Archive for September, 2008

Raptortouille

The heat is on and it’s finally time to start cooking. Actually, as I write this, all the players are taking sexy pictures with vaseline artfully applied to the lenses, producing a season’s supply of promotional shots that will end up in the papers and websites, as well as on the new scoreboard screen; all in the attempt to get us as excited as the kind of food-porn cooked-up by Nigella or Rachel or Ingrid. But the head chefs at chez ACC have hopefully put together the right ingredients that will feed us all well beyond media day.

Going right back to when Chef Colangelo first arrived, he immediately saw the need to season up the venison that was still a little too rare in the play of Chris Bosh. A big dash of playmaking from TJ Ford really helped bring out the complexity of the main ingredient. Rasho’s starchy presence helped the Bosh beef from getting too overcooked and falling apart. And of course there was all the european herbs topping it all off a la Jamie Oliver. Luvverly-Jubberly. Or was he more cutting edge than that? An Iron Chef Morimoto? Of course his willingness to surround himself with friends and make decisions by consensus makes him resemble that french-canadian guy named Ricardo, proving a little overly satisfied with his meagre tweaking with the addition of Kapono. And picking Bargnani at number one made it seem that he was aspiring to be in Lidia’s Kitchen, or Giada’s bust-line (if only Andrea could prove to be that kind of a bust).

Whatever the case, he has chosen his ingredients fairly wisely over the years, and left the pot to be stirred by Gordon Ramsay as played by Sam Mitchell. Last season, things got a little bitter with Garbajosa feeling as though he was being burnt, and then all the salt provided by TJ just wasn’t needed in as many dashes. It got tough to keep all the ingredients in just the right balance, no matter how many f-words got tossed around. The initial introduction of TJ had enhanced Bosh’s gaminess, but also brought out the best flavors in the more standard potatoes and carrots supplied by Rasho and Humps. But eventually all the herbs and seasonings weren’t coming through enough. It was time to see how Bosh could work best as the main ingredient, with Jose adding his expensive designer salt. Was a wing the answer to make it all complete? A beautiful wing delicately protruding out from a golden side of quail? That might have been a nice side-dish. Certainly it would have improved upon the standard hot-and-cold chicken wings that were already in place. But I think our head chef did well to add the JO gravy, and settle on a stew that allows for strengths to come in every spoonful.

Where TJ was able to raise the profiles of some of the weaker elements in the mix, Jermaine O’Neal is going to help bring out more reliability in some of the other ingredients that were good on their own, but wilted like overcooked greens when stuck in the heat to long. Parker, Kapono, and Moon are all going to benefit from being smothered in O’Neal’s rich sauce (I know - the metaphor is really dying now). Even some of the new guys like Adams, Ukic and Solomon, have a good chance of finding themselves as tasty comfort food.

It all starts in making the right statement. Last season’s soup could pack a punch, but the flavor didn’t always stand up from start to finish. Too often the attempt to finish things up on one end of the court in order to enhance the taste of the offensive palette, just fell a little flat. This dish still needed more body. A frontcourt mix of Rasho, Bosh, Bargnani, and Humphries, just couldn’t hold everything together enough in the less-sweet parts of the game. They too often ended up boiling over around the opponent’s basket, batting the ball around without being able to own the required amount of space. There was too much over-stirring by everyone in the mix, just to get some control of each night’s fare. If the opposing team turned up the gas on the boards, then the Raptor cuisine would likely fall apart. Now with Jermaine taking up more space in the mix than a Rasho ever could, all the other ingredients can let their flavors leak out on offense and leave the opposing teams getting burned. Bosh will not have to work extra hard to try to facilitate the odd break by first securing the rebound, and he’ll be able to beat his own guy down the court more often, where he can then really turn it on like a Kitchen-Maid mixer. And all the meat on all our wings can just slide off the bone and compliment the whole dish rather than show up as a strong counterpart on the side.

That’s the meal I’m looking for. I think that’s the menu drawn-up by Colangelo and Mitchell. They’ve gone high-end with this stew, but not forgotten the pleasures of down-home. Unlike, last season, we shouldn’t be desperate to see the dessert table to quell our hunger. And we shouldn’t need constant servings of individual appetizers to keep us aware of the promise of what’s cooking. I look forward to just letting it all simmer, and let the masters figure out what to add to make it just so. Luvverly.

This article courtesy of •LX•.

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To Russia With Angst

The long wait is starting to come to a close. It’s time to make a decision. It’s time to face the truth. Now I’m not talking about who is going to be the 10th man in a 9-man rotation. I’m not talking about whether Andrea should take long walks along the Rideau in order to regain his sense of balance with nature. I’m talking about my marriage to one of the great 5’2” driveway freethrow shooters.

My wife doesn’t follow all the off-season moves and news all too closely. It was my great idea to let her know about the new hi-def scoreboard at the ACC. I wanted to start getting her warmed up for another season in the cheap seats - get a little anticipation building. And then she drops the bomb that I’ve been carefully avoiding.

“Whoa - Carlos is going to light that baby up!”

There was no going back now. There was no way to protect her, or myself. I pictured this thing playing out in one of two ways. It could very well move along in Bergmanesque fashion, where she turns icy cold, staring out into the void, questioning my ability to be a man in her journal, and inevitably jumping off the Scarborough Bluffs and crushing her skull on the rocks below. Or it could go a route more Fassbinder-like, where she breaks down immediately, wailing and flinging her fists, before we both collapse on the floor and roll around until we finally subdue our shared physical passions. Of course Fassbinder was gay, so I can’t really trust his take on women, as much as I’d like to. No - at the very least I’m expecting the silent treatment when I finally spill the beans.

“Um, my dear dear little one - there’s something you need to know. It’s about Carlos.”

“Why so serious? You act like he cut all his hair off or something.”

I just cut right into it. No sense in delaying any longer. “He’s not going to be on the team this year. He’s gone to Russia. Moscow or something.”

“CARLOOOOOOOOSSSSS! Noooooo! It is too cold for him there.”

“It’s pretty cold here you know.”

“And who is going to be there for him? I can’t believe you’re just telling me this now. How long have you known? And what else have you been holding back? I suppose you’re going to tell me that Jorge has gone off to Moscow too.”

“Oh crap.”

“What!?! How absurd! How blatantly fucking absurd! How the hell is Sam going to deal with all the rest of those pansies that he’s got left?”

“Well, we do a have a new big guy. He’s pretty tough. Got tattoos. Muscles. Jermaine O’Neal - you remember him? He can play some good D and that should come in handy. Maybe even more than all the shots Carlos could toss up.”

“Don’t even go there! Jermaine the guy with the funny-shaped head? That’s going to help me forget about the silly, sly smirk? The hair? The beautiful hair?”

“Well they ought to win a bunch more with any luck.”

“You think they’ll win games?”

“Yeah yeah. I think they stand a good chance to make some real noise this season.”

“That’s nice. That’s great. But need I remind you, that you thought the big twist on Big Brother this year was going to turn out to be that all the contestants were actually men. I’ll admit that Renny could pass as an old-style drag queen, and that there was something about April that just screamed sex-change procedure, but c’mon. You. Don’t. Know. SHIT!”

And so begins the silent treatment. It turns out that there’s a distinct possibility that following the ice-cold staring into the void, and the scribbling in her journal (Thinning hair! No silly smirk! No balls!), she could very well forego jumping off the Bluffs, and push me off of them instead. It’s a long way down from up in the cheap seats too. I will have to be very careful. And Jermaine better come through for me, or it could be a very long year. Sam and Colangelo won’t know the half of it.

This article courtesy of •LX•.

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The Beginning is Nigh

Anytime now, somewhere in Switzerland, the Large Hadron Collider will bang a bunch of lead ions together in the hopes of learning how the universe began. This big atom smasher might also start a chain reaction causing the whole world to melt into a mucky glob of dark matter, or so the worry has been expressed, and predicted, perhaps in more sophisticated terms, but no less scary. Who wants to make such a prediction? You can only be wrong and live to tell about it. Come to think about it, this whole idea changes the way I look at predictions on the upcoming NBA season.

Let’s assume we’re all going to go poof thanks to a scenario not unlike the igniting of Solarburnite as explained in Plan 9 from Outer Space. That would mean we should take the observations about the upcoming season as the next best thing to experiencing a season that, in reality, or bad b-movies come to life, will never be. So enjoy! I’m going to say the Raptors will have a shot at winning it all. Take that and run with it. Run down Yonge Street naked. Enjoy it while you can. And if we’re all still here next week, well then you get the added bonus of watching the games.

Although by discovering the beginnings and all of the workings of the universe, quantum physics will quite likely throw all basketball scenarios off-kilter, even if they don’t kill us all. Let’s say the Swiss harness just enough dark matter to counteract a force like Dwight Howard. And this bit of anti-Howard makes freethrows. They might become the greatest basketball nation on earth and eclipse our NBA.

David Stern will think that at least the hip-hop influence will have been effectively combatted, and that instead of relying on the lame swing stylings of the Pussycat Dolls to really catch on, he can be sure that yodeling will be the perfect soundtrack to all the action this game supplies. One way or another - quantum physics is going to mess things up.

So why go into the prognostications in-depth? I just won’t do it. But since it’s hurricane season, and there’s nothing but one cone of uncertainty showing up after another, I think I can use that model to predict what probably won’t be such a disaster in New Orleans (again - barring the effects of quantum physics). Yeah - I know. All the hurricanes are terrible things, and I shouldn’t make light of the death and destruction. But up against a Hadron Collider’s mishaps, they seem apt for sports metaphors. And it allows me to skim over a season-to-be in the way a weather-forecaster glances over monstrous storms.

I see a few storms brewing in the Atlantic, another in central Florida, and somehow there’s some tropical-force winds blowing off the Great Lakes. (Why is there not a Great Lakes division?) Which ones will make their way into the Gulf of Mexico. Which team from the East will blow into the home of what I’m calling the champs of the west right off (mostly just for the sake of a metaphor, and my love of Chris Paul)?

Well let’s look at the cone of uncertainty for Toronto. They could be the team to blow in from the Atlantic. But then look and you’ll see that the cone widens out pretty dramatically as it approaches the Gulf, and actually covers the possibility of drifting out to the middle of the Atlantic and dying out. Like with any storm, the direction taken will depend on whether other systems steer it one way or the other. The most resistance will come most likely from pressure in the form of four other teams. Boston, Detroit, Cleveland, and Orlando all have established high-pressure systems in place. It’s not hard to say that each of them could find themselves in the 50-60 win range. And still with each of them, there are questions that make me think the Raptors might put a small scare into the good citizens of New Orleans for at least a brief time.

Boston won it all. Do they have the same desire to win this time around? They definitely do not have James Posey, who is already in New Orleans waiting. I’m thinking they still win big, but prove much more vulnerable to Highs and Lows than last season.

Detroit petered-out again last season, with the future of the franchise - Mr. Prince - withering just as badly as the previous year when his team needed him the most. There is a vacuum of leadership that still hangs over that team as much as when Ben Wallace left. And now they have threats of a shakeup that might only be threats or might bring an even greater vacuum. And they have an unproven rookie coach to make things right this time. But then Flip was just a coach in name only apparently. It just feels like too many storm clouds and no thunder and lightning.

Cleveland can come up big in the playoffs, but they are so unbalanced that there is no saying what direction they will take. They even lost something defensively last season, so they count on Lebron as much as ever. It’s nice that they found themselves a point guard, but now Mo Williams has to figure out how he can be effective while teams are playing off of Ben Wallace or Anderson Varejao. It will be interesting to see whether Lebron ends up being a point forward again, or not. And whether or not they peak at the right time. They are built like a playoff team on paper, and their regular season record might not matter so much. You know Lebron will show up. But if they’re not quite right by the time the post-season arrives, and still can’t find the right ways to compliment Lebron then they’ll fight the kind of uphill battle that their record would indicate they should.

And Orlando comes off a season where they played a lot of close games, learning how to play in the crunch, but also raising some questions as to how some of those games got close to start with. They also lacked a certain amount of leadership. Back in January I watched them blow a 20 point lead to the Nets. Actually it wasn’t the Nets, because there wasn’t anyone on that team putting in any kind of effort until Darryl Armstrong hit the floor. Yep - that’s right - Orlando allowed themselves to be beaten by an old geezer all on his own, with a 20-point cushion to fall back on. A lack of leadership do you think? They have a nice front-court, but a backcourt that has questionably only gotten weaker over last season, and a defensive intensity that is entirely hit-and-miss. All of the above makes them very susceptible to losing ground over the marathon of a season.

So even though the East is stronger, and almost entirely competitive with the West, there is no one or two teams that seem like sure bets. I’m guessing that three of the four teams at the top of the conference slip a little and let Toronto, and maybe Philly or Washington to surge upwards. From there who knows? Toronto began the last two seasons with very few weaknesses to worry about going in. At least none that couldn’t be fluffed over by looking at the overall depth, and the growing signs of leadership and chemistry that so many teams lack. And yet nobody saw them with any great strengths that they could rely on through a whole season and into the playoffs. They lacked Boston’s desire and dominance at a number of positions, Detroit’s experience as a team, Cleveland’s King, and Orlando’s front-court. Now they have Jermaine O’Neal and Bosh together forming a pretty formidable eye-wall that will not die out so soon. And so if they find themselves over warm waters, with the more established teams weakening here and there, and get a good playoff seeding, they have a chance to, as they say, wreak havoc. I look forward to watching the games and I hope to see that cone of uncertainty narrow as the schedule plays out. Quantum Physics be damned!

This article courtesy of •LX•.

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