February 5, 2016 | by Rowan Ricardo Phillips
If you’re among those who believe we’re witnessing a basketball revolution, you should be very interested in the LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. They’re not shooting threes like their lives depend on it, and they’re not using lineups that minimize size in favor of speed and skill. They’re not part of the new orthodoxy of the unorthodox. They’re a stay against the revolution. Read More »
January 27, 2016 | by Rowan Ricardo Phillips
Living and dying by the NBA schedule; watching two New York teams face off.
In late summer, after the draft and free agency, as fans begin to foster new dreams or cold, hardening hopelessness about their team’s prospects, the NBA releases its schedule for the upcoming season. Few things can shape one’s future the way a new schedule shapes the future of a fan. Without even realizing it, you begin to move things around. That romantic getaway you’d planned to the Bay Area? Suddenly it promises a little more Curry, a little less Sausalito. You may consider forsaking your traditional Christmas dinner for a Chinese buffet. Maybe you tack on a day to that long business trip because you know your two favorite teams will be on their way there, too. Read More »
January 22, 2016 | by Rowan Ricardo Phillips
How the Knicks learned to trust.
Hustle and trust—the meaning of abstractions like these comes from the actions and decisions that form around them, and its these I’ve always preferred to focus on. The context gives meaning to the concept. You hustle by hurrying, running, rushing, conning, seducing, overextending. You trust by impeaching your intuition, surrendering control. When someone says “I trusted you,” the phrase is loaded with all the actions that came from that trust: the person comes almost to embody trust, just as anyone who’s always hustling can only be called a hustler. I think of Malbecco, the perennially jealous husband in Book III of The Faerie Queene, so consumed by his suspicions that he becomes jealousy itself: Read More »
January 12, 2016 | by Rowan Ricardo Phillips
Assessing the season at the halfway point; what’s going on with the 76ers?
The midpoint of the NBA season comes a little after the turn of the calendar year. As we settle into the new promises we’ve made to ourselves, basketball teams are busy evaluating how the promises they made to themselves over the summer are going. “Promises” isn’t always the right word: some teams, as we’ll see, make something more like wagers, hoping to cash in on a shot in the dark. But the best teams traffic in promises not unlike New Year’s resolutions: promises to maximize talents, to take better care of themselves, to take advantage of the small window of success they’ve been granted.
Are these teams keeping their promises? Well, there’s little surprise at the top of the league, where the answer is mostly yes. The Warriors and the Cavs, the two teams that played in last year’s finals, are at the top of their respective conferences. The Spurs, eternal contenders, are only three games behind the Warriors for the best record in the league, and they have the largest average margin of victory. The Oklahoma Thunder have Kevin Durant back and two of the five best players in the game on their roster, and some appealing supplementary pieces. The Los Angeles Clippers are playing as well as they have all season, even with their star Blake Griffin on the mend—that said, they’re in a bit of a rut. They’ll win fifty-plus games again this season, yes, and they’ll be a relatively tough out in the playoffs, but there’s too much not quite there in their game to see them going much further than that. Read More »
December 11, 2015 | by Rowan Ricardo Phillips
Watching Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors.
For Jake Leland
When Nina Simone first sings the title of “Feeling Good,” her voice has been alone for thirty-nine seconds. The solitary singer: there’s always something fiat lux about it. Resolute, the individual moves through the void. You know the accompaniment is coming, but the voice, all by itself, makes you care about it: form turns into feeling. This is how the artist passes on her exuberance. You’re affected by her immediate present, implicated in her future, and interested in her past. This is how the strut between you two starts: “and I’m feeling good.”
The instruments come to life right after Simone sings those words, as though her voice has just confirmed that the coast is clear—a new dawn, a new day, a new life—the brass begins with those gravel-and-booze notes down low, the piano like morning birdsong, light and constant, up top. The world is being made, and you feel good enough to sing as if you yourself were making it. And maybe you are: the experience heats up, the experience becomes porous, and you don’t know anymore where you end and it begins. Is she feeling good? Am I feeling good? Am I being told to feel good? We’re feeling good. Read More »
December 2, 2015 | by Rowan Ricardo Phillips
Elizabeth Bishop would have some words for the New York Knicks.
This past Sunday night, as the particular perfume of Thanksgiving faded from our house, I nibbled on Chinese food while watching the New York Knicks lose to the Houston Rockets. It was a game they had no business losing, even if they were without their best player, Carmelo Anthony, against a Rockets team that last season fell just two wins short of the NBA Finals. In theory, the Rockets are one of the strongest teams in the league this season; in practice, they’ve settled into an unsightly mediocrity that strangely seems to suit them. You might just as easily say that the Knicks lost a game that the Rockets had no business winning.
Up by fourteen points in the fourth quarter, the Knicks, with their subs on the floor, squandered their lead in the blink of an eye, giving up a game-tying three-pointer in the dying seconds. They proceeded to lose in overtime, allowing sixteen points in extra frame—a feat that, if you’re actively attempting to prevent the other team from scoring, is difficult to accomplish.
It felt all too familiar. Read More »