Kelly Dwyer covers the NBA, alongside musical bits and comedy numbers.

$10/month or $100/year
Thursday, March 15, 2018 

Every Steely Dan Song: This All Too Mobile Home

Jeff Porcaro was a beast, but he was also a humble hombre who happily for us did his thinking out loud, same as his drumming. The 1980s had a good way of making the greats sit down for instructional VHS tapes.

When the Touring Dan last convened in Glendale’s spring Porcaro was still 19, yet his on-air credits with Sonny and Cher were about to land him $400 a week to hit the road with the band. Becker and Fagen’s hopes for a structure reminding of the “European-styled social democracy [they] so admired” had taken a hit – nobody else in the group was making more than $250 a week on these dates.

Becker and Fagen’s self-examined “neocolonial devil’s bargain” frayed further with the presence of Jim Hodder, the band’s original drummer, who still stood in frame for the band’s last inner sleeve.

Hodder’s resolute stickwork hadn’t yet been told to hit the bricks by the time of the 1974 tours, and even Porcaro’s status wasn’t fully assured – that’s session legend Jim Gordon playing the drums on ‘Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,’ the first tune on the new ‘Pretzel Logic’ LP, the group’s latest single.

Sensing a groove worth embracing and a confrontation worth avoiding, Becker and Fagen decided to field Porcaro and Hodder at dueling drum sets for the ‘74 tours because, I don’t know, the Mothers did it.

(if the YouTube skip doesn’t work, trip ahead to the 1:06:55 mark.)

Or, probably, because some iteration of Duke Ellington’s band did it. And the Allman Brothers. And whatever Donald and Walter talked themselves into because, shit, nobody really needs to know what’s gonna happen on the next album and, man, those two really sound good together.

Jimmy Hodder wouldn’t play on another Steely Dan LP after this tour but he sure as hell played his way off the stage. Porcaro leads like he’s on leave and Hodder, through his drive and swing, reminds of why Donald and Walter wanted him around in the first place. Put-upon Hesse’ian aggression, for them to snort at and appreciate.

Steely Dan’s initial aversion to touring was legend among red-headed DJs, the group was the Next Decade’s half-answer to what Memphis and Manila did to the Beatles until Don and Walter strapped on the two sets in time for the 1993 reunion tour.

The group’s original band, by comparison, was forced into a haphazard string of dates worked sometimes in support for bands that sounded nothing like Steely Dan, as if any group ever did.

Tours shoddily assembled by a record company that months earlier had no idea they’d had a band on their hands, let alone one with hits, the group was sprung far and wide to blank and blanker touring destinations that seemed interesting in name only – the Dan had to travel an entire week just to get a line that sounded good next to “Santa Fe.”

A lot of this stuff was worked on and put together in the months after the band’s second album had tanked, at this point a career in this racket was assured for only a little while. Fagen recently relayed that Walter’s unease with the traveling process was the stronger of the pair’s, and bassist Becker didn’t even have to sing half (or more) of these songs.

The younger of the songwriting duo, Walter’s onstage role by the 1974 tour was to hideaway under a pair of headphones next to all manner of active and inactive electronics and Jeff Porcaro’s hi-hat, cracking jokes in the free moments between the din. Porcaro was closer in age to Becker than anyone else in the original Steely outfit.

Walter was a thunderbird back there, adding an updated sense of terror to the original lines while insisting the outfit never lose its swing. Even in hiding, the power came from rear wheels.‘This All Too Mobile Home’ closed Steely Dan’s sets on the 1974 tours, it was the dedicated second encore in the last shows they would perform for two decades.

By the time London hit, Skunk Baxter had acquired a Les Paul guitar and, while his licks didn’t weigh anything down, the optics weren’t good. Allowed to let loose on what seemed like a stomper on ‘Mobile Home,’ Baxter instead picked his spots on a song that may or may not have been able to be played on an electric guitar.

Fagen sings as if he doesn’t have to do this again, until the next night at least, same as the man filling the tank.

You can hear a bit of real life hopelessness in this song, strange for Steely Dan, inert as Arizona turns into New Mexico, or maybe the other way around. Bad or no weed, no or bad soundchecks, futility projected all over whatever dip is stuck behind the wheel.

"All our lyrics are calculated and literary," says Becker. "They are not personal documents. We use autobiographical material, but the autobiography is not what the lyrics are about."

They’d never record the song, at least to their liking, the opening piano lilt later partially found some of its way into ‘Sign in Stranger.’

Steely Dan only performed it once after the reunion, at a show in New York back in 2011. What’s left, with too much gone, is this document:

Players peeled off the stage until only the drummers were left. Michael McDonald gamely kept with those Becker and Fagen chords on that Fender Rhodes, leaving the view just after Baxter and Denny Dias (furiously scribbling chords) unburdened themselves.

With all that lost, bassist Becker has room to thrust into some sort of Forward Jazz Solo, partner Fagen knows exactly what to do and the result is what you’d expect in 1974 had Bard seen fit to let them stay without interruption. Donald throws in a blues sample, they finish each other’s sentences.

Then you get a drum solo, because the Mothers and the Brothers. Donald says “sweet dreams, my brothers, goodnight” because this is London and it’s 1974 and, hey, the guy can read a room.

Jeff Porcaro leads the solo, in a way, while Hodder bashes accompaniment alongside the kid’s goading – nobody’s trying to take anyone’s gig, here.

This is before Jeff learned to shuffle in a way that he didn’t feel was corny, before he’d been sent home from the studio by Fagen to stick up on Dannie Richmond while Walter was (just as importantly) off pricing new and obscene examples of outboard invention. Porcaro would spend the whole of ‘Katy Lied’ telling anyone that would listen that they had the wrong drummer for the job, and sometimes Don and Walter listened: Hal Blaine on Line One.

Porcaro would make every attempt to stay in his lane, but, he’s Jeff Porcaro. Why wouldn’t he burn like this in 1974, his Year 20 season? It’s human nature.

(After the song hit the dozen-minute mark a member of the touring outfit, perhaps Jeffrey Baxter, runs out to yell “OK, LET’S GO … dude … dude? … DUDE,” signaling the end of the show and also the close of the drum solo.

Every tune from the 1970s should have ended like that.)

Yacht Rock began in a desert, but not with some bullshit like Sister Golden Hair. It had to get from Sacramento to Vegas back to fucking Long Beach in three days.

It had to question itself and what it was doing with all that it had learned and Cashbox’s hold on all of it. All these guys can play, now, but that doesn’t mean there were more cars in the caravan, it just meant there were more people in the car.

And that car had to get off the road, and back into a studio.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018 

Behind the Boxscore: Raptors will not be bucked


Toronto 116, Brooklyn 102

All the hallmarks of an unwinnable game were in place, shots that spun out, tired turnovers, either-way calls that didn’t go Toronto’s way – had Phil Jackson coached here he would have stuck square daggers at the refs all night before blaming the inevitable defeat on some slackened grip, some discarnate explanation that would leave his staff far, far away from the scene of the tangible crime.

The Raptors didn’t leak ahead for excuses as the night moved along. Brooklyn ran out of possessions, and Toronto wasn’t even heroic in its ability to stave everything off. This is just a fantastic basketball team working as it should, at the end of the ribbon.

Toronto has lost once since the All-Star break and that was by three points, in overtime, to the Bucks. The club entered Brooklyn with eight consecutive wins and left with nine, the team had every chance to pack it in. That defense, though, is developing before our eyes.

DeMar DeRozan was tired and it showed, four turnovers, while Kyle Lowry’s eight attempts at run-killing three-pointers only resulted in one (badly needed) make. Fred VanVleet was also dragging, yet he somehow spilled in half his shots and ran a prickly-enough offense to make sure his role sustained.

In Jonas Valanciunas and Jakob Poeltl the Raptors got 34 points, 20 rebounds and four blocks out of their centers – and those centers played like centers used to do. Uncomfortably.

Toronto: 50-17, tops in the East, four games up on Boston.

Brooklyn: 21-37, and it genuinely looks like a blast to see a game at this team’s home arena. I’d never get in, because I still say things are “a blast.”

Oklahoma City 119, Atlanta 107

There were a lotta shoulders in the right places for the Hawks, Mike Budenholzer and the whole forgettable gang were ready to compete and the Hawks were happy to take chances with what they’ve created this season.

That’s not much, the Hawks were built to lose and they were built right, but the team could be annoying in the last month. The energy on Tuesday was appreciated.

ATL had a double-figure lead at one point, taking quick advantage of Thunder turnovers, but Oklahoma City is better and Jerami Grant (20 points on 14 shots, 2-4 from outside and zero turnovers, even tried to take a charge or four) played like how Cliff Levingston was supposed to work in Atlanta. Before Cliff hit free agency.

Paul George was allowed to glide and Carmelo Anthony (21 points, 6-11 from long range) continued his accurate play. The game closed up once OKC got into its defense, Russell Westbrook (32, 12 and 12) performed well alongside Raymond Felton, a tough gig considering Raymond probably owes him $200.

Hawks rookie Damion Lee, a 25-year old call-up, impressed with the balance needed to hit for 13 points. The 6-6 swingman hit half his shots and appeared to know enough of the plays to fit in. Lee had four rebounds, all defensive, on a night where the Hawks found their hands on plenty of loose ones.

Oklahoma City: 41-21, half-game up on the Pelicans at No. 4 out West.

Atlanta: 20-48, tied with Orlando for last in the Conference.

New Orleans 119, Charlotte 115

Anthony Davis played and nothing fell off, that’s a good enough start, we didn’t lose an MVP candidate just because someone forget to put the tarp on the damn thing.

The Pelicans center managed 25 points and nine assists, he had quite the competitor in Dwight Howard to try to work around and both big men looked far better than their (very good) lines. Dwight managed 22 points with 11 boards and three blocks, he was curious and careful with angles and did his best to keep everything in front of him. It’s been a long time since 2011, but Dwight was on it.

The whole Hornet team was around, Nicolas Batum (20 and eight assists) still grits through those impressive March numbers, Frank Kaminsky is taking chances on his way out the door, and we got another Jeremy Lamb game – 16 points and six defensive rebounds because he’s showing you.

Davis saw the floor, though, something about sitting close to it for all those alternating contests. He saw the movement that was about to develop and he chose wisely against a team that works hard. This has nothing to do with nine assists.

Jrue Holiday made all the tough plays down the stretch for NOLA, and Emeka Okafor had 14 points with eight rebounds and foul fouls alongside three steals in 26 minutes. Against Dwight Howard.

New Orleans: 39-28, tied for fifth in the West alongside Minnesota.

Charlotte: 29-39, seven games out of the Eastern bracket.

San Antonio 108, Orlando 72

There it was, on my computer. Tuesday night and then again on Wednesday morning. And yet I don’t recall a thing.

San Antonio: 38-30, tied with the Jazz for No. 8.

Orlando: 20-48, nobody would be sad.

Let’s hear from the band:


(the bird on the branch says that pitchers and catchers recently reported)

Dallas 110, New York 97

The Mavericks were crisp, even when this was a close game. Screens set accurately and with purpose but without too many moving feet – this is Dallas, remember.

The Knicks also have that thing where they turn the ball over a ton, but also that bit where they don’t guard you in transition. This is where New York lost the crowd.

The Mavs won’t follow you on the break either, but Dallas had half-court help: Harrison Barnes continued a sturdy-enough season with 30 points, Doug McDermott tilted the floor and the starters (Yogi Ferrell, Dennis Smith Jr.) hit 5-13 three-pointers on a night where you had to fire away.

Trey Burke (16 points in 15 minutes) and Michael Beasley (21 points on 13 shots) continued their Year of Years, both are quite capable in the room that Jeff Hornacek’s offense provides. Such as it is.

Dallas: 22-46, No. 12 in the West.

New York: 24-44, No. 11 in the East.

Minnesota 116, Washington 111

The reason the big kids hit Karl-Anthony Towns is because they’re not as good as him, Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi were never as good as Karl-Anthony Towns and this is what second halves of basketball games are for. The point isn’t to rise above, the point is to remain yourself.

Watch how fun this is:

Remember that Karl-Anthony Towns isn’t learning how to play center in the NBA, still, he’s teaching us how it’s done as best he knows how. This game is brand new, we don’t know where it’s going and we’re not quite sure where most 7-footers fit in.

Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi know where to go, they’re keen to play hard and act as the pincushion when things go wrong – a pivot player’s typical burden, forever clapping at your breastplate, mouthing “my bad” to guards and coaches and country.

The Towns-led Timberwolves just rushed from Minneapolis to D.C. and toppled the Warriors and Wizards in 48 hours’ time. Andrew Wiggins worked well defensively late in this win and Taj Gibson was around for the buckets the Wolves badly needed when Washington looked to pull away at home, but Towns is the reason we’re all here.

He had 37 points on 17 shots.

Minnesota: 40-29, still percentage points behind NOLA, sixth seed.

Washington: 38-30, a game and a half behind Cleveland, fifth seed.

Cleveland 129, Phoenix 107

The Cavs pushed Kyle Korver into the starting lineup on Tuesday, ahead of J.R. Smith, and Phoenix was like “sure, whatever, it’s not like we have a lot going on.”

The Cavs immediately went to isolating LBJ on side with Korver, and on improvised possessions Kyle would go where the ball was and the Suns would lose their shit. Devin Booker fouled Korver on a three-point play in the first quarter, he’d finish with 22 points on, holy cow dude, seven shots.

Cleveland: 39-28, half-game behind Indiana, No. 4 in the East.

Phoenix: 19-50, probably not all that uncomfortable with Uncle Kracker, either.

John Wall looks like he’s about to buy an entire album’s worth of songs off of Leon Ware:

Utah 110, Detroit 79

All the Pistons wanted was a scrum, something ugly that Anthony Tolliver and Jameer Nelson could roll their way into, but the Jazz were not interested.

Utah wanted to hit shots on Tuesday, they wanted to end this early and this is still the difference between the Western Conference and the Eastern Conference. The Jazz doubled Detroit up in the first quarter, 41 to 21, the team built a 39-point lead at one point and Jae Crowder looks every bit the mini-LeBron James that Cleveland appeared to order sometime last summer.

Rudy Gobert has a way of making things look like they revolve around him.

Utah: 38-30, tied with San Antonio at No. 8.

Detroit: 30-37, five and a half games behind Miami for the East’s final spot.

Los Angeles Lakers 112, Denver 103

The Lakers ran the risk of running out of tokens, Los Angeles’ spirited start in the face of Jamal Murray may have had something to do with that burp of a second quarter, but in the end nobody had to bother coach Walton while he fed another one into Laguna Seca.

Denver fell apart late, helpers like Trey Lyles and Will Barton were no fun, the Lakers’ length and energy were enough to keep a good team from getting what it needed.

Kyle Kuzma and Julius Randle combined for 52 points and 26 rebounds in the win, we should all get to write that so many more times.  

Los Angeles Lakers: 31-36, keep pushing.

Denver: 37-31, one game out of the playoff race.

Indiana 101, Philadelphia 98

Indiana’s legs come and go – Victor Oladipo and Bojan Bogdanovic struggled in this road performance, combining to miss 27 of 32 shots – yet the Pacers can still surprise. Oladipo did all he could, especially when it came time to leave it out there late, and Thaddeus Young’s return to form was exactly what Indiana needed. He was covered in paint.

Young managed 19 and 10 in the building he used to play regular season games in, and Myles Turner had enough skirt for everyone – 25 points in the face of Joel Embiid’s dragging.

Embiid loped his way toward 29 points but he took and missed five three-pointers and the attempts were sadder than the misses. Eight turnovers for the big man in the loss.

Indiana: 40-28, half-game up on Cleveland, third in the East.

Philadelphia: 36-30, a game behind Washington, a sixth seed right now.  

Los Angeles Clippers 112, Chicago 106

The Bulls led for stretches in this game and competed well, there are several engaging players to really glom onto with this club as it enters the final month:

David Nwaba we all know, he’s still running and reaching like Christmas is coming, Antonio Blakeney looks potent enough to follow for a second quarter, Noah Vonleh is now in the starting lineup to see what he’s capable of in Year Four.

Seven rebounds, in 27 minutes, it turns out. Noah missed eight of 11 shots and took five three-pointers because that Mark Madsen anecdote is pretty old by this point.

The lady in the back was really wearing a sombrero, this shot did not go in.

The Clippers just spread the floor out, waiting for the Bulls to make a mistake on defense. The Bulls were created to be outlasted.

(Don’t take your eyes off DeAndre Jordan.)

Los Angeles Clippers: 37-29, seventh in the West, percentage points ahead of the Jazz and Spurs.

Chicago: 23-44, 12th in the East.


(More to come.)

Friday, March 2, 2018 

Philadelphia turns around on two feet

It isn’t that the 76ers aren’t capable of what they gave the Cavaliers on Thursday, Philadelphia has been most of that great all season. The Cavs are slick, its excuses will be in place until this all ends, and they’ll do the good service of making a show in the losses. Cleveland will be a part of your statement game.

The Sixers, though, they weren’t sure about this until recently and for damn good reason. This is a brand new club strewn with fractures that haven’t fully filled in, straddling the worst of two wildly different front offices. Their best player is Joel Embiid, someone who won’t be doing his job right if we ever feel comfortable with how he’s running.

Their coach prances about like the one from Arch Rivals. The Cavaliers needed some defense, in their face, the Cavs were due an opponent that wasn’t going to fall for all the silly crap that disguises the eventual jab.

The Sixers were clear, from possession to possession in that 11-point win, coach Brett Brown had the right things to point out and Philly had the legs to listen. Overload here, pull back a little there, mind the transition giddy-ups and cover the three-point line – Cleveland missed 23 attempts in a game paced by crossed cross-country skis, the 108-97 conquest marked PHILA’s first win over the Cavs in a dozen tries.

The Sixers kept things slushy, and J.J. Redick pushed through whatever the hell has ailed him since sitting all those games with what is basically a broken left leg. Those pains shoot to your fingertips, with stops in the lower back and shoulders scheduled throughout the evening, Redick still swam through all that ice on his way toward 22 points on 11 shots.

This allowed the typically-skittish Robert Covington to get away with that 4-11 night, for him to concentrate on defense and not worry too much about trying to match whatever the hell Rodney Hood attempted in that basketball game on Thursday. Covington still has a bit to run, in his bid to outrace the habits of his first few seasons in Philly, but a lot can change in a spring that actually counts.

That’s what Ben Simmons has been after, this whole time.

March comes in like a lion but CBS’ smitten kitten never nipped 2016’s top overall pick, Ben wasn’t charmed by the NCAA experience and barely shook when the Sixers told him, for his health, that it was best to sit out his entire rookie season. Simmons was born in 1996, he’s followed LeBron’s career by internet hookup more than he has via appointment television, he’s aware of how this league works and what months mean the most.

Simmons played as if he’d just spent a year on the bench, on Thursday. He doled his contributions out as an extension of Brett Brown, the technical rookie was unrelenting defensively and snide everywhere else.

Few players in this league are swifter than Ben in eliminating a coach’s unremitting nightmare – that empty space between a player’s hands and an available loose ball. Simmons may not already boast patter ready for Brent Musburger to bet on, but Lord help the team that gets this kid’s brain in a seven-game playoff series in two months.

The rookie doesn’t run as a clear and obvious point forward or point guard or CFG-ROVER. He just covers and yelps and lunges and, because he won’t be 22 for months, still finds humor in things that even teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers take so seriously.   

Ben doesn’t have a position. Right or wrong, his expectations are for him and him alone to articulate, explanations are likely to come on the court.

Philadelphia isn’t used to that. It likes talkers.

For example, in case you're hazy on Barkley's value, here's how he assesses himself: "See, Maurice Cheeks is the best point guard in the league, but Magic Johnson, who's also a point guard, is the best basketball player.

That's what I consider myself, a basketball player—a guy who doesn't have to have a position. There's Magic, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Clyde Drexler, maybe, and me. I put myself into that category."

(“Clyde Drexler, maybe.” Rather harsh and dutifully accurate, Charles.)

Philadelphia is full of surprises. The city stopped booing the Puppy Bowl marathon long enough to embrace whatever This Process was, or is, firing flaming arrows at the bow that slowly dragged Doug Collins back to the sirens that sing for him in suburban Chicago.

Sixer fans are lucky, of course, Joel Embiid makes a lot of things palatable. His presence somehow demanded patience when all Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor developed were thicker versions of the same bad habits they came to Philly with. Embiid isn’t swifter than Hakeem and his shoulders won’t remind you of Shaq’s, Joel’s heft isn’t something you involuntarily gawk at.

Good. That means he has two healthy feet to jump off. Another option to pile upon the dozens that exist over his strong shoulder, Thursday’s turnaround touch off the tip-toes of his right and left foot quieted a Cleveland that has seen quite a bit in the last 15 years.

All the Philadelphia 76ers have done this season is grow stronger and smarter. There’s little reason to expect this to stop just because Cleveland traded Isaiah Thomas away. Evolution doesn’t have to take a place in line.


The band takes requests!


Only two NBA players braved the backseat long enough to meet with representatives from the Referee’s Association during the All-Star break, Andre Iguodala was expectedly in the building alongside the ubiquitous Spencer Dinwiddie. Los Angeles’ Lou Williams was supposed to show but failed to block the afternoon off, the superstars decided to let last month’s blockquotes do the kvetching for them.

That’s a drag, but what’s nearly as distressing is the presumption that this sort of embarrassment is a setback worth fretting over, as if the players weren’t going to send the ambassador over instead. The refs are lucky they didn’t get Pat Garrity, in Iguodala’s place.

Ken Berger described the outgoing scene:

Still, multiple sources told B/R that the dialogue in the meeting was productive. Among the key points discussed was the officials' use of certain gestures, such as the hand signal for a stop sign when a player begins arguing, which "players don't respond very well to," one of the people said.

The players also expressed a desire to receive better education about rules changes (so they aren't unwittingly arguing against correct calls) as well as clarification about the "respect for the game" rules implemented in 2010 to address a perception that, according to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, "at that point, things were a little bit out of control."

The two sides also made plans to meet again soon—preferably, before the end of the regular season, one person briefed on the meeting told B/R.

This is how this stuff melts. Chide LeBron for ducking and Lou Williams for refusing to come off the bench, but détente doesn’t usually begin with both heads of state in the building.

The group working from a position of strength typically acts that way, that churlish way, they’re the ones that need their arms unfolded before they can relax enough to demand, I don’t know, a streak of humanity from the NBA’s batch of robo-refs.

The NBA created these goddamn Eddie Haskells years ago, dragging them through the D-League on their way toward a career spent spitting out four allowable phrases:

1. Good morning, fellas.

2. Hand me that thing.

3. Boy, this work's hard.

4. Guys, break's over.

From the joint statement:

The meeting marks a successful first step in generating empathy and building a better relationship between NBA players and referees. Moving forward, the NBPA and NBRA plan to meet through the spring and into the summer. Both organizations also plan to meet with their respective memberships to share what was discussed in today’s meeting.

Yes. Good. Anything to get these two sides treating each other like people, again.

The current crop of referees aren’t robots, they just want to keep their job in 2018 same as they wanted to earn it back in 2007 – the worst stretches of David Stern’s most strident era. There needs to be some give, some flexibility, that accounts for the personalities in the room.

And players? Players are starting to act like dicks and they need to cut it out.


The band wants to play the hits!

(More to come.)

Thursday, March 1, 2018 

Behind the Boxscore: Steven Adams moves you

GOOD MORNING, PEOPLE!Oklahoma City 111, Dallas 110 (OT)

You have to play perfectly against Steven Adams. He will crush things – whole cans of peaches, his older brother’s attempts at chatting up the food runner, the offensive glass, this plate of shredded chicken nachos, whatever.

Guards will screw up on plays, they have a lot to consider defensively and nobody that they’re legally allowed to touch. Guards will typically throw up a “my bad” while watching the defensive action get away from them, mindful that in a second a power forward and a small forward will have to corral a loose ball that someone like Steven Adams has a beard on. Guards have to recover a second and third time, with Adams around, just to help the teammates that have already given so much.

The last time we saw anything like this, anything like this center’s crush on the offensive carom, rules had to change. Teams have to toss player after player at Adams’ core, on the move, and who the hell would want to try and get in the way of this guy’s legs? Not a guard, that’s for damn sure.

Few centers or forwards, either, Adams had nine offensive rebounds in a contest that Dallas could have won, this was one of the Mavs’ best defensive efforts of the season.

Dwight Powell continued his run for Dallas, his opportunistic play is a delight in the emerging spring and he contributed 21 points and eight boards with three steals in the loss. Nerlens Noel got in 16 minutes and three turnovers and four fouls and he didn’t get any calls, but at least someone’s playing basketball, and Harrison Barnes (26 points on 16 shots, five turnovers, five assists) was charmingly bristly.

Oklahoma City: 36-27, tied with Portland and New Orleans for the fifth-best record in the West.

Dallas: 19-43, out ahead of it.

Detroit 110, Milwaukee 87

We took in Giannis Glimpses early in Milwaukee’s loss, he was caught using his length and smarts and touch at the same time again, but outside of those initial steps he and his Bucks looked horrid as usual.

This was a game until the Pistons began to play Detroit Piston players: Anthony Tolliver and Stanley Johnson worked over puddles of shine, Andre Drummond had 10 offensive boards, Reggie Bullock paced the starters with 16 points and zero turnovers, Johnson bullied his way toward 19 and nobody had to mention Blake Griffin until now.

MKE countered with setting Giannis up to pick off teammates with passes thrown safely from a long distance well behind the action, as if he were Chad Pennington, and the back page results were just as helpless.

Later, Antetokounmpo (5-13, 11 points, more turnovers than rebounds or assists) was left to try and bring the Bucks back two points at a time, using that face-up jumper that asks the arms to run East/West before the shot heads directly to the side of the rim.

Detroit: 29-32, ninth in the East, three games out.

Milwaukee: 33-28, tied with PHILA for sixth.

Toronto 117, Orlando 104

The Magic beat the Heat, Cavs and Hawks in a four-day stretch early in February but they’d lost six straight entering Wednesday, this is a club that knows its limitations. Wednesday could have been a signature win for a really bad team from Orlando, the light it needed in the face of daytime chatter, but Toronto even at a half-try is just too good for most opponents. The Raptors have too many players.

Dwane Casey’s team wasn’t at half-try, though, and Orlando did well to look as potent as they ever have in the first half. The Mackmen were key in a second quarter surge, Biyombo and Shelvin can move bodies, while Mario Hezonja found the space he needed to look like he could win a game for the home team – 17 bench points off seven shots.

Shelvin turned it over four times, though, in a game in which you cannot, and Toronto’s bench could have won this game twice.

Fred Van Vleet giving it to Siakum, Van Vleet giving it to Jakob, the Raptors just giving it to teams that have already begun to give Toronto their best – Orlando wanted a win to feel good about, its strongest in weeks, but Toronto could just not stop scoring the ball.

Toronto: 43-17, half-game up in the East.

Orlando: 18-43, last in the East.

Atlanta 107, Indiana 102

ATL saw spots in Indiana’s small, still-rotating defense. Hawks were allowed to poke and prod and, had Dennis Schroeder connected on shots beyond the game-cincher, the Hawks coulda preened a bit too. Credit to Atlanta, there was perpetual effort until the length of the game reminded everyone that the Hawks are a poor basketball club.

Indiana was able to make a game of this late by demanding ATL take the ball out of the net, but before that realization the Hawk effort was whipping around and the club’s striking Dutch Boy in the Paint advantage (56 to 40, Myles Turner attempted two shots) was all the proof you need in a contest that you really didn’t’ have to watch.

John Collins is wonderful, he had 16 points for Atlanta and all he does is dunk, I had to look up to see if he was from Quitman, MS but instead it says the kid was born in Utah.

Atlanta: 19-43, half-game up on those Magic.

Indiana: 34-27, fifth place in the East.


The band wants back on the road.

Boston 134, Charlotte 106

Boston would not miss in this game, and it was more hurtful than anything. Charlotte’s working hard and they did not deserve this.

The Hornets’ steak of wins is over, the club petered out at five, not bad in the slightest for a team that has been through more than most. Charlotte played on Tuesday, lost Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to a sprain, Wednesday’s forward combo of Traveon Graham and Marvin Williams (2-13 shooting, combined, Celtics all around them squirreling in for good looks) just did not have the alertness needed to keep up.

Too much going on, with the Hornets now convinced that they have to score 110 points to win, with Kemba Walker losing steam as Wednesday moved along, with a season slipping away and Boston, again, refusing to clang anything – the C’s shot 62 damn percent. Milt Palacio hit for five of seven shots in the win.

Boston: 44-19, half-game behind the Raptors for the lead in the East.

Charlotte: 28-34, 4.5 games behind Miami for the final slot in the bracket.

Houston 102, Los Angeles Clippers 95

The rotations were awfully slow for the Clippers in this loss. That’s the Wesley Johnson joke.

Sindarius Thornwell helped bring Los Angeles back from the brink, the lack of LAC quit after Houston’s initial burst was incredibly encouraging, Montrezl Harrell (22 points) was proud and the Clippers like playing alongside each other. If Doc Rivers is free to paint …

The first and final quarters were absolute shyte, spacing was poor and the ghost of Blake Griffin was still trying to toss in a jump hook from his hip, but Los Angeles would not let up a night after charming us in Denver.

This is a good club to toss out for one game at a time, with a playoff berth on the line. You’ll enjoy watching the Clippers down the stretch of 2017-18.

Houston could beat a tree at standing right now if it wanted to.

Houston: 47-13, tops in the West.

Los Angeles Clippers: 32-27, just ahead of the Nuggets in the race to pee in the kid’s urinal.

New Orleans 121, San Antonio 116

The Spurs had plays for the Pelicans, they had designs on both ends. This wasn’t another instance of San Antonio’s Ethereal Whatever losing its karmic value as the night moved along, the Pelicans’ win also can’t be cribbed up to the inability of several Spurs to act either half or twice their age down the stretch.

No, New Orleans earned this and all the other praise that’s about to hit. Alvin Gentry finally has a team rolling when it hurts to, when the focus is real but the season is fractured. After a head coaching career full of shit luck, this is great.

The Spurs had plays, plays to go at certain Pelicans both big and small, attacking turned heads and reserves without prejudice. San Antonio leaked out on New Orleans turnovers, and the club fruitlessly tried to make Anthony Davis work, defensively. A fine idea, even if things went terribly: LaMarcus Aldridge could not strike fear with those jumpers, and then he sprained his ankle.

The Pelicans are strange, sometimes the club has to drop a few dishes before Anthony Davis can get going, the team screws up plays and the ball bounces incorrectly, but, 26 and 15. Jrue Holiday had legs, 25 points, Darius Miller’s Draymond Heaves from long range hit three out of five times, and the Pelicans took chances. The team moved the ball ahead in unexpected spots and made a scramble out of this.

The Spurs don’t like to scramble. Eggs over easy, runny as hell, or eggs cooked harder than the biscuit they’re brought with. Nothing in the middle.

If the Pels continue to with this sort of pell-mell immediacy, the run will continue.  

New Orleans: 35-26, tied for fifth in the West with Portland.

San Antonio: 36-26, fourth in the West.

Phoenix 110, Memphis 102

Memphis’ work early in this contest was hip, the team got into its sets quickly and didn’t let the ball stick. If the Grizzlies had Denver’s rotation, J.B. Bickerstaff’s team would have topped 100 points in the first half, but instead it lost a home game to the Suns later on.

Devin Booker sucks in a defense, the opposition can’t help it, his ability to drag and click was as important as those 34 points. Alex Len was all about the legal movement in the second half, for once, Elfrid Payton had time to find the soft spot on the rim for his heaves (19 points, 10 rebounds) and Josh Jackson has always wanted to be a professional and now he gets to be one – 29 points, seven rebounds, four assists and 13 trips to the line.

Jackson saw enough of the Grizzlies when he visited Memphis in January. The rookie returned to the same city a month later and built upon what he’d learned, what he’d observed, where Jared Dudley went and where the ball wasn’t. Josh Jackson wants to be a sponge and we should want to watch all of it.

Phoenix: 19-44, in that pile.

Memphis: 18-42, same pile.

Golden State 109, Washington 101

Washington has shown a remarkable ability in mixing it up during John Wall’s absence, this continued in the club’s attempt at a comeback on Wednesday. Crushing the champs on the offensive glass while turning a second quarter roll with the bench is riotous, this is what the Wizards have to do in what would have been the toughest part of the season even with Wall.

Tim Frazier and Mike Scott brought Washington even with the Warriors on Wednesday, Otto Porter managed 29 and 10 and the Wizards still lost. The Warriors only leave your building after wearing you out, Golden State will stick four NBA games where one used to go.

Bradley Beal missed a dozen shots and turned the ball over five times, he ordered a Caesar salad with grilled chicken before the game and all the delivery guy brought him was a big box of nerves.  

Golden State: 48-14, “Mr. de Cordova will see you now.”

Washington: 36-26, fourth in the West


We’re off to Cleveland, to get a better look at whoever decides to fly in and out of there over the next few days.

(More to come.)

Wednesday, February 21, 2018 

Every Steely Dan Song: Show Biz Kids (live, 1974)

Michael McDonald was in Steely Dan. He was the backup singer.

He played the electric keyboard, the Fender Rhodes, so Donald Fagen could lead the band on piano and play the synthesizers that everyone else thought were fancy (but Donald thought were funny).

Mike McD was from St. Louis, not one of its high schools, and he was also brought along to hit the high notes and sing a song or two so that Fagen (suffering through debilitating nodule woes on the band’s first visit to England) could give his voice a rest on Steely’s second-ever attempt at a lengthy tour.

This performance is from London, in 1974, this is the band’s first encore on its last tour with the original band.

(if the Tube Trick fails us, skip ahead to the 1:03:25 mark.)

McDonald is new to the group, he hadn’t sung on Steely Dan’s previous album, he was brought into the touring fold initially in an attempt to help Touring Dan appear a little less supine – not so much the fault of the band members themselves, usually, but as always in the music industry the fault of Whose Idea Was This?

Jeff Porcaro did make the cut on Pretzel Logic, the McDonald-less LP the group was touring to promote. He and second drummer Jim Hodder shine throughout this live tune as on several others that we will later address on The Second Arrangement, because this is Every Steely Dan Song.

(Asides like this allow us to remind you that we will take on all versions of Show Biz Kids, including its original offering on Countdown to Ecstasy, as this series moves along.)

Porcaro brought with him Mike and his mix of Sample and St. Louis on electric piano, later Royce Jones would join the Touring Dan to take on the tender songs while playing giant bongos. For stateside purposes the orchestra also included two female backup singers, one of whom may have been Jenilee Harrison.

There are novelties here: McDoobie later culled a career out of rather Holy lyrical bends, he gets to say the line with the word “fuck” in it. Once again Fagen lets two other band members sing the two most recently-released singles (“Jeffrey” Baxter kinda missed the point on ‘My Old School’).

Skunk sorry “Jeffrey” can fly, though, lager-willing. His slide solo was him on top. He was a happy man, throughout this show, proud as hell at what he’s been part of.

(Earlier in the concert Fagen uneasily worked his way through ‘Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,’ only released in the UK days earlier, he’s already embarrassed at leaning on those lyrics in front of people.) Michael McDonald blasts out an EP solo that earns a Donald Fagen Beated Bleat midway through, one of music’s highest honors. Mike was around for chops longer than the length of his beard, this guy can really play the electric piano.

Being able to “play,” though, and “play on a Steely Dan album” are two completely different things, McDonald’s piano only made the cuts in brief swings alongside buddy Jeff Porcaro on Katy Lied, he’d sing on three Steely Dan LPs after that but was never asked to add his by-then Doobie’d fingers to the flight.

This is why it’s great fun to listen to the brother McDonald himself try and keep up with Becker/Fagen chords on the other songs in this performance, sorting out clusters better served for Cathy Berberian shrieks than the versatility expected on the St. Louis Sircuit.

This is the rhythm section – Becker, Porcaro, Fagen, McDonald – that would track most of Katy Lied and essentially create Yacht Rock with that very LP.

You gotta get through the desert, though, before the blue hits. Mike had to sleep in an uncomfortable space, first.

Kelly Dwyer covers the NBA, alongside musical bits and comedy numbers.

$10/month or $100/year