Monday, December 11, 2017

Behind the Boxscore: Victor Oladipo is a star

Jack McCallum joins us to talk Jim Morrison, Jerry West, bass players and D-Wade

GOOD MORNING, PEOPLE!
Indiana 126, Denver 116 (OT)

It was a matinee. That’s what I keep coming back to.

A reported 14,000 people peeled away from Christmas shopping to go sit in a basketball arena for a few hours on Sunday, no refunds were issued.

The previews didn’t even give too much away: Victor Oladipo went off for a career-high 47 points, using all expected tricks of his trade, a style that many ticketholders to this point had only read about it in the trades. Theirs were the same afternoon eyes that met Jolie right after she dialed it back a bit. That looked at Chris Pratt, before leaning over in darkness to ask if he was in The Office.

Oklahoma City, it turns out.

The screen lit up with a premise that couldn’t help but develop a few hours well worth the admission: Denver, after a weekend spent in Orlando and Indianapolis. This was a creampuff video game treatment with a pre-Christmas release and a massive international guarantee.  

Still, the kid’s gotta deliver, and by the time the lobby filled again anyone who wasn’t already in on the Oladipo Rush or the Pacer experience in whole was ready to slip the gate to watch it one more time.

Everyone had to sit through some previews first, some reminders of how big this business is and how it can sometimes stink on ice.

Denver was again without Nikola Jokic, something to think about when pulling this game out of a RedBox in a couple of months, and it thought it knew the quickest way toward a win, the entrance was profound and Denver was up double-digits in a flash.

Will Barton started again, same line as in Denver’s handy win over Orlando on Friday, which meant the professional performances in this loss were staggered, half its actors showed up to set staggering. Even at Denver’s best this roster is unsettled and with Jokic and Paul Millsap out its best players never seemed to share the court.

Barton was fine, nine assists and six boards with just one turnover, 21 points on 19 shots, but he was a little dry down the stretch as Denver’s execution eluded them. Gary Harris and Jamal Murray don’t know where they would rather be, just not in this particular building at this particular time.

This sent Wilson Chandler’s night into a tailspin to finish; the veteran wanted this one over with early and did his part with 18 points, but the car chase scene saw his cruiser flip over a few times before settling.

Chandler was mostly on point, though, same as Indianapolis product Trey Lyles (a team-high 25 points, barely left the floor but saw it better than most on his way toward five three-pointers and five rebounds) and Jokic replacement Mason Plumlee – out of sorts in this lighting, but three assists and seven points with nine boards in 20 minutes.

Those are our least-loved Nuggets, with coach Mike Malone taking long Irish walks just after the whistle signaled a time out.

Good effort, more defensive rebounds than this red state was comfortable with viewing, just nothing steady to lean on after the last pop barely gave the ice in the glass time to melt.

Will Barton’s ascension meant Emmanuel Mudiay would be pressed into leadership duties off the bench, but he’s the sort of player that will screw up an entire defensive possession for his team just because the three-pointer he hit wasn’t credited quickly enough by the refs as such.

It was made to stand as a two for too long, and the inevitable replay somehow wasn’t enough for the 21-year old, who still has the junior high kids laughing at him in the lobby. Four assists and four turnovers on the afternoon.

Victor Oladipo is 25 now, and as was the case when he was Mudiay’s age, he is every bit that number.

It isn’t just about consistency with the long jump shot, it’s that Oladipo has now begun to build off what he showed up with when the blinds were drawn on summer. He’s picking his spots, instead of rushing toward them.

Lance Stephenson is an E-Ticket ride at Indiana Beach prices, and you’re allowed to bring a cooler in. The NBA’s next batch of League Pass advertisements should just feature clips of Mr. Stephenson having his way against bench units featuring players that people don’t even recognize.

Myles Turner is aware that pristine jumpers taken acres away from the goal will only keep him in the hearts of Indiana fans for so long. He had to make his 24 points something a little louder than it started as, and Turner ably became part of a pass-happy flow that Indiana could fall back on when the alleys were blocked. Thaddeus Young, at 18 points and the game-tying bucket in regulation, was often the recipient.

The highlights out of Indianapolis will show spurts, and that’s fine – it really does seem like the Pacers do live off the sort of runs that turn early 19-point leads into two-possession games by halftime.

There’s a follow-through to this team, though, and Indiana’s 12-2 mark in overtime on Sunday only adds a small dash of support to the scene.

The Pacers don’t look like they’re running through sets, that’s for the work of giants in the Bay Area, and legends down in Houston. However, Nate McMillan does have a team that looks like it plays through practice on game nights, or on game afternoons.

And practice looks fun.

Indiana: 16-11, Denver: 14-12

DINNER

After the game concluded I drove toward the old Indiana Fairgrounds, where the ABA Pacers used to play and where my kid took fourth-place all-around in a gymnastics tournament that she didn’t want me anywhere near.

We’ve got a good thing running, fist-bumps all around, which is why I decided to take her and her mother to Popeye’s for a dinner that we shouldn’t eat, partway through our drive home.

At a little after 9 PM, with the sign clearly stating that the restaurant was open until 10, the Popeye’s in the middle of Indiana was closed for the night.

Lack of interest? My family and the two gentlemen that also attempted entry at the same time were only left, in more descriptive terms, to conclude as much.

And I know you couldn’t possibly guess the name of the town.AN EMAIL CONVERSATION WITH JACK MCCALLUM ABOUT THE DOORS AND JERRY WEST

Jack McCallum is a Hall of Famer, and he does not know a great deal about the Doors or particularly enjoy the songs of theirs that he has heard save for one track.

Kelly Dwyer visited the College Football Hall of Fame at age 12, when it was in Mason, OH. This was around the time he began to sour on the Doors.

In several go-listen interviews promoting his go-read new book GOLDEN DAYS, Jack relayed an anecdote about the Doors song L.A. Woman that, as you’ll go on to read, he will forever regret.

McCallum kind of likes the song, it reminds him of when he started out as a short-sleever in the sports department and of when Jerry West and the Los Angeles Lakers seemed ready to wrest themselves from the long arms of the retired Bill Russell.

The new book even digs into new bits out West’s playing career, and his role in adding West-styled nerve to Stephen Curry’s Golden State Warriors.

With that in place, I instead emailed Jack to talk about bass players.

KD: I thought laughing down our sleeves at the Doors was a post-boomer thing, left for us cranks that had to grow up with The Big Chill. It was cool to hear you give the Lizard King his well-deserved college freshman shit before admitting that, holy cow, L.A. Woman is pretty much molten lava.

In spite of the best efforts of EVERYONE involved to ruin the song. Ray Manzarek was just Big Chill in a set of oversized glasses, madras everywhere. Morrison an obvious lout, the guitar player didn't use a pick. If I remember from the movie correctly, the drummer kinda sounded like a narc.

When they got past that shaman shit, and played white boy blues? I'm not saying every later track is great, but the last two LPs are enough to belly up to.

Does it go that far for you, or is it just LA Woman?

(this video is so dumb)

JACK: I assume by your Doors opening (look at that, a joke) you must've heard me quote the line from "Almost Famous" when the late rock critic Lester Bangs, portrayed by the equally late and more great Phillip Seymour Hoffman, lampoons a deejay who wants to play some Doors with this line: "Jim Morrison? He's a drunken buffoon."

Though Jimbo's burial – doubt he was ever called Jimbo, bet it would've pissed him off – at Pere Lachaise does provide a nice tourist stop when you go to Paris. A little cold, but he died in 1971, a few months after the release of L.A. Woman.

Morrison's father was an admiral or something like that and was involved in the Gulf of Tonkin incident that got us further into Vietnam. I was surprised that Ken Burns did not include that morsel, accompanied by a Doors track, of course, in his Vietnam doc.

Anyway, I must disagree with you about Ray Manzarek, also late. He had some nice solos and played the bass line so well that the Doors never employed a bass player, which left even more post-concert Jack for Jim.

Then again, maybe the Doors tried out a thousand bass players and they all said, "Play with Morrison? He's a drunken buffoon."

One of the last things Manzarek did was on Live From Daryl's House, Hall's continuing effort to spend an afternoon jamming with every living musician except Oates. (Just kidding; John did make a few appearances.)

Even if the Doors ultimately did not pass the critical sniff test, you had to listen to them when they first came out.  

One of the shared generational experiences you young whippersnappers will never know went like this:

The radio came on with "Light My Fire," and you started praying that they would go with the long version, which included that Manzarek psychedelic solo, but oftentimes it was the short 2:30 AM version and you started banging the steering wheel (with both hands), unaware that Spotify would later save your life. Of course, you were as old as a tree root by then.

KD: Nah man, the closest I ever got to losing an album track to the crush of commercialism was when the worry hit during the Last Days of Napster — was my "Randy Crawford feat Crusaders Street Life" mp3 download of the long, or single version?

Every kid my age has been burned. "Do It Again" without the middle eight. Rikki without the flapanda intro. Steely Dan DID NOT sing "Stuck in the Middle With You," uploader MrPras99

My memories may not be typical of most 20-year olds from the time. Keon Clark was the best thing on the NBA on NBC, it was a bad scene all around.What bugs me about the Doors' lack of a bassist is 

1. It's a bass, get a bass player.

2. How was Jim Morrison so drunk and lazy that he never played bass? 

EVERYONE plays the bass. Elvis sat around and played it, Bob Dylan played it on those stupid dorm posters that littered the parts of 2003 that I remember, and as soon as Fender gave the Beatles a truck full of free stuff during the 'Let It Be' sessions, Lennon IMMEDIATELY grabbed a six-string bass to mess with. 

It's fun to play, to hug, any UCLA kid worth his weight in resin has at least fondled a Fender P-bass at some point. I bet Bradley Nowell was great at bass and I really hope Jack McCallum has no idea who Bradley Nowell is.

The 27 Club really did take away a bunch of future bass players. Brian Jones was already starting to dick around with the bouzouki, the Forum Quorum couldn't be far behind.

JACK: I did have to Google Bradley Nowell. But not Keon Clark. I believe Keon was best known for jumping high. And being high.

Watch your comments about bassists. My brother-in-law, Donnie Kisselbach, wife Donna's little bro, is a bass player. Actually, now he's a bass player/financial advisor, a leap that, say, James Jamerson never made (you shouldn't have to Google Jamerson).

Donnie played with Edgar Winter, Rick Derringer, with a one-time flavor of the month named Fiona (Donnie's girlfriend for a long while; she made a forgettable movie with Dylan and made a forgettable appearance on "Miami Vice") and finally with the Turtles, alas, not the Turtles circa 1968 who made a shitload of money. 

Speaking of the 27 Club, we had a vinyl party a few weeks back--boy, that sounds embarrassing--and one of the albums I brought to it was Badfinger, one of whose members, Pete Ham, is a member. Loved that group.

I feel if we continue along this line, I will be continually out-hipped. Don't make me do too much Googling.

(Donnie Kisselbach rocking on the right)

KD: I swear Rick Derringer has played in more towns that I've lived in than any other entertainer and showman, and I've lived in some very small towns. God bless Rick Derringer.

Unless John Lurie shows up to take this conversation fishing, this thing was never going to be hip. I began it all trying to save the Doors, and I mean it.

All the dumb John Lee Hooker ripoffs on the second side of their last album? Line 'em up. 

Maggie M'Gill? Not bad, pretty stupid, but certainly lighter than what was happening in Bloodrock at the time. 

Queen of the Highway is sort of proto-LA Woman, a song you and I have gone on record as calling "mostly cool."

I just want to know where they would have gone, those Doors, had Jim lived and they stayed together. These guys were forever college freshmen and they wouldn't have had to play it safe because the royalties from the 60s hits were safely in turn, and they probably would have tried to make "Our New York Album" at some point.

What I'm saying is that we missed some HILARIOUS music, Jack. More so than any other loss in rock and roll history. The laughs alone would have kept Nixon from a second term!

JACK: Like most time-wasting males, I can go pretty far with the what-if game?

What if, for example, John Belushi hadn't gotten a hold of a speedball that fateful night at the Chateau Marmont? What would his comedy have been like, as say, a 50-year-old? Seinfeldian?

Would he have turned into Artie Lange? Might he have gone on to have a career more like brother Jim's, a career, incidentally, that seems to be picking up steam over the last two years for reasons that elude me. Incidentally, you can find some metal music from Belushi Speed Ball on YouTube. More time-wasting.  

But it's impossible for me to what-if the Doors. I just find no way to even consider that they would've gone on much beyond what they did. By the end, they were sometimes three musicians staring at each other curiously while Jimbo lurched around the stage. I just don't think I could see them beyond 1971. It wasn't going to happen.

I have enjoyed Googling and YouTubeing my way through Morrison and the Doors. Try and find DOORS + FINAL PERFORMANCE and a bunch of stuff comes up but always accompanied by comments that say it's a fake.

Anyway, it turns out that Harrison Ford once photographed the Doors. Maybe everyone knows this, but I did not. Here is a shot of the only time Morrison and Ford were together. Apparently. Unless it's a fake. You're welcome.

KD: Yeah, the Doors seemed even too dumb for the 60s, something had to go.

I'm forever fascinated by stuff like this, someone like Robert Palmer seemed so absolutely, awesomely typical of the 1970s for the duration of the 1970s career, and yet there are shots of him in every 80s montage Max Headroom spits out. And rightfully so.

This is why I love Jerry Krause. He didn't want to get into some Shaq vs. Wilt bullshit with MJ on the bus, he just wanted Michael to know that Sloan and West would have given him fits. In 1993. 

I love the stuff that translates. During Dwyane Wade's peak, all I saw was Jerry West. Sometimes Wade's vertical was even lower than Jerry's.   

West and Elgin were at the normal people positions of their eras, they weren't Wilt-sized but they would DESTROY even the most adept of modern defenses. 

Wilt was large enough to get on the Dean Martin dais, his game would translate in a blockier way, but in all this cross-generational talk we don't chat up enough how much Jerry West -- size of a good talk show host -- would burn in all eras. 

Even before the rules were lightened up, but especially during Jordan's era and that brief period of time when teams were allowed to put their hands all over D-Wade. 

(I think that particular "period of time" lasted a whole half a season, before David Stern put in a call.)

JACK: I think the sentence: "This is why I love Jerry Krause" has never been written before in American history.

So congrats on that. I did like Jerry, though. Two or three times I ran into him at an airport--that used to happen all the time back then before charters--and he would instantly adopt a "You didn't see me" stance, as if he were leaving on a mission to overthrow a Central American leftist government.

There is somewhat the West in Wade, though West was the better shooter and Wade the superior driver.

Among the nuggets I uncovered in GOLDEN DAYS, this was one of my favorites: Some video guys pored through hours of tape on West and could not find one single instance of him in a catch-and-shoot situation. He was the anti-Steve Kerr. He backed and backed and backed his defender down – "crab-dribbling," Geoff Petrie called it – until he got the guy in a surrender position then just went up and over on him.

Wade's performance in the 2006 Finals was as good as any I've ever seen. He basically won a game of tag against the Mavs; they could not catch him.

An editor at Vanity Fair once asked me, out of the clear blue sky, if I wanted to write something about Robert Palmer. It never materialized because Palmer didn't want to do it. I just went back and YouTubed the immortal "Addicted To Love" video.

The Palmer-ettes are absolutely frightening, as were, from what I understand, the Arnold Palmer-ettes.

This is all linked, and we’re lucky to have Jack McCallum to remind us how.

Jerry West is always at his best when up against the greats, writers included, and the discussions included in GOLDEN DAYS serve as ongoing evidence.

This has California all through it, it’s a state where the best driving is done just ahead of a clear view of the sea, and who better to tell us why than Jerry West, and Jack McCallum?