And now, SOSB presents: Your team is an old Rap album, part 1 (starring the Wizards, Mavs, Knicks, Rockets, Hawks and Bulls)

Nobody needs to read another run-of-the-mill NBA preview. That stuff is covered all over this here internet and even if I’m more than capable, let’s just say I had a better idea, one that would challenge my brain and maybe, just maybe, be different and fun to read.

So, combining two of my real passions in life, I will attempt to equate the fate of every NBA team to a Hip-Hop record from the past. Why? Well, maybe as food for thought, maybe as some sort of quasi-educational tool and maybe just because I can.

Yeah, this was no doubt hard work, but also a labour of true love.  Still, this thing will end up clocking in at over 20,000 words, so I’ve decided to (mercifully) break it into parts. Here’s the first, covering 6 of the 30 teams. 

Hope you enjoy.

 

THE WASHINGTON WIZARDS ARE “ALL EYEZ ON ME” BY 2PAC

It was 1996, and Tupac was fresh out of jail, having been essentially rescued by Suge Knight when everyone else (including his record label) turned their backs on him. Having been granted a reprieve and a new lease on life, Pac got straight to work the minute he arrived home, and the results of his labeor were the record most consider his best, two whole albums of a master storyteller at his peak.

Well, metaphorically speaking, the Wiz just got out jail. After toiling for the last few years sporting a fantastical collection of thugs, knuckleheads and wayward basketball souls, they spent last season cleaning house, setting all of the deadwood adrift. Gone are the infamous Javale McGee, Swaggy P, Gilbert Arenas and the biggest misfit of all, the one and only Andray Blatche.

Yeah, it took longer than it should have, but at least now they’ve given themselves a chance to build around their backcourt of the future, John Wall and Bradley Beal. Add solid veterans like Emeka Okafor, Nene and Trevor Ariza and this team, at long last, has the chance to get out of the jail of 20 win seasons and continued fan apathy.

It’s a new day in Washington D.C. Picture them rollin’,  racking up wins and goodwill in a city that is presently focused on RG III and the Nationals. Things could (and should) be lookin up around these parts.

As long as they stay clear of Vegas…

THE CHICAGO BULLS ARE “IN GOD WE TRUST” BY BRAND NUBIAN

Brand Nubian. Anyone who remembers their first album is slowly nodding their head in remembrance right now, just the same way they nodded their heads to it when it came out. That album was a classic, and easily one of the best debuts ever. Few people had as much game on the mic as Grand Puba, and everything on that album just came together the way a great record should. There was a reason “Slow Down” was #1 on the Yo! MTV countdown for what felt like 99 straight weeks. That song was ill.
Well, that was as good as it would ever get for them, since Puba fled to do his own thing shortly after and Brand Nubian was left to press on as a duet. “In God We Trust” came out in 1993 and even though it had “Punks Jump Up To Get Beat Down” and a couple of other heaters, it wasn’t the monster record that the first album was. It was cool, it just wasn’t the same without Puba.
The 2013 Chicago Bulls are going to start the season without former MVP Derrick Rose and when he returns is still anyone’s guess. Coming back from an ACL ain’t no picnic for sure, and given the fact that he suffered it in last years’ playoffs, it seems practically impossible that he could be back in time and healthy enough to even make a dent on this season.
With a healthy Rose, this is one of the 4 or 5 best teams in the NBA and a reasonable bet to make the finals. Without him they are a nice little team. Nice, like your grandma is.
For now, these Bulls are the post-Grand Puba incarnation of Brand Nubian. Good enough to be good, not good enough to be great. If they wanna be anything special this year, it’s going to have to be with an “All For One” approach.
THE HOUSTON ROCKETS ARE “BLOODS & CRIPS: BANGIN’ ON WAX”

Sometimes, when you have nothing better to sell the people, all you need is the right gimmick.

For Daryl Morey and the Rockets, after several years frantically pursuing a superstar only to fall short of the mark, this is what it’s come to. He took a chance on wheeling and dealing for draft picks in hopes of snagging Dwight Howard or another big-time player and when that fell through, he did the best thing he could under the circumstances.

He grabbed a gimmick.

On paper, the Rockets don’t look like much, but they will trot Jeremy Lin out This year in a city with one of the largest Chinese populations in the United States, so if nothing else, there will be butts in seats.

Basketball-wise, this team isn’t gonna be anything special, but they’ll do just fine at the box office and get the coaching staff will get a long look at the bevy of first and second year players on their roster while Morey’s continues his quest to find a superstar. Call it making the best of a bad situation or capitalizing of the “Linsanity” fad or whatever, but they definitely could have done worse.

Of all the gimmick Rap records that have come out over the years, and there are a whole shitload of them, I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for “BanGin’ On Wax”. Gangster rap still was running shit in 1993, even if it on the wane a bit. Everywhere you looked there were jheri-curls and dickies , a whole truckload of would-be Ice Cube’s and poor imitations of Dr. Dre’s production style releasing half-assed ganbangin’ records that were hardly distinguishable from the others, even if they still managed to sell.

What a fucking great idea then, what a logical conclusion to the whole “let’s pretend to be gangsters on record and get paid!” phenomenon to put out an album of honest to goodness Crips and Bloods, putting their crimes to wax.

Fuck yeah this really happened. Don’t act surprised, it’s the record business. They’d put out a record by a rapping poop if they thought it would get over.

I mean, if some fake tough-guy from the suburbs could go platinum spitting fiction, how crazy large is this gonna be? Real G’s! Real guns! Real jail stories!

And the cover. The Cover.

There ain’t a better one in Hip-hop. I’m tellin’ you.

Hey, I understand the need for identity protection. The Freddy mask? Yeah, dawg. Love it.

It’s the rag, though. The Crip dude lighting the Blood rag on fire as the picture is being snapped, and right under the nose of the Bloods. Did they know? Were they complicit? Was it a double-cross? It kills me to not know the answers.

Alright, I got off track. Bloods & Crips “Bangin’ on Wax” was about as blatantly gimmicky as a record could be, offered the music world nothing redeemable whatsoever (ok, I lied here. It gave the world Domino) and is only remembered by people as strange as I am. Still, the fuckin’ thing went gold, selling over 500,000 copies and putting money in the pockets of those fine purveyors of artistic expression at Dangerous Records.

So for the purposes of this argument, consider Jeremy Lin to be Daryll Morey’s Bangin’ on Wax. It ain’t gonna be much of an artistic triumph or win too many games, but it’ll sell like hotcakes and for now, that’s all that really matters.

THE NEW YORK KNICKS ARE “THE SCORE” BY THE FUGEES

Alright. I’m gonna catch a mountain of shit for what I say here. I know this. Still, it’s an opinion I don’t back down from.

“The Score” is bullshit.

Yeah, it had hits. Set the world on fire and all that. Wyclef coasted for a decade on the fumes of it, Lauryn Hill became (briefly) a mega-star and “Killing Me Softly” was tattooed on all of our brains for years. So the fuck what. For me, it’s still a vastly overrated record that features alot of style but no substance, a bunch of lazy samples and makes it’s bones on the strength of other peoples’ material. Their first album was nothing special but definitely not terrible. This one was a quirky pop smash and one of the first signs of hip-hops deterioration into mainstream bubblegum territory.

Sorry, that’s just how I see it.

The Knicks ain’t got me fooled either. Yeah, they’ve got a couple “superstars” (if you can even call Amar’e that these days) and they play in the largest market and are actually not terrible for the first time in forever, but let’s not go confusing that with greatness or anything close to it. As it stands, it’s a decent team with an average coach that maybe, just maybe, can will it’s way to 50 wins if everything breaks just right.

Most likely not, though. After bungling up their cap, blowing any chance they had at Chris Paul or any other mega free agent for years to come and letting Jeremy Lin walk for noting out of some sort of foolish pride type deal (blame owner James Dolan for that nonsense), they’ve basically locked themselves into this roster for the next few years. Stoudamire/Anthony/Chandler is nice enough, but not for what they are being paid and certainly not when you consider the lethargic supporting cast.

So don’t go getting all confused on this issue. The Knicks are a barely a good team, nevermind a great one.

Oh, and never it let it be said that I don’t find anything on this album to be redeemable. There is this one thing.

 THE DALLAS MAVS ARE “PEOPLE’S INSTINCTIVE TRAVELS AND THE PATHS OF RHYTHM” BY A TRIBE CALLED QUEST

People’s instinctive. That’s my shit. I might be in the minority here, but it’s still my favorite Tribe record, by a mile. I know the beatheads consider “Low End Theory” to be their holy bible and shit, but the fist album is just a completely unique beast in the hip hop cannon. That thing has completely original production, a whole mess of story raps and an outrageously flawless flow to it. That said, it’s essentially a Q-Tip solo record. The beats, the stories, almost of all the rhymes. All Tip. Back then, Phife hadn’t yet come of age (and was still spending more times in the streets than the studio) and thus is only on four of the 15 songs.

The first album was Tip’s baby, and it was quite the debut.

Two years ago, the Mavs won their first NBA title on the back of Dirk Nowtizki, but he hardly did it alone. Without the defense and leadership of Tyson Chandler, the crunch-time shot making of Jason Terry and the reckless waterbug exploits of J.J. Barea among others, Dallas likely would have fallen short, as they had in years past. Dirk was the captain of the ship, but he didn’t have to do it all himself.

He does now. All those guys are long gone, as is Jason Kidd. For now, Dirk is basically gonna have to go it alone. Yeah, the Mavs brought in crusty vets in Chris Kaman and Elton Brand and picked up some potential assets in Darren Colllison and OJ Mayo, but they whiffed on their main free agent targets, from Deron Williams to Steve Nash and even Jeremy Lin.

This team still figures to hover around 50 wins, but this isn’t a league where one guy can win it alone so for this year at least, consider the Mavs also-rans in the murderous western conference.

THE ATLANTA HAWKS “ARE AGE AGAINST THE MACHINE” BY GOODIE MOB

A quick note:

Goodie Mob’s “Age Against The Machine” isn’t out yet. It is tentatively scheduled to be released at the end of 2012.

Yeah. Don’t be confused. I can make sense of this, I promise.

Goodie Mob. Great group in their time. Torn asunder by politics and commercial aspirations and “artistic differences”. You know how it goes. Yet another example of what should have been but never was.

Then, more or less out of nowhere, Cee-Lo Green (one of the most talented dudes in music for about 20 years now) went and blew up commerically, a concept that seemed far-fetched to me in the “Cell Therapy” days but makes plenty of sense now. Sometimes, talent actually does carry the day.

Cee-Lo can do pretty much whatever he wants now, and what he wanted to do is reunite the Goodie Mob and give them a proper reintroduction to the world and likely more fame than they had the first time around, just by association. It might be a bit much to call him a savior or anything, but the rest of the Goodie Mob went from essentially out of the game to back in a big way.

Thing is, there are no guarantees that their record catches on with the public or anything like that, but the promise of another shot at the big time is reason enough to be giddy, both for them personally as well as for us that dug them.

Well, the Hawks might not have been in similarly dire circumstances, but they were stuck in a “make the playoffs but fail to contend” mode that was likely never going to change with their payroll situation. Fact is, they were locked into some pretty steep contracts, most notable Joe Johnson’s monster 6 year, 119 million dollar deal that was just simply too much to pay for a player of caliber and worse yet, appeared virtually unmovable.

Or so we thought.

Is that you, god? Nope, but it’s where Danny Ferry enters this story, as the Cee-Lo to the Hawks’ Goodie Mob. All but dead in the water for the length of Johnson’s deal if not longer, Ferry swooped in and, within months of his hiring as head personnel man, managed to dump Johnson’s contract and the last two years of perennial underachiever Marvin Williams’ deal as well, for good measure.

So, where all hope had been lost, there is a new lease on life. The Hawks might take a step back on the court this year, but it will be to ensure the chance to take two giant steps forward in the new few years, since they’ll finally have some salary cap room to improve the team and rebuild around a younger, cheaper nucleus.

Again, there is no guarantee that Ferry’s rebuild will be a smash hit, but everyone involved is thankful for the opportunity after it appeared one might not come.

So yeah, The 2013 Hawks are an album that has yet to come out. Ferry has a chance to make them great or he could mess it all up, just like the last regime and the one before that. Still, the hope exists where it hadn’t for quite some time.

Told you it would make sense.

-JH

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