johnson act as the conduits that enable the media to ask about uncomfortable issues that they perhaps would not want to tackle themselves with such candor. The result being an uncomfortable dance between a former omnipresent legend, a front office that’s not used to being in this position, a superstar dearly holding on to the concept of what it means to be a Laker, and a team struggling to maintain its dignity in the public eye.

Maybe I just love the powder keg of potential drama. Give me more Magic!

You know something, you have me considering changing the way I view #MagicTweets. They usually cause me to silently mock him in my head. I haven’t unfollowed him yet so they must bring me some kind of entertainment. I feel like he hasn’t totally figured out how to use Twitter yet. Then again, he is a smart and maybe he knows exactly what he’s doing.

Final question.  Who’s your early season MVP thus far?

I’m going to have to answer this last question with a caveat: I don’t watch enough games from all of the candidates to make a genuine assessment.

Having said that, there are two players whose impact and stats back up their MVP eligibility: Steph Curry and Anthony Davis. If you look at the stat sheet, Anthony Davis is doing some ridiculous things on the court. He’s a freak of nature affecting defense and offense on his team.

If I were to base it off who I enjoy watching more, though, I would have to go with Steph Curry. That guy’s quick release along with his sharpshooter aim enables him to be one of the deadliest players on the court at all times. Add to that mix quickness and handles, and you have yourself a problem for most teams — even when he’s not shooting, he’s creating an imbalance in the defense.

We’ll have to see how the rest of the season plays out, though (naturally). Continuity is imperative when judging MVPs and who knows, you just might see Chris Paul or Blake Griffin creep up on the conversation if they continue their 1-2 punch of effectiveness that we’re finally starting to see come out of LAC.

Just defining the criteria used to pick the MVP is always tough for me. Going with the best player on the best team method is going to produce a few candidates. Curry and Marc Gasol definitely fit in that category. The Warriors have improved in every facet of the game en route to the best record (so far). Splash Brother #1 has solidified his superstar status and has arguably vaulted Chris Paul for top point guard status. This slimmed down version of Pau’s younger brother has unleashed new levels of brilliance on those that have dared to stand his way. There’s also the fact that since he returned from injury last season, Memphis has the league’s best record. (I hope this statement will pass a fact check.)

Davis is on his way to taking over the world. More than a few have said that he’s been the league’s best player so far this season it’s hard to argue against that. Unfortunately, his team’s record and the fact that the Pelicans will probably miss the playoffs will be held against him when the official votes are counted.

That brings me to the guy I think has been the MVP so far in James Harden. My reasoning may not be the most sound, but it’s not like I have an official vote anyways. He’s done anything and everything for the Rockets while they’ve dealt with Dwight Howard’s injury. His game isn’t always aesthetically pleasing and his defense still isn’t that good, but the Rockets would be in a much, much worse position if you were to suddenly remove him from their lineup.

Thanks for joining me.

My pleasure! Thanks for inviting me to participate in this exchange. Looking forward to doing more of these in the future! #Countit

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