Monday , Jan , 21 , 2008 C.Y. Ellis

CJH 3: All-Star Picks, Derek Fisher, Heroes and more…

CJH 3: All-Star Picks, Derek Fisher, Heroes and more...

All Star Selections, a Defense of Jazz Fans Booing Derek Fisher, and why “Heroes” is the single most overrated show on Television.

It’s the time of the year where NBA pundits are picking their all-star teams and explaining why their players should be in. What’s stunning to me every time that I read a picks column is that they all seem to assume that they can select the starters and the reserves as if the fan vote never happened. This is convenient in years when the fans make irrational selections, like when they select popular players that have been injured all season or when the Chinese display a stunning cultural knack for democracy by ballot stuffing for Yao Ming, but does very little for explaining what the All-Star team actually could or should look like because they guarantee they’ll get the starters wrong right off the bat. It’s easy to make sure that only a minimal number of arguable “snubs” occur when you make the selections without the same constraints that real NBA coaches face when selecting the all-star reserves: a limited number of roster spots and the forced inclusion of players that probably shouldn’t have made the team in the first place. With that in mind, here is the best possible Western Conference all-star team that the coaches could actually assemble assuming no drastic swings in the current all-star voting returns. Next week, the best possible Eastern Conference all-star squad.


Western Conference Guards: Keep in mind that despite the near-universal consensus that Steve Nash, Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Allen Iverson and Baron Davis are among the best guards in the NBA, the voters have already essentially mandated that Kobe Bryant and his wife’s $4 million apology ring, and Tracy McGrady’s lazy eye will be in attendance in New Orleans. As a result, at least one and probably a couple of these players will have to be left out of the All-Star game this season. This leaves two initial back-up guard slots to try to fit these players into. Remember that the forward position in the West is more crowded than the apartment full of illegal immigrants across my hallway, so we’re almost sure to snub some deserving players.


The first back-up guard spot has to go to Steve Nash, who was the winner of two of the last three MVP awards and was a serious contender last season. This year his numbers have been substantially similar to his previous efforts and he’s the clear leader of one of the best teams in the league. Not including Steve Nash on the team would be like buying an assortment of Chef Boyardee pastas and not picking up any Beefaroni: completely inexcusable.


The second slot has to go to Chris Paul. In addition to leading a team that consists of the himself, Tyson Chandler, David West, an aging Peja Stojackovic and a pu pu platter of guys you’ve never heard of to a very respectable record, Paul has made improvements on his already impressive game from a year ago by becoming a much more efficient shooter and cranking his steal rate up a notch. Although the consensus towards the end of last season seemed to be that Deron Williams had surpassed Paul, it could easily be argued that Paul has been the most dominant player in his conference this season and the most important for his team’s success.


Western Conference Forwards: The current vote totals indicate that Tim Duncan and Carmelo Anthony are headed towards the All-Star game as starters. This despite the fact that Anthony was a borderline All-Star in previous years, has had a regression this season, and continues to insist on jacking up three pointers even though he’s a career 28% shooter from beyond the arc. I’d allege another Chinese-style ballot stuffing conspiracy to get into the All-Star game but I watched a video recently where Anthony told me to “Stop Snitching.”


The first back-up Forward slot is clearly Carlos Boozer’s to lose. Boozer made it last season and has improved his scoring numbers and defense (his steals are up 50% from last season and he’s been more aggressive on the defense end, which is why his fouling is also up) in this campaign. Also, it’s apparent he’s been using Proactiv because he’s far more photogenic this season. In previous years he’s looked like he’s come down with a case of Red Dwarf’s Space Mumps.



And yes, I know I just lost everyone with a reference to a British Sci-Fi Comedy from the ’80s [Ran ’88-’99 on BBC2, for the record. – Ed.].


The second slot is unquestionably Dirk Nowitzki’s. While Nowitzki’s numbers are down and his three-point percentage this season is lower than Antoine Walker’s (it’s true! Look it up!), Dirk is still the reigning MVP, puts up more than respectable averages, and is the best player on the team that’s leading the toughest division in basketball. Plus David Stern’s “Basketball Without Borders” affirmative action plan mandates that at least one European be on each All-Star team and we haven’t included one yet.


Western Conference Centers: Don’t be alarmed but Yao Ming is winning the vote for this position even though he’s having the worst shooting year of his career. In related news Shane Battier has more votes than Josh Howard and Luis Scola has more votes than Kevin Durant. I wonder where all these Houston fans are coming from?


As a result last season’s All-NBA First Team center Amaré  Stoudemire will have to settle for a back-up position on this year’s version of the All-Star team even though no one has been even as close to as good as Amaré this season at his position in the Western Conference. Comparing him to the closest competitors like Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby is like arguing that Robert De Niro might start losing acting jobs to Keanu Reeves. And that would never happen, no matter how much weight Keanu agreed to gain to make a role seem more authentic.


Remaining Western Conference Spots: Although on a terrible team, it’s impossible not to includeAl Jefferson, who has put up staggering numbers for most of the last two seasons and whose defensive issues are exaggerated. Besides, if Steve Nash can make the All-Star team five of the last six years it’s clear that defensive prowess isn’t exactly a prerequisite for All-Star status.


For the final slot we have to choose among several worthy players. Still without a selection are Tony Parker, Allen Iverson, Baron Davis, Shawn Marion, Brandon Roy, Deron Williams, Andrew Bynum, and Josh Howard. Above them all however is San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili who has been absolutely outstanding in his usual limited minutes. Without Manu, the Spurs would be hovering around .500 this season after Tim Duncan missed several games due to injury; instead they have maintained their position among the Western Conference’s elite. Besides, the West team might need someone who’s supremely skilled in the art of the flop in case the game is close in the fourth quarter, and Ginobili has taken over Vlade Divac’s position as the patron saint of acting like you’ve been fouled.


A sure-fire marketing idea I’m stunned someone hasn’t done yet: If you’re a Warriors fan tell me you wouldn’t buy one of these in the shape of Baron Davis’ face just so you could grow his beard out.


A response to Benedict Arnold Basketball John: Although fans occasionally do stupid things, like throw beer at Ron Artest or cause their team to forfeit a game because they riot during a demolition of disco records, Basketball John used HoopsVibe recently to go through a laundry list of recent incidents involving Utah Jazz fans and attempt to publicly apologize for the actions of the team’s “classless hicks.” Well this is one classless hick that doesn’t want to be apologized for!


Ironically, Basketball John himself is a Utah Jazz fan but still seems to enjoy attacking his fellow fans while simultaneously suggesting that other fan bases would have behaved far more appropriately. This sort of thought process leads me to believe that Basketball John is, in fact, this man:



Just as Uncle Ruckus obsesses over “the sweet scent of the white man’s musk,” brags about the “Irish blood coursing through [his] veins” and proudly brags about his history of throwing bricks at Martin Luther King, Basketball John appears to have come out against his own. Frankly, I’m just stunned he didn’t go so far as to say “I’d have punched out those Jazz fans who booed Gordan Giricek myself if Philadelphia fans weren’t stronger and had better aim.”


In looking at Basketball John’s major complaints about Utah fans, one is arguably legitimate. No one will defend racial slurs being used against Golden State players during a game in order to rattle them. That being said, that event was almost assuredly the product of a small number of fans not acting in conjunction with the rest of the crowd. To associate the entire Utah fan base with a handful of racists is akin to claiming that the entire population of Waco, Texas was involved with the Branch Davidians in the early ’90s.


The largest portion of Basketball John’s article, however, is devoted to scolding Utah fans for booing Derek Fisher in his recent return to Energy Solutions Arena after being granted a release from his contract so he could join the Los Angeles Lakers. Although the media generally covered the decision to leave Utah as being one entirely and unquestionably motivated solely by Derek Fisher’s daughter’s health, if you look closely at what happened there’s a lot of reasons for Jazz fans to believe that there was some appearance of impropriety and to hold ill will against the guy. Let’s remember that this is the same fan base that gave Fisher a standing ovation when he checked into a playoff game after flying back from a doctor’s appointment for his daughter, so it’s not as if they hate him because his daughter has cancer. In fact, the community embraced Fisher in the wake of his daughter’s illness.  They didn’t turn against him until a number of things happened that made it appear that Fisher had exploited his daughter’s cancer for his own benefit. In the paraphrased words of Penn and Teller, that makes him a “Baby-twisting [email protected]!^er.”


First, there’s evidence that Derek Fisher may have attempted to leave the team using his daughter’s health as an excuse because he’s on record as saying he never wanted to go to Utah in the first place. When he was first traded to the Jazz, General Manager Kevin O’Connor had to console Fisher that he was going to be forced to peddle his wares in Salt Lake City. As Fisher himself said "I was pretty sure I was going someplace else … I had my heart set on a couple of places." So right off the bat Utah fans have a reason to be suspicious if he does anything that makes it look like he’s trying to get out of his contract to go somewhere where he has his “heart set.”


Secondly, the stated reason for Fisher’s requesting cancellation of his contract with the team was so he could be close to his daughter while she was undergoing treatment for her retinoblastoma. As it turns out, the course of treatment chosen for his daughter is an experimental therapy that only Presbyterian Hospital in New York City is authorized to conduct currently. As a result, Fisher’s daughter receives treatment in New York but Fisher plays in Los Angeles. It sure is a good thing that Los Angeles is closer to New York than Salt Lake City. In fact, a quick use of Google maps indicates that Los Angeles is farther away from New York than every other NBA city in the league. Also I’m sure that the New Jersey Nets had no interest in a veteran back-up point guard and are perfectly content with the services of Marcus Williams. Ditto for the Boston Celtics who are rumored to be in talks for every back-up point guard in the league currently. Let’s just say I’d raise an eyebrow if someone told me they wanted to move closer to their family and then moved hundreds of miles in the opposite direction.


Third, the claim that Derek Fisher “gave up $21 million” for the health of his family is overstated. He re-signed with the Lakers for $13 million so it’s not as if he gave up the totality of his salary with the Jazz. At maximum he gave up $8 million. In fact, subsequent media reports after he left the Jazz indicated that he turned down an offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers that would have been worth more money and put him geographically closer to where his daughter was receiving treatment. Thus he’s clearly indicated that he’s willing to give up some money to play in L.A. and he doesn’t care exactly how close he is to his daughter because he’s willing to nearly quadruple the flight time between his workplace and New York.


Finally, the whole return to L.A. had a funny smell to it from the beginning because it seemed rather implausible that Fisher would just happen to end up back with the team that he’s most commonly associated with when doing so didn’t actually make him get closer to his daughter. In that sense I’ve always felt there was reason to believe that there was improper contact between Fisher and the Lakers prior to Fisher being released from his contract with the Jazz. Remember that NBA tampering rules prohibit teams from talking to players under contract with another team with respect to future contracts.


What it comes down to is you believe one of two things:

1. Fisher woke up one morning and decided to give up $21 million on speculation that he could receive close to the same amount of money elsewhere in a city that would meet his very specific needs and happened to end up in Los Angeles

2. Fisher talked to his former employer first and called a "hasty press conference" when he learned he could land on his feet in the city of his choosing.


I’ve watched enough episodes of “Deal or No Deal” to know that people can’t bring themselves to walk away from large sums of cash without assurance of a safety net or the belief that they’re going to get more elsewhere. Adding up all the factors, which are admittedly circumstantial evidence, it appears that Fisher had the motive and the means to use his daughter’s condition to get out of Salt Lake City and that his choice of the Lakers didn’t actually give him any treatment advantages that Salt Lake wouldn’t have provided him. For that reason, I’ve always felt that Fisher dealt with the fan base in Utah less than honestly and felt that booing Fisher was completely justified. As a result, I’d like to officially withdraw Basketball John’s apology on behalf of all Jazz fans.


Worst post of the Week from the NBA’s worst blog (running feature): The Utah Jazz used team resources this week to make sure we all got to read an article by Kara Mueller this week entitled “How to Dribble.” At first I was tempted not to read the article but then I realized that her byline indicates that she’s “ALMOST 9 years old.” At that point, I realized that Kara Mueller was probably the most literate of the Jazzbots writers.


Kara starts strong by telling everyone that new Jazz acquisition Kyle Korver “is the hotest person on the planet. I think I would die for him.” It was at this point that I began to suspect that Kara Mueller was actually Demi Moore given Korver’s strong resemblance to Ashton Kutcher.


Throughout her entry, Kara gives everyone helpful tips like that they shouldn’t stare at the ball while they’re dribbling and that they should keep it below the waist. I’m positive this really improved the basketball knowledge of all Jazz fans who were used to seeing Jerry Sloan exclusively play people who had no ability to dribble or do anything remotely athletic. With a little effort, Kara could soon become the next endorser for an NBA version of Tom Emanski’s Defensive Drills videos.


Like all great bloggers, she references Tigger in her sign off and assures us she loves us all. Once again, she proves why Jazzbots is full of fail.


Special “Heroes is terrible” Section: Every time I go on the nerdosphere that is the internet I can’t help but run into a million people celebrating how fantastic NBC’s “Heroes” is. Frequently, the show is described as deep with rich character development and an engaging and intriguing plot. My own father went on at length about how good the show was recently and implored me to watch it when I had a chance. After wasting investing about 20 hours of my life in watching the first season I feel like everyone else is either retarded or I’m the stereotypical museum visitor who stares intensely at a piece of abstract art only to conclude “My five year old could have done that.” Before I break down exactly why this particular show is awful remember that this is meant to be exclusive to the first season, I refuse to judge the second season until it’s complete, and also be aware you shouldn’t read on if you’re one of those people who gets angry about spoilers.


To start, lets talk about the particular crime against humanity that is Milo Ventimiglia: the actor who portrays Peter Petrelli on “Heroes.” First of all, I was biased against Milo to begin with because he managed to singlehandedly ruin an entire season of Gilmore Girls about 5 years ago with his portrayal of “Jess.” Before you start making fun of me for watching Gilmore Girls regularly I feel the need to point out that this was during a period in my life when I was dating a girl who pretty much refused to watch anything that didn’t prominently feature romantic comedy elements, meaning that I watched many cinematic abortions featuring the likes of Meg Ryan, Reese Witherspoon, and Mandy Moore. Comparatively, watching Gilmore Girls was like listening to the Beatles for the first time every Tuesday at 8:00. It’s amazing what you’ll do when someone is hot. In any event, in “Gilmore Girls” Milo was supposed to play the brooding troubled kid who served as a counterpoint to Rory Gilmore’s goody goody boyfriend; he was portrayed as smart, unappreciated by most responsible adults, and as having a significant independent streak and problems with authority. Unfortunately he managed to ruin all the fun elements of that show in favor of tearful screaming matches between Rory and Lorelei Gilmore about the merits of Jess as a person. As a result when Milo showed up in Heroes playing a character with most of the same character traits (plus a superpower, although it could be argue Jess’ superpower in Gilmore Girls was “sucking”) I was immediately going to be tough to win over.


Milo Ventimiglia unfortunately did not fail to disappoint as he ran around frustrating everyone on the show with vague promises that he was “meant” to do something big and vaguely acting like a gigantic douche bag who made everyone in his family’s life harder. Not only that, but he for some inexplicable reason decided to rock a bizarre lopsided haircut and baggy clothes that made him look like he was perpetually attempting to dress up as his favorite anime hero.



He’s one set of gigantic boots and repeated screaming about how he’s about to hit “Power Level 9000” away from being aired on Cartoon Network at two in the morning. I only complain because if there’s one thing that television characters of supposedly serious television shows shouldn’t be trying to do, it’s model themselves after Japanese anime. The notable exception, of course, being the show Rosanne which makes an excellent “Rosanime”:



Of course Milo also brought his unique acting “talents” to the Heroes project. His skills include looking bewildered at any plot element he doesn’t understand (which happens about five times an episode), giving the camera a defiant look to communicate he’s firm in his convictions, and staring at his own hands when he can’t believe what kind of power is coursing through his body. These acting skills are sufficient when you’re in low grade 1950s Westerns, but not when you’re supposed to be carrying a substantial portion of a prime-time Emmy-contending Drama. Of course Milo’s skills were pushed to their limits when Heroes devoted an entire episode to the inexplicable “Five Years in the Future” storyline in which all the characters are shown in an alternate future where New York City was destroyed by Peter Petrelli. In the future, Petrelli is supposed to be jaded, violent, and a recluse with a dark past and a large scar across his face. Milo Ventimiglia portrayed all the emotional complexity of a character dealing with the knowledge that he has inadvertently murdered millions of people with only one alteration to his normal acting style: he lowered his voice half an octave and made it vaguely scratchier, as if he was doing a really awful Dirty Harry impersonation. This happens to give him the exact same husky voice that Ali Larter uses during the show when she’s attempting to get men to give her money over the internet in exchange for taking off her clothes (more on her in a second). The end result is that every “deep” statement made my Milo for the entire episode only elicits giggles. Somehow I don’t think that’s what the writers were going for.


Recent reports also indicate that Milo (who’s 30) is romantically entangled with co-star Hayden Panettiere (who’s 18), and no one likes a borderline pedophile. That being said I love the idea of a 13 year old Hayden watching Gilmore Girls and fawning over Milo’s “Jess” character and his leather jacket while eating Ben and Jerry’s while her stage parents plot out her entire life.


While Milo’s story is ruined by the efforts of an atrocious actor, Ali Larter is a capable actress who’s mired in a story that’s completely worthless. Besides the fact that it has multiple completely unexplainable plot points (the Heroes powers are explicitly linked to their DNA, yet she and her “evil” identical twin sister exhibit vast differences in strength, speed, and toughness while using the same body) it’s obvious that the writing staff decided to use this plotline to inject some diversity into the cast. To that end, Ali Larter is married to the only black man in the cast (who’s also a prison escapee and gets shot more than fifty cent: how PC!) and has a biracial child who is unfortunately the kid who reads cereal boxes from “Lady in the Water.” This kid seems to have exactly one role he can play: the precocious child who seems inexplicably wise beyond his years. No one will be surprised when he shows up on a VH1 reality show in his twenties because he’s outgrown the one character he can play. Don’t even get me started on the fact that Ali Larter takes her clothes off for money in the show and somehow we have never even gotten anything close to a nipple shot. Ali Larter shouldn’t be allowed on any show that isn’t on HBO late-nights.


Ali Larter’s storyline isn’t the only one where the powers of the characters involved make absolutely no sense with how the characters are acting. Officer Matt Parkman is supposedly psychic but is repeatedly caught off guard when characters betray him or do something unexpected. Shouldn’t it be impossible to surprise him?! The aforementioned Peter Petrelli supposedly has the ability to fly, but apparently needs his brother to carry him into the sky when he’s about to explode because he can’t do it by himself. The teaser for season two indicates that the other Petrelli (whose character traits bounce so all over the map I can’t even rationally write about him in this space) somehow survives a nuclear explosion even though nothing about his powers should lend him invulnerability. The Haitian has the ability to make people forget things but for some reason has to run away from the “Corporation” and be in fear of his life. Couldn’t he just make his pursuers forget they were supposed to be chasing him?


This points to a larger problem with the way in which Heroes is written:Pplot inconsistencies don’t seem to be caught in advance through any sort of editing process and large segments of plot seem to disappear entirely. For example, during one series of episodes it is revealed that repeated exposure to the Haitian has made Mrs. Bennett develop a brain lesion which has drastically affected her ability to make new memories and retain old ones. While this is an interesting implication of the Haitian’s powers on its own merits, the writers also appeared to be using it to place an emotional wedge between Hayden Panettiere (Claire Bennett) and her father for authorizing the Haitian’s habitual use of his powers on Mrs. Bennett. However, as soon as the emotional void between Claire and her father was resolved the brain lesion apparently disappears, Mrs. Bennett acts normally again, and no explanation of what happened to the brain lesion is ever made.


This becomes particularly problematic when the writers forget that there are interesting questions raised by the use of their characters powers. In the first episode of the series, it is revealed that one character can predict future events through his artwork. Upon discovering this power, two other characters (Hiro and Ando) begin following instructions through a comic book drawn by the prognosticating painter in order to save a girl’s life who the comic predicts will be put in danger by a runaway truck. While following the comic book’s artwork to the scene of the future accident, Hiro and Ando spot the vehicle in question and attempt to flag it down while it is driving away causing it to swerve directly at the girl in the comic book. As a result, it’s questionable whether the artist’s work actually predicts the future or whether Hiro and Ando’s belief that the comic book told the future made the events in the comic take place; after all the truck would never have threatened its potential victim’s life at all if Hiro and Ando hadn’t arrived at the scene comic book in hand. For the entirety of the first season I kept waiting for this issue to get addressed because it would be very interesting indeed to explore whether the artist is seeing the future or creating it. Whole plot lines could have been developed about the nature of free will and constructed reality. Somehow the writers of the television show never managed to get there, killing off the artist and leaving the viewer with little to no explanation of the actual implications of his powers.


Similarly, the writers missed another golden opportunity with another character who could be described as a “shapeshifter.” In one episode, it is suggested that the shapeshifter’s “default look” (predictably, a hot woman) isn’t the way that the shapeshifter usually looks. In fact, given how much the shapeshifter seems to eat on the show, she might be larger than a Macy’s Day Parade balloon. All of this is forgotten in a later episode when the shapeshifter is knocked unconscious and the images she generated disappears only to turn her back into the same familiar hot woman. So much for finding out that the shapeshifter really looks like the sort of “alternative beauty” that not even the Suicide Girls would showcase.


(As a side point, the concept of a “shapeshifter” has always annoyed me; after all, in order to copy another person’s appearance you’d have to have a very good idea of what they looked like to get all the details right. Time after time in movies and television shows, shapeshifters are able to instantly replicate the exact features of anyone they’ve seen even once accurately enough to fool all their friends and loved ones. They even manage to copy their mannerisms. I’m just stunned I’ve never seen a movie where a shapeshifter gets caught as an imposter because they continue to use their right hand and the person they’re copying is left handed. That’s all I’m saying.)


That’s not to say that everything about Heroes is bad. There is Mr. Muggles after all.



Besides the fact that Mr. Muggles is arguably a vampire considering he willingly laps up Claire Bennett’s blood in the first episode, Mr. Muggles can accurately be described as the lynchpin of the Bennett family. Besides that fact that Mr. Muggles gets substantially more screen time than Claire’s brother, for the entire season tensions between family members are rampant but everyone can always agree that they love Mr. Muggles. In fact, one of the most poignant moments of the entire season occurs when Mrs. Bennett’s (apparently easily curable) brain lesion causes her to forget who Mr. Muggles is.


All that being said, Mr. Muggles is apparently a racist. In one episode, Mrs. Bennett indicates that Mr. Muggles would never breed with a poodle to create a “pomepoo” or “pooranian” because “Mr. Muggles doesn’t want anything to do with a breed that has ‘poo’ in its name.” Turns out the best character in the entire show is also a bigot, how sad.



And yes, I know I spent several pages talking about Heroes on a basketball website, but if you leave a negative comment because of that, you can’t have any of my pot pie.


Next week: Bizarre Allen Iverson/Brett Favre comparisons, Eastern Conference All-Star picks, Mudkips, An explanation of why Don Nelson is a fantasy basketball disaster, and more!