Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Nickname Month!

Lisa: A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.
Bart: Not if they were called 'Stink Blossoms'.
Marge: I wouldn't want a dozen 'Stink Blossoms' for Valentines Day. Some candy would do just fine.
Homer: Not if they were called 'Scum Drops'.

Creating nicknames is a lost art in the NBA. Most are very lazy - using initials (KG, MJ), the first letter and part of the last name (JKidd, CWebb), or, the recent trend, initials and a number (KB24, CP3). Please. Give me "The Answer" or "Black Mamba" any day.

In the past, I have usually given Nets players my own personal nicknames. My personal favorite was Hot Buttered Lucious Harris. How did this come about? Well, Lucious Harris always hit a lot of big buckets on the Nets. And popcorn comes in big buckets at a movie theater. And my favorite type of popcorn is hot-buttered. Hence, he became Hot Buttered Lou.

Now that I have this forum to address the Nets fans, I will profile each player on the current roster, and create a new nickname for you all to use this season. I will do one player every two days, so make sure to check back frequently. The basketball offseason drags in August and September, so this will certainly help pass the time!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Arcade Fires

"Cause down the shore everything's all right / You and your baby on a Saturday night / You know all my dreams come true / When I'm walking down the street with you." - Tom Waits

Like any true Jersey Boi, my summers are always peppered with weekend trips to the Shore. The Shore is a fascinating place, because it creates a bond between all New Jerseyians regardless of their ethnicity, body type, interests and hobbies, etc. Some people like swimming and the beach, others like the serene atmosphere. Currently, I love going down and being able to drink all day and eat shitty pizza at night. But, as a child, trips to Jersey Shore meant I was just a hot 3-hour car ride away from one thing: ARCADES.

Maybe I'm just a sucker for flashing lights - I do love Las Vegas and Times Square - but arcades hypnotized me as a child. A fistful of quarters meant hours of fun. My favorite time killers were the "beat-em-ups" - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, X-Men, The Simpsons, etc. I also loved games where you would win tickets for prizes (the most famous being Skee-Ball). I pop in a quarter, have fun, and then can exchange tickets for Styrofoam airplanes? Sweet deal.

But, there was a game I absolutely hated: the mechanical basketball hoops thing. What were the point of these things? Arcade games usually appeal to the human id, allowing us to revel in greed (seeing how many tickets we can earn with just one quarter) or violence (many games have plastic guns attached to them). But those mechanical basketball hoops machines? I don't have to go to an arcade to play basketball! Nevertheless, my basketball junkie side sometimes got the best of me, and I would take a turn playing. And, man, it was ALWAYS super shitty. First, you are shooting flat basketballs that have been manhandled by booger-pickers all day long. Second, the rim is usually placed about a foot from the ceiling, mean you have to have NO ARC on your shot. Third, you have a time limit, so there's no time to figure out how to shoot UP at the hoop and make it in as the ball is still moving upwards. And, to top it off, most of the time you did not earn tickets from this game. Fuck that shit.

So what does this have to do with the Nets? Well, in my latest excursion to the Shore a few weeks ago, I saw those dreaded machines. And, sure enough, the Nets now sponsored them...

...and sure enough, their machine was broken. The New Jersey Nets: proud sponsors of a dumb game with a machine that does not even work. If there is a sadder but more appropriate image than that above, please let me know.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Gone Podcastin' - Part Three

After a two month hiatus, I make my triumphant return the Brad Bogner Show. Unfortunately, I was extremely hung over (as I was during the first show). Furthermore, this was done at my apartment with the air conditioner off (as it was making too much noise), so we both worked up a healthy sweat.

You can listen to the heat-induced ramblings here.

I love the picture:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

More Links and Programming Notes

The "Gotta Dance" review posted this week has generated a lot of buzz, and Ball Don't Lie was once again kind enough to link to me. For all people who are new to my site, let me say "Welcome" and I hope you stick around.

To all my loyal readers, let me say thank you for your continuing support. Please continue to check the blog frequently, tell your friends about it, and add yourself to the "Followers" section. I've been at this for four months now, consistently updating each week, and have found it to be a very rewarding (and challenging) experience. As always, I would love to publish reader e-mails, so please send your comments/questions/dumb trade ideas to rory (dot) toohey (at) gmail.

Next week, the posting format will be a little different. I will be on the Brad Bogner Show this weekend, and I will link to it on Monday. On Tuesday, I will post a short little rant. On Wednesday, there will be a special announcement of a new blog feature which will take place during the month of August (also known as "Dead Time" in the NBA season). So plan your vacations accordingly.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Gotta Dance - Movie Review

"Age is of no importance, unless you are a cheese." - Florenz Ziegfeld

One night about two months ago, I was out at a bar with a couple friends. The blog was in its nascent stages, and I was running out of ideas (this is what happens when you start a Nets blog with 12 games to go in the season). Fortunately, my friend Steve of Fluxing Philosophic fame, pointed out a blurb about a documentary called Gotta Dance. Both he and I read the blurb a little too fast, and believed it to be a documentary about the Nets cheerleaders. Yes, I can definitely get behind watching beautiful women in form fitting outfits dance for 90 minutes. However, my friend Danny (of Danny Thoughts fame), pointed out the key word we missed: the Nets SENIOR Dance Team. Cue up the sad trombone. After getting over this initial flub, I figured that the concept was very unique and related to the "peripheral" world of Nets basketball that is was worth exploring. Having seen the film, I can say that it was a good decision.

The main theme of this film is in the quote above (which begins the film) - that age is all mental, and you can still have fun throughout your life. I'm sure as reviews pour in for this film, they will all mention that similar sentiment, so I do not want to spend an inordinate amount of time on it. Plus, pulling from my own life experience, I already knew that older people can still rock it. For example, my parents got divorced when I was 14 years old. Although my mom was 46 and now raising two sons by herself, she still went out to singles functions to meet new people her age, and had a significantly better dating life than I did! As embarrassing as it is to admit, it is still somewhat difficult for me to keep track of where she is at times - as she spends many weekends traveling or weeknights at the movies or with friends she met at the local Starbucks. It is difficult to imagine her slowing down as she hits her "golden years" of 65 and older. To make a tired point - and summarize the theme of the movie - age does not slow you down, it is just one more roadblock in a life full of roadblocks. With hard work and determination, anybody can blow through it.

But, there is so much more I took from this movie than the "age is nothing" theme. One thing that really struck me was how much work is put into creating the team. The movie chronicles a try-out and selection process, followed by two weeks of intensive training. All of this leads to a two-minute dance routine in the middle of a 150 minute basketball game. It seems like a lot of work for a little reward, but it pays off with fame, as the team gets noticed by major newspapers and performs on TV morning shows. But, immediately after this, it is on to learn a new routine.

I usually mock the Nets' slogan "More Than A Game", but this movie actually made me believe that. To draw from my own personal life again (yeah, don't worry, I'll continue talking about the movie - but this is MY blog, suckas), my aforementioned friend Steve took his girlfriend Lisa to a Nets game this season - his first game in a long time, her first game ever. And the Nets got crushed. I felt bad for them because they were subjected to such a horrible game. However, after seeing this movie, I can appreciate the hard work the other performers (besides the main attraction) put into creating an all-around entertainment experience. Hopefully, they will feel the same way after seeing this film and choose to go to another game. Unfortunately, I am extremely superstitious and will do everything in my power to prevent them from stepping through the front gates again.

The thing that will last with me about this film is the attention it pays to detailing each person in the film. While the bird's eye view of the movie is the "age is nothing", when you dig deeper, you can see all the persons motivations for dancing. Two of the Dancers are the grandmothers of the NETSational "younger" cheerleaders. The dancing not only is to feel young and meet new friends, but to have a unique bonding experience with their granddaughters.

There are two other personalities that got a lot of screen-time that were very fascinating. One is Betty...or should I say...Betsy. She explains the duality of her personalities. Betty is the reserved, conservative school teacher who likes to remain traditional - she even wears flats so that she does not appear taller than men. But Betsy is the wild, fashion-savvy hip-hopper, who rose to the rank of leader of the Nets Senior Dance Team. This arthritic version of Jeckyl-and-Hyde illustrated the difficulties we all face of breaking out of our normal, comfortable life to challenge ourselves. Trying something new can lead to failure, and failure can be devastating. Eventually, Betsy's confidence influenced Betty's life, and she became more outgoing and creative in her teaching, introducing hip-hop into the classroom.

Another dancer I enjoyed learning about was Peggy, pictured above. As a young woman, she was "Miss Subway", with her face on posters. Clearly, she was a looker back in her youth, and still adores the attention. Her age has not diminished her confidence, as she feels she is still a stunner. The way she talks is interesting too. I could easily characterize the other dancers, as they all sounded like my parents or grandparents - making corny jokes or being very polite. However, with Peggy, the manner-of-fact way she talked made her just sound very young.

To be fair, there are a couple of downsides. I would have loved to see more Dancers explored. Granted, there are 13 dancers, which is a lot for one film, but there were many training scenes that could have been shortened. Also, while most of the dialogue seemed authentic, there were a couple of moments (i.e. in the dinner scenes) where it seemed a little set-up - but I expect this of many documentaries.

Overall, it is definitely a film that Nets fans should check out - it will definitely give you more insight into the behind-the-scenes of the Izod Center entertainment. Documentary fans will not be disappointed, either. There is no heavy-handed political commentary (a la Michael Moore) or personality distortions to create conflict (a la The King of Kong, which is still really good and I do recommend). There are some excellent character studies and a solid, well-built theme that reaches a satisfying conclusion.

Click here to see a list of upcoming screenings of Gotta Dance.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Blast From the Past - Nets Town Hall Meeting, 2/11/08

Here is a (slightly-edited) post from a Nets "Town Hall" Meeting, on 2/10/08. To set the stage: the team sucked, and Kidd wanted out. The Nets senior management (Thorn, Ratner, Brett Yormark, and newcomer Kiki Vandeweghe) held an open forum for Nets ticket holders. The meeting was held at the Nets practice facility in East Rutherford. Seeing as I bitch and moan online, I thought it would be disingenuous not to say anything to their faces when given the chance. Here is my recap. It is funny, unique moments like this that first put the idea of starting a blog into my head. More Random Nets Crap next week.

Rod Thorn mentioned 4 main topics in his "State of the Team" address.

1. His regrets about not resigning Mikki Moore. He said he wanted a "do-over". I had never heard this publicly stated before, and thought "hm, this could be interesting, maybe I'll learn something new."

2. Lawrence Frank: He supports the coach, and would fire Frank if he thought coaching was the problem with the team. The players like him and do not complain. Basically same old same old. I support Frank, so I didn't have much of an issue here. It's not Frank's fault that the team is poorly constructed.

3. Jason Kidd: Again, more of the same about not trading him for the sake of trading him, looking for the best deal. Sky is still blue, grass still green, Rod Thorn still not trading Kidd unless he gets a great offer.

4. Vince Carter: Thorn addressed that some people thought his contract was bad, and battled back using the typical pure numbers argument. Vince was the leading scorer, and the team was 0-5 without him. He did not address MY issues - that there was no market for Vince last summer, hence he was overpaid.

So they turned to the audience to ask questions. It was pretty cool, as you sat literally next to Rod Thorn, like if you went to a movie theater with him. On your right was Chris Carrino, the Nets radio voice and emcee. On your left was Thorn, followed by Bruce Ratner (owner), Kiki Vandeweghe (Rod's assistant), and Brett Yormark (head of marketing). The majority of the questions focused around the topics Thorn already addressed - i.e. Coach Frank, Jason Kidd, finding a big man, etc.

I wasn't going to ask a question until I heard a few. After the first ones were basically deep tissue massages for management (I honestly believe a few had to be planted), I figured I should go up - this is my chance to complain TO ROD - it'd be disingenuous if I go back on the Internet and complain without having the guts to saying anything to his face. So I go up there, and I must've looked really dorky - I'm a skinny white kid and my face was beat-red (I was nervous). Anyway, here's a rough transcript:

"Hey Rod. I've been a fan for a long time, and I'd be really remiss if I didn't get to ask a question. This is my first time at the Town Hall meeting, and after my question, it might be my last time. I was going to go up here and rip you about Mikki (note: this is true, I made sure to look up Mikki's and Magloire's stats before going), but you already apologized for that. And I accept your apology - everyone makes mistakes, that's why pencils have erasers.


Could I get an apology for Jamal Magloire, Jeff McInnis, Chris Childs, Ron Mercer, Scott Padgett, selling the 2004 draft pick, trading Korver for nothing..."

I trailed off, as I was trying to think of the ones I forgot (Wright over Granger, dammit!) but the crowd had already started applauding and the management was laughing. After it settled down (and I heard Ratner mumble something about selling the 04 pick - maybe not his fault? The Goldman Sachs investors? I forget how the story went), Rod went onto explain how sometimes things work, sometimes things don't, how they all looked good when it happened (I had to bite my tongue, because none of those did in my mind). Kiki added that if you aren't making mistakes, you aren't trying. I wish they would print THAT in the media guide. Chris Carrino made a joke as I went off stage, saying that security has my picture.

A couple questions later, an the angry European guy came on and ripped into the team, saying he used to take his kids to the game as a reward, now he uses it as a punishment. He left them speechless.

Overall, it wasn't anything new, but I didn't expect it to be. When your boss calls you out at work for all your mistakes, you never own up - you just bullshit and beat around the bush. This was similar. My friend thought I should've asked a more "answerable" question - but I decided to stick with something jokey, like a pie-in-the-face. If I went up there and did a "here's what I would've done with the team" and played fantasy GM, I think their eyes would've glazed over and they would've given more of the same type answers. At least now they'll remember my question.

Well, that's it. At least I remember my question. It is worth noting that after this, they traded Jason Kidd later in the week. I like to think my question was responsible for that move.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Random Nets Crap - 2005 Nets Calendar

As a long-time Nets fan, I've compiled a shitload of Nets memorabilia and freebies throughout the years. Now, feast your eyes on the more ridiculous and obscure paraphernalia in a blog feature I call....RANDOM NETS CRAP!

(Click on images to enlarge)


Allow me to set the scene: It is May 2004. After a tumultuous season involving a coach change, an ownership change, and the announcement of a city change, the Nets had just won a thrilling triple over-time game against the Detroit Pistons, in Detroit, to take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. It was an instant classic, with huge contributions from Lucious Harris and Brian Scalabrine - the less-heralded stars of the two previous Eastern Conference Championship runs. Sadly, the Nets lost the next two games, due mainly to Jason Kidd's knee being in desperate need of microfracture surgery. The Nets went home. The Pistons went on to be champions.

And, with that, the Nets "Glory Days" were definitively over. While there will most likely be better Nets teams in the future, the teams from 2001 to 2004 have given me the stories I will bore my grandchildren to tears with. I usually begin the era with the dramatic home win against the Spurs in the beginning of 2002, and end it with the aforementioned Game 5 against Detroit.

Then came the Summer of 2004. At the time, it was a horrific sequence of events for Nets fans. Our first round pick, sold. Kerry Kittles, traded. Kenyon Martin and Lucious Harris, victims of free agency. Our team, which had just taken the eventual champions to 7 games with our best player on one leg, was a shell of itself.

Now, granted, history has shown us that the Nets moves were, for the most part, very good. Both Lucious Harris and Kerry Kittles made very little contributions in the NBA after 2004, so those moves were clear wins. Selling the 2004 draft pick, however, is indefensible. While the person drafted (Victor Khryapa) was a bust, there was still plenty of talent to be had - Kevin Martin, Delonte West, Anderson Varejao, Sasha Vujacic, and Beno Udrih just to name a few.

But, onto the big kahuna - K-Mart. Kenyon Martin is something that most people see as a smart move, given the injuries he has suffered and the enormous amount of money he was paid. Furthermore, two of the three draft picks he was traded for were parlayed into Vince Carter. I admit that letting Kenyon go was most likely the best option. But, since 2004, the Nets have had a gaping hole at power forward, and have tried nearly every summer to fill it. In the 2005 season, the Nets used a trade exemption to pick up Cliff Robinson. Then, in the summer of 2005, they pursued Shareef Abdur-Rahim. That failed, but led to the unsuccessful acquisition of Marc Jackson. In 2006, Josh Boone and Mikki Moore were recruited to try to man the four-spot. In 2007, they somehow made worse moves than the previous 2 years with Sean Williams and Jamal Magliore. In 2008, Yi Jianlian, Ryan Anderson, and Eduardo Najera were brought in to man that troublesome power forward spot. We are entering 5 A.K. (After Kenyon), and there is still nobody on the roster that resembles an acceptable starting power forward. A starting power forward is nothing to take lightly in the NBA, and that is why I still have my doubts about letting Kenyon go. Let's just play make believe for a second (it's MY blog, indulge me). Kenyon Martin has complained in the past that Denver Nuggets doctors had rushed him back from injury too soon. What if - and it is a big "what if" - the Nets doctors were better, and Kenyon had been able to make complete recoveries from his injuries? Watching Kenyon this postseason, I can't help wonder what could have been.

Needless to say, there was not a lot of enthusiasm for the team by November 2004, as (I assume) these calendars were going to print. Nenad Krstic looked too raw, Alonzo Mourning was accusing the team of trying to kill him, and free agent acquisitions like Jabari Smith, Eric Williams, Rodney Buford, and Ron Mercer were, let's say, slightly uninspiring. But, by mid-December, the unthinkable happened - the Nets acquired Vince Carter for a bag of magic beans, and the franchise was back in business!

But enough with the history, let's look at the pics and make snarky comments!

January 2005

Well, the Nets promotional department saved their best for first. When in doubt, show off The Captain. I could wax nostalgic about Jason Kidd all day (and already have), so I'll spare you all. He's the greatest Nets I've seen.

A couple notes about the calendar, not only does it provide you with your standard calendar reminders (like the day of the week and certain holidays), but also Net games, home promotions, and player birthdays. Keep this in mind as we move forward through the next 11 months.

February 2005

RJ. Here's a list of players over the last 15 years who were upset when the Nets traded them:

Richard Jefferson

That's it. Clearly, a great player that will go down in Nets lore.

According to the calendar, February 11th must have been a fun day to go to the Nets game! Not only did you get to see the Spurs, but kids also received a basketball hoop set. And then, there's the icing on the cake - it was Jacque Vaughn's 30th birthday! Let's see how they did...oh. Well, at least Vince Carter had a good game.

March 2005

TWIN! Admittedly, I have a soft spot in my heart for Twin. While he played extremely poorly in the last few seasons, he gave it his all every night. He sacrificed his body and did everything he could with his talent to help the Nets win. Tell me friend, can you ask for anything more? That being said, it shows the state of the team when Jason Collins is the third player you are showing off.

April 2005

What's this? Vince Carter? How did he get here? As you can see, he is not in a Nets jersey. This was clearly a late addition to the calendar, but I'm sure the promotional guy got some praise for pulling this off. He was acquired December 17th, and these calendars were handed out not too long after that.

May 2005

Coach Lawrence Frank. Back in 2004, everybody loved this guy, as he had the best dead coach bounce of all time. So I could see why they included him in the 2005 calendar. Flash forward to 2009, and he is the longest tenured coach in the Eastern Conference, and the all-time "winning-est" Nets coach. However, there has been a growing contingent of Nets fans who want Lawrence fired. I don't believe he has been the reason for the Nets failures the last two seasons, as the overall talent of the team has been very low. I do not think Lawrence is the best coach in the league, but there are lot of coaches who are much, much worse. I do not want the Nets to make a change for change's sake. Unfortunately, Frank is in the last year of his contract, so I doubt this story line will go away any time soon. I just hope it does not become a distraction.

June 2005

Zoran Planicic! Again, let me emphasize how depleted the Nets were going into 2005. I thought Zoran had a lot of potential, and, apparently, he has carved out a solid career overseas. It is frustrating that in the illustrious 2003 NBA Draft, Zoran is what the Nets walked away with. There was a lot of talent drafted after him, too, namely Josh Howard, Leandro Barbosa, and Mo Williams, as well as a plethora of role players. And don't mention Kyle Korver to me (but it is funny that as soon as Ed Stefanski showed up in Philadelphia, he traded Korver again).

July 2005

Sly the Fox. Yes, folks, the Nets could not get 12 players pictures to fill one calendar. And, yes, it gets worse. And, no, no Sly Mobile. But hey, I just found out Travis Best's birthday is July 12th! Party in two weeks, anybody?

August 2005

Jason Kidd. Getting a sense of deja vu? So, through 8 months, there have been 5 players, a coach, and a anthropomorphic mascot. I'm already counting the days until 2006.

September 2005

Richard Jefferson. No disguise for this double vision. Zoran's birthday is September 12th. Don't worry, just three more months.

October 2005

Team Hype? Really? OK, you could justify Sly, because he entertains the kids. You could justify cheerleaders, because they entertain horny men. But who is Team Hype hyping?

The calendar seems to be going down a slippery slope. Two more months to go, and November features my birthday, so this better be good....

November 2005

VEAL!!!! Wow, did you see this coming? That might be the dorkiest action shot to grace the pages of any wall calendar. Rodney Buford is also present in the background, which is fitting because the calendar reminds us that Buef's birthday is November 2nd. Not bad, wall calendar. You have redeemed yourself.

And finally...

December 2005

The Nets Dancers. Bingo. Sure, they all look poorly airbrushed, but it is the thought that counts.

So there you have it. The Nets marketing department, pulling out all the stops to make you forget about the last 6 months of 2004 and get all hands on deck for 2005. It was a little dicey from May to October, but overall I'd say the calendar did its job. Unfortunately, like the calendar, the events of 2005 between May and October were just as bleak in Nets land, as the Summer of 2005 was almost as much of a disaster of the Summer of 2004. But, that is a topic for another time.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Say Goodbye, It's Independence Day

Now, I've taken a couple weeks off and let other people write for my blog, and people ask "Hey, you lazy bum, why don't you write more?" Well, it is the offseason, so I'm trying to space my posts out so the blog isn't dormant in August and September.

BUT, it is summer movie season! As you could tell from my previous post, I am a HUGE fan of Independence Day. My homage to it is now posted on the comic book/pop culture blog The Bad Genious. Click here to read it. If you love my trips through memory lane in Nets-land, you'll love my trip through memory lane in Movie-land.

The Bad Genious is a great blog, so I encourage you to check it out frequently!