Drop Steps

Not Your Fathers NBA Finals Preview

By  Anthony Powers




“If I see a black kid in a hoodie on my side of the street, I’ll move to the other side of the street. If I see a white guy with a shaved head and tattoos (on the side he now is on), I’ll move back to the other side of the street. None of us have pure thoughts; we all live in glass houses.” Says, Dallas Mavs owner Mark Cuban, to which I as a self-appointed representative of the African-American people indignantly reply…um…ok.

I mean if after 240 years of slavery, followed by, with a brief respite of hope for an outbreak democracy during reconstruction, followed by another century and a half of state sponsored terror, legislative apartheid, red-lining, ghetto creation, job discrimination, social and cultural dehumanization and state sponsored economic exploitation etc. etc., we are surprised and taken aback when a wealthy white man is prejudiced…well in the old school lyrics of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes: wake up everybody, no more sleeping in bed.

Of course, and given my sample size is small, but I haven’t run into a single Black person in the least bit offended by Cuban’s comments. Most reactions I encountered were along the line of either: well…um…duh…ok…or…hmm.. It’s kind of refreshing to hear a White man tell the truth.

Personally, as long as he doesn’t shoot the kid to death and get away with it under the cloak of White privilege, I don’t care. I in fact encourage him to move on to the other side of the street before his fear gets that boy into trouble. American history teaches us that he is most dangerous when afraid of his manufactured image of us. Just remember young man….never wink at his woman.

And young man, if you get the opportunity to work for Mr. Cuban…leave the hoodie at home.

By the way, isn’t it interesting that the hardest playoff test in the Spurs amazing run to the finals came from Cuban’s appropriately named Mavericks. The Spurs had the most trouble with the team and organization most like themselves. Cuban and his alley mechanic coach, Rick Carlyle, continue to tinker under the hood of their hot jalopy, keeping Dirk and the ex-Matrix et al well oiled, doing the Vulcan mind meld on Vince Carter to grease his way into the Hall of Fame, riding Monte Ellis, for whose acquisition they somehow evaded prosecution, and generally high level collaborative balling enough to push the mighty Spurs to seven in the first round.

Note to Sam Presti and the OKC bean counters: you can’t construct a roster that requires you on offense to go 3 or less on 5 and expect to beat the Spurs or the Heat when it truly counts. And no, Derrick Fisher doesn’t count. Let me be the first to welcome you to New York, Mr. Fisher. Save the Knicks! And by the way, Mr. Presti, you have zero post-up game. Granted you have the beatific St. Durant on the perimeter, Neutron Man at the point and Son of Neutron Man aka Reggie Jackson coming off the bench. But damn if every shot the Thunder seemed to take in losing to the Spurs seemed to be either a contested fade-a-way 25 foot three or Neutron Man flying through three bodies at the rim. Or Neutron Man jacking up a quick three. Or Neutron Man firing a long contested two whilst St. Durant seeks peace of mind and tranquility of soul standing idle and open behind the arc on the opposite side. God I love Neutron Man! Long live Neutron Man!

On the other side, it was painful watching the Heat on its 12-3 cakewalk to the mountaintop once again. The basketball god’s convened on Olympus, Indiana, and decreed no team named the Bobcats shall ever win a playoff series. (Pelicans should also take note: yes. The Pelicans…the name that strikes fear into small fish!). So Al Jefferson had to get hurt. They also had to dissuade Chicago Bulls fandom of the notion that repeated 5 game ousters by the Heat in 2012 and 2013 constitutes being “close”. So they were matched up with the Wizards….the wayward child with potential. Out in 5 again. But rest assured Bulls fans. Take a little sip of Kool-Aid. Let me sing you a shareholders lullaby: Derrick Rose is going to come back and make it all right! Now go to sleep children and dream of Nikola Mirotic becoming the next Dirk. Butler learning to shoot the corner three. Noah trying really hard and passing, always passing out of the high post. Dunleavy and Kirk doing whatever it is they do. Good night Bulls fans…sweet dreams. Cha-ching!!!!

And then those Pacers, those wacky unlovable Pacers. A team only a mother and Larry Bird can love. Apparently Bird went to the New Orleans Pelicans workshop on how to fix what isn’t broken and how to break what was fixed. Sooo…that Plumlee and Gerald Green and a first round pick for Luis Scola didn’t quite work out so well. Two players and a pick for what at best would’ve been an ok backup for West at the four…wow. You’re left with a thin bench; a prematurely anointed superstar who plays like a caricature of Scotty Pippen in search of MJ, unless his 3 is falling, when he becomes Tracy McGrady; a little-birds-flapping-around-and- singing-between-the-ears waste of immense talent in Lance “The Minstrel” Stephenson, and of course, the only man big enough to inherit Gilbert Arena’s nickname: Agent Zero. As in Zero points. Zero rebounds. I wonder how Bird as a player would’ve responded if Perish or McHale ever put up a double zero in a playoff game. There would be blood.

The next sound you hear is their window slamming shut.

I know I didn’t mention the Nets. Their window never opened. Watching KG in these playoffs against these young athletes was real cycle of life type shit. The old giraffe being dragged down by a pack of hyenas.

So here we are: the rematch for b ball nirvana! Heat-Spurs. But in the tenor of NBA news these days let me digress for a moment to Donald Sterling. I don’t care about Donald Sterling’s thoughts. I don’t care about his words or world view. I do deeply care about the power over the lives and destinies of American families that accrued when owning thousands of housing units in Los Angeles County. The evil is in the manner in which he used his power…to deny American families access to housing based on racist intent.

In the discrimination suit against him settled in 2009 in which he paid 2.7 million to make it all go away…and to the eternal shame of the NBA it did all go away….It was alleged he also denied families housing based on children. The NBA had an owner who was even anti-child.

The point is racism is more than a feeling. It’s more than some statements. I don’t care if you think I’m a nigger. Just don’t pull me the fuck over when I’m trying to get to where I need to be. To adapt an image Malcolm X used to describe the pervasive pernicious effects of racism; if you shove a knife in my back, the primary issue is not how I feel about it. Nor is it the emotional

state and verbal articulations of the assailant’s prejudices. Racism is defined by the knife lodged in my back, with the assailant’s fingerprints all over it. As long as racism continues to be trivialized and relegated to the TMZ zone, the effects of the exploitative cultures that created the concept will continue to fester. It’s so very easy, comforting even, to pretend racism is all about slogans and labels. Sterling says black people shouldn’t come to Clipper games? Great opportunity to burnish your anti-racism credentials. Repeat after me: Oh I would never say something like that! I’m not a racist like him. Where were you when he was driving Black and Hispanic families out of their Korea town homes?

Racism as an artificial construct for the continuing exploitation of human resources has far more import than words. Racism has infrastructure and impact on day to day lives. Racism is the criminalization of Black children in schools. Denial of access to quality education. Double standards of qualifications for business loans. Food deserts in American residential communities. Chronic unemployment double and triple the national rate. Double standards for corporate survival and advancement. Criminal codes and sentencing laws that have turned prisons into plantations. Racism is the knife. Still lodged. Still drawing blood. Still covered with fingerprints.

Heat-Spurs!!! Hot damn! Historic! Epic! High drama about to go down. I have no clue which team to pick. Been going back and forth ever since the Spurs sent St. Durant packing. My brain says Spurs winning it in game seven at home. My intellect observes that after playing the Heat even last Finals, they’ve gotten better. We know what Duncan, Ginobili, Parker bring to the table. But it’s those other weapons: bad ass Kawhi Leonard, Boris Diaw…another dude like the old man with the long beard in the old Kung Fu movies who would kick some young upstarts ass with a fan…Mario Bellinelli, Danny Green, and Paddy Mills. They’ve all gotten better. Look out for Mill’s in this series!

Too many weapons. Too much brilliance in execution. Too much Pops. Too much GOAT-PF. Too many intangibles after coming back from last year’s devastation. And Paddy Mills! This is what my brain tells me. This team top to bottom is obviously superior to this year’s version of the Heat: no Mike Miller, no Shane Battier…oh what, he’s still playing? Depending on Rashard Lewis to give quality minutes and score? Wade crafty and less crippled but still a shell of what he once was. Ray Allen older. Cole and Chalmers forced to contain Parker, Ginobili and….. Paddy Mills! Nothing but journeymen (Birdman, Haslem) to feed to GOAT-PF and Diaw.

This is what my higher intellect tells me…Spurs in 7.

But my lizard brain has a different point of view. My lizard brain has witnessed the emergence of the next evolution of the species, which in about 100,000 years will prevail and wipeout my own, if he is allowed to procreate. What? LeBron James has children?! Oh well… I guess it’s time for this funky Homo sapien to party like its 99,999.

My higher brain appreciates the resourceful brilliance of the Spurs and expects it to prevail over the defending champs.

My lizard brain is simply afraid of LeBron James. I’m going with the lizard brain here. Heat in seven.

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