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WATCH THE THRONE TURN RED.
Kanye West was coming off dropping his weirdest album of all time (808s and Heartbreak), and stealing the microphone from Taylor Swift at the VMAs when he performed for a spot on VH1's Storytellers show. What emerged was a nine-track album I must have downloaded by mistake a few years ago, only to find out it's the most amazing thing ever. Because you know what's even better than a regular Kanye West album? A Kanye West album where somebody told him he needs to tell stories for five minutes after every song. Sadly, VH1 had to edit out the segments where he raged against Radiohead and supported Chris Brown, but they still left in all kinds of rambling that will live forever. It's Yeezy at his Yeeziest.
Taylor Swift released her fourth album, Red, last week, and it's as supernaturally addictive as you'd expect. It's also a step beyond the Disney Channel jams she'd been leaning on for a while there, which makes it much easier to get addicted without feeling guilty. So yeah, now that she's back to making music for adults, it's only a matter of time before Taylor Swift takes over the world. And for the record: If you're too cool for T-Swizzy, that's a perfectly rational and acceptable response to someone who's written 200 songs about the same 3.5 relationships, but please understand you're missing out on the SONGSTRESS OF A GENERATION.
So there's the context for what's happening here. Two of the biggest stars on the planet, both ridiculous human beings forever linked by that ridiculous VMAs controversy, and neither one's going anywhere soon. There are now just two questions left:
- When is Taylor Swift doing a song with Kanye West?
Give it five years or so, when they will run into each other at an illuminati meeting, bury the VMAs hatchet, and decide the streets need a record with SwIzzy and Yeezy.
- What does this have to do with the NBA?
We have no acceptable answer here, but there's never a bad time to remember Kanye West's most insane album of all time, and Taylor Swift has been stuck in everyone's head for ten days and counting. So, why not preview the 2012-13 season with both? First with Taylor Swift quotes, and then with Kanye's rambling from the VH1 special. HERE WE GO.
It feels like a perfect night to dress up like hipsters
And make fun of our exes
Toand . For obvious reasons.
They say you bought a bunch of land somewhere,
Chose the Rose Garden over Madison Square,
And it took some time, but I understand it now.
To the Blazers! Is Damian Lillard The Lucky One? Or the Portland fans? And should Taylor Swift be allowed to so brazenly steal Britney Spears' song like that? In any case, Lillard looked fantastic in the opener, and if it turns out the Blazers lucked into a mini- (it looked that way Wednesday), then suddenly Portland's in better shape than anyone realized a few months ago. With Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews, LaMarcus Aldridge and a potentially awesome Lillard, the Blazers could be positioned to take over in a few years.
Related: Watching Blazers fans freak out over Lillard is pretty amazing.
Lillard is Barry Sanders on morphine; before handing the ball to the referee after scoring a touchdown, he gets down into a yoga position and then paints an empty lake. Untouched bodies of water come to mind because he is simply placid, so serene after defeating the Lakers that he made you hope that when the cameras are off and the room clears out, he breaks character, throwing a fist into the air and hurdling in place while squealing. That mental image is funny to think about but also impossible to imagine. There's not much artifice here; he doesn't break character because he's not a caricature.
We could all laugh at this paragraph, but as someone who once wrote The Most Ridiculous Thing Ever after John Wall had a triple double in his first month, I am in no position to throw stones.
I know it's long gone, and that magic´s not here no more
And it might be okay, but I'm not fine at all
To the Mavericks and Spurs. NOPE, nevermind. Every time you think these teams are ready to die they go and come back to life all over again, and this year's no exception. This happens with the Spurs every year, so there's nothing we even need to say there. As for the Mavs, think of them the same way we think of the old man Celtics: they're sneaky good, more fun then expected and will surprise people all year long. If they played in the East, they'd probably take the No. 2 seed.
Remembering him comes in flashbacks and echoes
Tell myself it’s time now, gotta let go
But moving on from him is impossible
When I still see it all in my head.
To the Thunder. Remember when the Spurs were considered one of the greatest teams of all time for about 10 days last spring? And then the Thunder blew them off the court? Well, that Thunder team is dead now, and the biggest problem with the James Harden trade is what it'll do to Russell Westbrook. Now that he's carrying all the pressure again. Mistakes that Harden used to compensate for will be magnified, and come playoff time, everyone will be wondering whether Kevin Durant and Westbrook can win together, just like old times. It's almost like giving up Harden was giving up 1.5 superstars. And watching OKC this year, it'll be impossible not to think of Harden every time you see Westbrook struggling, while Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka stand around useless on offense. All because OKC refused to A) amnesty Perkins or B) offer $60 million to a player who's now making $80 million.
They tell you that you’re lucky.
But you’re so confused,
Cause you don’t feel pretty, you just feel used.
To Thunder fans. The amount of writers who've shrugged their shoulders and said, "It's a business decision" is a good example of why sports media sometimes sucks in 2012. Of course it's a business decision, nobody needs an expert to explain this. It's still incredibly lame of the OKC management. What gets lost when you cite the "business" angle is that A) it wasn't necessarily a GOOD business decision, or B) that OKC management should be let off the hook for giving up a once-in-a-generation foundation because they didn't want to jeopardize profits. It's not like the team would've been hemorrhaging money even if they paid Harden, and if things ever got truly desperate, they always could've amnestied Perk. Worst case scenario, the Thunder would've been less profitable, forcing OKC owners to find a creative way to break even, all while the value of their franchise appreciates by hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 10-20 years. This trade will be infuriating forever.
This slope is Treacherous
This path is reckless
This slope is Treacherous
And I like it
To the Rockets. The Harden trade doesn't make them contenders and maybe not even playoff contenders, and there's no clear path to getting there from here. In fact, it's more likely that all this leads to more years of finishing in the 6-7-8 spots in the West, with Daryl Morey doing his best to finagle a superstar to change everything. On the other hand ... given that they were originally going to sorta-tank this season and wind up in the bottom half of the lottery in a horrible 2013 Draft, doesn't cheering for a good-but-not-great James Harden team make everything a thousand times better?
I bet this time of night you’re still up
I bet you’re tired from a long, hard week
I bet you’re sitting in your chair by the window, looking out at the city
And I hope sometimes you wonder about me
Ray Allen. The Celtics. WHERE DID IT ALL GO WRONG?
And now I see, now I see, now I see
He was long gone
When he met me
And I realize the joke is on me
... So shame on me now
Flew me to places I'd never been
Now I'm lying on the cold hard ground
To the Magic. For obvious reasons. (This song is called "I Knew You Were Trouble" and it's the most addictive thing on the album. This is about Jake Gylenhall, right? Do you think it's a metaphor when she says "you flew me to places I've never been"? T-SWIZZY NSFW.)
Cause here we are again in the middle of the night
Dancing round the kitchen in the refrigerator light
To the Bobcats. TANK SO HARD: THE REMIX. (#Pray4CardboardGerald)
We ditch the whole scene
And end up dreaming, instead of sleeping
We're happy free confused and lonely in the best way
It's miserable and magical oh yeah
To the Warriors and Raptors, two young teams who should be better than expected this year and more fun to watch than they've been in years. Kyle Lowry might have been the best pickup of the offseason (non-Dwight Howard division), and if Stephen Curry stays healthy, he and Klay Thompson will be good enough to make them competitive in every game. These teams may not win those games, but it's gonna be fun watching them try.
Before you I only dated self indulgent takers who took all of their problems out on me
But you carry my groceries and now I'm always laughing
To the Hornets. Here's to hoping that one day soon I can watch the Hornets without wondering how different the Wizards would've been if they'd won the lottery last spring. We're not there yet. But Davis is already outrageous, and while we wait for him to become truly dominant, you can see it best in the rest of the Hornets. Would you be excited by a team of Grievis Vasquez, Austin Rivers, Ryan Anderson and Al-Farouq Aminu? Of course you wouldn't. That's the worst team in the NBA. But putin the middle and all the crappy role players look fun and underrated, and play that way. THAT'S what a once-in-a-generation superstar does.
I don't know what I want
So don't ask me, cause I'm still trying to figure it out.*
To the Grizzlies and Hawks. Memphis just got a new owner. How much longer do they keep paying big money to Rudy Gay and/or Zach Randolph if the Grizzlies aren't serious contenders? The Hawks have the same issue. Are they building around Josh Smith and Al Horford and hoping they can luck into another piece? Or do they deal J-Smoove to save money and start rebuilding? Both teams are talented enough to be decent, but both have enough trade assets to shake up the rest of the contenders if they decide to blow things up.
*(Not actually from Red, but still.)
I'm pretty sure we almost broke up last night
I threw my phone across the room at you
To, Nick Young and Doug Collins! If you think Bynum half-assed it playing for an annual title contender, just wait till Philadelphia. It's gonna be so much fun. Let's think about this. Bynum has maturity issues, his motivation has been questioned every year he's been in the NBA, he's injury prone, he's making $17 million this year and he's never really fulfilled his potential/ Is there any athlete on earth who's less likely to succeed in Philadelphia? And then he's playing for Doug Collins, a notorious hardass who's burnt out at every stop in the NBA, and will ALSO be going insane trying to coach Nick Young. What we're saying is... Someone might die in the Philly locker room this year.
On the other hand ... let's move to Kanye's spoken word now.
"It's a beautiful thing that in a country that was so divided by the concept of black and white, we now have a black and white president. This is what the future is, to me."
THIS IS WHAT THE FUTURE IS.
It doesn't even matter whether Andrew Bynum tanks the entire season because BYNUM + HAWES + AFRO + MULLET = AMERICAN DREAM.
You have to be amazing sometimes. Michael Jackson. AMAZING. Michael Phelps. AMAZING. O.J. Simpson. AMAZING. Is he not? What he did ... When he did what he did ... Was he not amazing?
To the Nets and Knicks. One of Kanye's most batshit moments from the VH1 special goes to the New York teams, because they are the most batshit, always. Remember: the Knicks and Nets rivalry is really all about who can be more delusional and reckless, and so far it's a dead heat. The Heat and Lakers are amazing, sure. But rebuilding with Marcus Camby, Jason Kidd, Kurt Thomas and Rasheed Wallace? Spending $140 million on Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez as the 2nd and 3rd pieces of your "big three"? When they did what they did ... were they not amazing?
I'm not just fighting a battle just for myself, but for a generation.
To the Nuggets and Pacers. The feel-good contenders, because in the Superteam Era, these are the counterpoints fighting for the little guys. Both teams have basically given up trying to chase any top 10 franchise players and instead built teams full of so many good players that you can't help but be intrigued. Do the Nuggets and Pacers have an actual shot at knocking off the best teams in the league? Of course not. But Andre Iguodala should make Denver even scarier this year, and both could end up in the Conference Finals in May. Between now and then, they'll be some of the most enjoyable teams in the league.
Look at me now, singing on the ground with my pink shirt on.
To the Kings. Kanye West is clearly insane, this Tyreke-Boogie-Isaiah Thomas trio is insane, and both are GREAT because of it. Who knows how long the Kings will be in Sacramento, whether they'll want to sign Evans next summer or whether they can ever get something out of this thought experiment of a lineup, but the Kings make no sense, and that's why we should all watch every game this year.
People come at me a certain type of way, I forgive them, for they base their opinions merely on what they were taught. They'll never be anything. I'm a pretty good dart board, because I can take it.
Speaking of the Kings and relocation ... to David Stern! If he can't save basketball in Sacramento but brings a team back to Seattle, do we cheer or boo? Does it matter what NBA fans think? Did it ever? These are the conversations we're going to have about David Stern in the next 18 months.
A generation fighting against the media and the false information and the perceptions that people create, and the matrix that society creates, and the lies people tell.
To Stan Van Gundy signed on with NBC Sports Network? It doesn't mean any of us will actually watch NBC Sports Network, no, but you better believe we'll all watch the YouTube videos if/when Stan Van Gundy unleashes some fantastic rant about David Stern and/or the NBA. It's just great that someone is giving Stan Van a microphone this year. Now that Stern's career has an expiration date, he and Woj will go harder than ever anytime the commissioner says or does anything remotely controversial. You don't have to take sides to enjoy it, just sit back and enjoy the sheer spectacle of the vitriol.and Adrian Wojnarowski. Did you see that
(For real, read that Kanye quote again. "The matrix that society creates"? The best part about Kanye illuminati rumors is that if Kanye weren't famous, he would DEFINITELY be the type of person who believes illuminati rumors about celebrities.)
If you someone says you ain't shit, you ain't shit, you gotta say I AM shit. An emancipation, if you will.
To the Detroit Pistons. It's happened very quietly, but don't the Pistons have one of the more interesting young rosters in the league? Andre Drummond is going to be a monster in due time, Greg Monroe is the perfect steady counterpoint, and really, if Brandon Knight can improve this season, there's no reason the Pistons can't sneak into the playoffs this year. Within a few years, who knows? This is a paragraph that will probably look regrettable in a few months, but still. GET READY FOR AN EMANCIPATION, IF YOU WILL.
We're gonna run through some of the new songs, and some of the old songs, and tell you where the whole thing went wrong.
To the Wizards. Definitely skip this section unless you care about the Wizards. They drafted John Wall two years ago but decided not to get rid of all the "veterans" on the roster who were guaranteed to be horrible influences (JaVale McGee, Blatche, Nick Young, etc). So OK, fine. Then last season they realized that maybe it's not a good idea to surround your franchise player with horrible influences who kill everyone's spirit just by walking into the locker room, so they got rid of everyone. So okay, fine.
But then they tried to fix it by trading for the ridiculous contracts attached to guys like Emeka Okafor, Nene, and Trevor Ariza, hoping they'd become the new "character" guys surrounding Wall. This seemed okay at the time because Ariza and Okafor come off the books in 2014 and hey, they actually care about and understand basketball, so it's a step in the right direction. But now that we've got a little perspective, couldn't they gotten solid rotation players (who aren't insane) without committing $68 million over the next two years? The best "character guy" they added this offseason was Martell Webster, who's making $1.75 million this year (per Sham Sports). So ... yeah. In addition to the $27 million they're spending on Nene and Emeka this year, they'e also drafted four big men in the first round over the past two years, and on opening night they were outrebounded by 15 and their best big man was Earl Barron, a free agent who wasn't even supposed to make the roster.
If Wall turns into a superstar, there's a chance that none of this matters, because like Anthony Davis in New Orleans, John Wall in superstar mode could make everyone look good, and the future becomes bright again and this whole paragraph becomes irrelevant. But of course Wall is out indefinitely now, and there's at least a possibility that those first two years ruined his chances to ever really succeed in D.C. For some perspective on how the past two years have been with Wall: If you offered Wall to the Clippers for Eric Bledsoe, L.A. probably says no right now. The only silver lining is that there's a chance to overhaul things (for the third time in six years) in 2014.
Until then, GO WIZARDS!
I get my quotes from movies because I don't read.
To GMs Everywhere. Does everyone realize that stockpiling draft picks for the 2013 Draft is almost definitely a waste of time? This means you, Sam Presti. Look at the 2013 Draft right now. Tony Mitchell is projected as a top five pick. Which prompts the important question: WHO IS TONY MITCHELL? Answer: A 6'8 power forward from North Texas. Not even making that up. Beyond someone like that, are teams really going to build around Shabazz Muhammed (a slower Tyreke Evans)? Cody Zeller? James McAdoo? A shooting guard from Georgia is supposed to be a top 10 pick. The University, not the country, which makes it worse. So, what we're saying is ... the 2013 Draft could turn out to be historically awful, and it's something to keep in mind as trades get made and the season unfolds. Any team that's tanking and planning on building through the draft this year is probably wasting its time. Beyond Nerlens Noel, it gets depressing real fast.
(In 2014: Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Julius Randle are three potential superstars. And yes, following the draft two years in advance is part of being a fan in the new NBA.)
(That might be my favorite Kanye West quote of all time.)
Certain things are just too hard to talk about. I'm sorry, VH1.
To Bulls and Wolves fans. It's just too hard to talk about.
I've learned from my mistakes. Just play pianos... Superhero music.
To Chris Paul. Here's to hoping for another season of superhero music from the best point guard on earth, because adding Lamar Odom, Jamal Crawford and Grant Hill, along with Eric Bledsoe emerging as a threat... The Clippers should be pretty awesome this year, and if it gives us all an excuse to watch more Chris Paul, even better.
You either die a superhero or you live to become the villain. I'm chillin.
To Kevin Garnett. Just feels right.
Is it my fault that I make you heartless?
2. LA Lakers
Couldn't six of those teams be the two-seed in the East? Even the Rockets or Mavs could probably make a run at Indiana or Boston. With Derrick Rose out and the Celtics decaying, the Pacers are probably the Heat's biggest challenge right now, but it's hard to imagine anyone in the East putting up much of a fight.
In dreams, I meet you in long conversation
We both wake in lonely beds, and different cities
And time is taking its sweet time erasing you
And you've got your demons and darling they all look like me
Cause we had a beautiful magic love affair
What a sad beautiful tragic love affair
I really feel like a vessel, and I open my mouth and God will let beautiful words flow through. That's why I realize that he chose me. Because half the things that come out, I can't be responsible for. And I guess he just wants me to say more and more and more.
Had to give this Nick Young, because it's definitely how he thinks about shooting.
I am so DISAPPOINTED that I cannot see myself perform. Except for on playback. My greatest pain in life is that I will never be able to see me perform, so you're welcome to know a pleasure that I will never have.
The most Kanye quote of all time goes to the Lakers, obviously. This team's going to be so much fun, first because they will be a complete mess, and later when they learn to play together, because we'll be watching three or four of the greatest players ever play together and dominate together. The arrogance will be off the charts, but that comes with the territory. It was fun watching the Heat come together a few years ago, but this is even better. There's more urgency (because Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash are near retirement), and where the Heat is a team of likeminded superstars coming together, the Lakers superstars couldn't possibly be more different than each other. It's why watching them struggle will be fascinating, and watching them when it all clicks could be as beautiful as anything in the NBA this year.
I stand before you, just a human being trying to improve under the microscope. Just the star of the Truman Show.
It's fun to wonder whether we'd view Michael Jordan differently if he'd played today. He was the most famous athlete in the world, but being famous in the '90s is very different than being famous in 2012. With blogs and the 24/7 news cycle, we'd hear about every single scandal, we'd know about the gambling, we'd know about the affairs and we'd know with just about 100 percent certainty that he was a complete dick. Would it change the way we worship him now?
It's tempting to say yes, but in all likelihood it'd change nothing. The growing pains MJ faced may have been louder, but assuming none of the added scrutiny affected what he did on the court, we'd all still love Jordan unconditionally and defend his legacy for the rest of our lives. Because the things he over and over and over again were just that objectively incredible. Nothing else would ever matter.
LeBron James proves this. It happened as soon he decided to single-handedly take over the NBA Finals last year. It happened in that Celtics Game 6, too. When LeBron played like that, it silenced all the bullshit that had swallowed him the past few years, and everyone was just ecstatic to be watching one of the greatest players of all time. Now we're in Year Two, and even with a thousand other things happening in the NBA, it's hard to look at anyone but him. Now that we don't have to wonder whether he'll ever win -- and he doesn't have to wonder -- this feels less like a neverending soap opera than a thriller where LeBron's the hero, not the villain.
We've come a long way from 2010, and if there's one thing to know about the NBA in 2012, it's that even after all the stories that gave us real reason to loathe LeBron, everything's different now. We've watched him grow under the microscope, he's the star of the Truman Show, and after seeing him break through, the whole world is secretly rooting for him to push it even farther, because we're part of it, too. Now we see what happens next.