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How To Fix The NBA’s Three-Point “Crisis”

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - JANUARY 20: Trae Young #11 of the Atlanta Hawks reacts after hitting a three-point basket in the final seconds of their 123-115 win over the Detroit Pistons during overtime at State Farm Arena on January 20, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Time for your weekly edition of the Defector Funbag. Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag. And buy Drew’s novel, Point B, while you’re at it. Today, we’re talking about ALL CAPS, leftovers, ESPN, how kids fuck with your head, and more.

Your letters:

Paul:

Why is the NBA still enforcing the rule that you have to take the ball out after a made basket? Wouldn’t the game be faster and more exciting if they just allowed the opposing team to take it out of the net and go? It’s not like college where teams can run full-court press and can create turnovers. FWIW – I actually emailed Adam Silver three years ago about this and got a response (probably from a low-level intern, but I choose to believe it was really him). He said “creating a faster pace of play is always something we look at and we will keep it in mind.”

You can’t do that because you’d have to create an annoying, golf-style honor system where the team that just made the basket has to LET the other team take it out of the net. None of the YMCA-brained players (every NBA team has at least one such player) lingering on the court would ever obey that edict. That’s why you have to go through the whole song-and-dance of taking the ball out. The cost of this? A whopping two extra seconds on every made possession.

And honestly, how much faster and more exciting does the NBA need to be? I grew up with ’90s NBA basketball, man. Even with Michael Jordan around, every game ended 89-83. It fucking sucked. By contrast, today’s NBA features ACTUAL scoring. It’s been a while since I’ve watched an NBA game and been like, “You know what? They really gotta slow this down. DEFENSE WINS CHAMPEENSHIPS DURRRRR.” Nobody wants that shit.

(Stephen A. voice) BUT … there are other issues that the NBA does have to address. A trio of NBA coaches and execs talked to Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN last week about the proliferation of three-pointer-exclusive offenses. The sources in that article—Dwane Casey, Rick Carlisle, and Daryl Morey—all make fine points about how exploiting the three-pointer has essentially broken the game.

“It often looks like no defense is being played,” Casey said. “But when there are four shooters on the floor and a big man at the dunker [spot], spacing is inflated and a defense is stretched to its limit. Guys are working, but it’s impossible to cover that much ground against NBA speed, quickness and power.”

Now there’s a whole economy of basketblogging discourse to be had from this debate. Outside of the league’s pandemic shuffling, it may even end up being The Theme Of The Season. I have no doubt you’ll encounter some of that three-point discourse on this very site in the near future. But I’m with my colleague Tom Ley in believing that the biggest problem right now isn’t how the NBA is using and/or defending threes, but how the NBA is officiating them. James Harden perfected flailing behind the arc to draw a cheap foul. But he’s got plenty of imitators in his wake, and THAT makes for shitty, awful television. That ruins the pace of play far more than how the league conducts all of its inbounds procedures.

But I have a solution, which I also stole from my boss. All the NBA has to do, at least for now, is tell its refs to stop calling that shit. [Football guy voice] Let them play. Not TOO much. You can’t let every guard get mugged on every fucking three attempt. But if I know when a foul is ticky-tack, so do the refs. That’s what makes those fouls SO FUCKING ANNOYING. Adam Silver has it well within his power to tweak the officiating so that I don’t have to watch Trae Young pull a Dwyane Wade 40 feet from the basket every time he comes down the floor. But Silver would rather just play the “I’m not an asshole like David Stern was!” card for the rest of his stupid career. I’m gonna photoshop bad toupees onto every photo of him.

Darrel:

If you were suddenly thrust back to 2019, with full knowledge of the COVID pandemic approaching, would you do anything differently? I’m not talking about anything like hoarding N95s or trying to issue a warning (which would be pointless, people don’t even care now). Just given a long lead up in “normal” times, would you move to New Zealand? Buy a mountain cabin? Take one final trip to before quarantine? I think it would’ve moved up the trip to Europe we were planning for last summer, bought the chest freezer, and taken my daughter to Disneyland.

I also had a family Europe trip scuttled by the pandemic, so I would have moved that up and frozen my ass off in Paris for the week of Thanksgiving 2019. I also would have done the following:

  • Purchased Gamestop stock well in advance
  • Laid a big futures bet on the Bucs
  • Stocked up on toilet paper, paper towels, and wipes
  • Avoided the whole breadmaking thing. Making bread was fucking annoying
  • Started making my own pasta earlier
  • Worn a mask right at the beginning of the pandemic
  • Not wiped down groceries
  • Not ordered Peapod for months on end because I was terrified of going to the actual grocery store

Mostly though, I would have chilled the fuck out, comfortable in the knowledge that the pandemic was gonna end much sooner than I originally expected. You and I knew so, so little when all this started. It took months for all the good information to coalesce into something resembling proper COVID etiquette, and that information still had to fight through a fucking ocean of lies and outright denial to make its way to people like me.

So it would have been better, for my general sanity, to go into the pandemic knowing how to keep myself and my family safe while still doing SOME things, knowing vaccines were on the way, and knowing Trump would fucking lose. All of that would have greatly improved my mental outlook to this past year, much more so than, like, hoarding all the Purell and selling it on the black market at a 500 percent markup.

Pete:

Long time reader, first time questioner. I have been searching in vain for the ALL CAPS STYLEBOOK so I would like to understand how YOU approach this crucial component. Do you write everything first, then go back? Or do you have an idea what you plan to capitalize and craft the rest of the sentences around that? Is there a limit on how many words in a given sentence can or should be in CAPS? Are you now “addicted” to the use of CAPS and can’t imagine writing a post WITHOUT them?

I started using all caps because I was too lazy to enter the italics HTML code in my earliest blog posts, when you had to use that code to do it. After a while, it became my thing, and now I just do it because occasional all caps are a hallmark of The Magary Voice. They let you know I’m shouting at you.

I just went through the copy-edit stage on book No. 6 (which comes out in October), and the copyeditor changed the all caps in the manuscript to italics, because that’s more in line with tradition. But since all caps are now my THING, I stet-ed about half of them, but not at random. In fact, for those edits, I created an all-caps style guide of my own, a full decade after I should have done so. Here’s what I told my editor:

If I needed just basic emphasis, I kept the itals. BUT, if I wanted a comedic or melodramatic flourish, I went back to all caps.

Did I violate my own style guide in that very email? I did. Did I also stet too many all caps, because my idea of what makes an all caps moment funny is VASTLY different from someone else’s? Yes. But look, this is a book. Books are very fancy and formal. Concessions must occasionally be made. Outside of books, I’m still gonna all caps my shit way too often, because I’m a hack. I’m addicted to the OOMPH.

Ian:

Let’s say Brady’s career went exactly as it did BUT he lost every Super Bowl he played in until this year. 0-9. Would he still be in the league going for #10 with a new team, or would he have retired out of frustration long ago?

He wouldn’t have made it to nine Super Bowls if he had lost the first, like, four of them. Losing four straight Super Bowls broke the Buffalo Bills franchise until THIS year, 26 years after the fact. And that’s a whole franchise we’re talking about. Natural turnover among players and coaches should have nullified the psychological impact of Norwood ages ago. You could argue that the Bills’ run of futility was just the byproduct of shitty luck and even worse ownership. And I don’t like ascribing mystical qualities to any of this. You end up with takes like this when you do that. But I also believe that if Norwood makes that kick in 1991, the Bills don’t lose the next three titles, and they don’t spend the ensuing two decades tumbling around like a fucking drunk in a nightclub bathroom. There are tangible, concrete ways in which the impact of losing lasts well beyond the loss itself. Any coach or athlete would tell you the same thing.

So if Brady lost every goddamn Super Bowl he ever played in, he might not be the sunny deathbot he currently is at the moment. I know he endured three painful (and therefore very fun for me) Super Bowl losses, but he already had enough rings in his back pocket to make up the difference for those. You NEED some proof that what you’re doing is working in order to keep on doing your work confidently. Otherwise, you’re gonna either give up or just go insane. Tom Brady wouldn’t be the same player without a title to his name. Who would be?

Grippy:

This weekend I found a raw pork tenderloin that had been marinating for a week in my fridge. I prepped two last weekend and forgot one was still in there. So I cooked it last night. If I hadn’t, I would have thought about tossing it out this week. But I made a pork and fried rice dish and had a lot of leftovers. This means the countdown timer on when the pork is too old to eat gets reset to zero, right? Is it normal behavior to think food gets expiration forgiveness just because you changed its form? Let’s say another week goes by and I still have those leftovers. Maybe I throw them out, or just maybe I make a banh mi sandwich and boom, the timer gets reset yet again; it’s like I just brought it home fresh from the market yesterday!

Yeah you’re eligible to file for an extension on the expiration date if you’ve COOKED the thing that was about to expire. The cooking gets rid of all the nasty shit! That’s basic chemistry. My wife does not necessarily agree with this. My wife loves throwing out food more than Whole Foods does. So if she sees cooked chicken in the fridge, she throws on her deerstalker cap and traces the chicken’s origins all the way back to the date of purchase. “We cooked this three days ago… but we BOUGHT it a week ago. Oh, that’s not good.” BOOM. Into the trash it goes, regardless of my cross-examination. But as far as I’m concerned, if the food smells fine, it IS fine. Expiration dates are mere suggestions to me. And if I cook whatever I bought, that buys me at least another week until visible fungi begin to form on my used stir fry.

The cooking is the last extension the food is eligible for, though. If you toss leftover, cooked pork into a sandwich, it’s still the same pork. You have to cook it AGAIN to make it work. And that, dear Grippy, is where the soup phase of your pork journey begins.

HALFTIME!

Michael:

Your story about your dad yelling at you for eating the furniture unlocked a memory. When I was around ten years old, my parents absolutely laid into me and my two sisters about the bushes in our yard. Apparently they got fucked up over the winter, and after the snow melted, my parents saw them and decided to blame us. I have never seen them more angry. It didn’t make any sense for us kids to ruin the bushes (is this a common fun activity? Who knows!). We pleaded and told them the dogs must’ve done it, but to no avail. Now I’m an adult and of course my parents have no recollection of this happening. I don’t have any kids, so I’m wondering if you can shed some insight into why parents just decide something must be true and yell at their kids about it, even if it’s absurd? The bushes weren’t even that nice! I’m still bitter about this.

It’s because your kids fuck with your head. I know because I have three kids of my own and my mind has been annihilated by them. I have been lied to by my children. Many times. They’ve broken shit. They’ve eaten things they weren’t supposed to eat. They’ve gone places they’re not supposed to go. At times, they have done this flagrantly. Other times, they leave enough evidence behind to make even Rudy Giuliani aghast at their sloppy handiwork. If something goes wrong in this house, the analytics say that the children almost certainly ARE at fault.

But that doesn’t mean they always are. I have absolutely accused my kids of doing something they didn’t do, then yelled at them for it, then been presented with evidence they did NOT do the thing in question, and then sheepishly apologized. But really, how can you blame me for blaming them? They have the rap sheet, dammit. I’ve been burned more often than I’ve burned them.

Case in point: Last summer, I saw some weird Apple store charges on my bill and asked the 15-year-old, “Hey, you know anything about this?” And she said, “No.” Convincingly. She goes Method when she lies. It’s really impressive if you don’t happen to be one of her parents. Anyway, I went to Apple customer service and said, “Hey man, I never paid for any of this shit,” and then the Apple chat lady said, “Actually, you did” and gave me the receipts, all linked back to the girl’s phone. Literal receipts.

So I stormed back to her room and I screamed at her. Real screaming. I said YOU LIAR, with many an F-bomb included in the tirade. She apologized and paid off the money to square us. But once your kid successfully hoodwinks you like that, you find yourself as the lead protagonist in the world’s most boring Hitchcock film. Who do you believe? What do you believe? What even IS reality? I’ve had moments since then where I’ve blamed the girl for shit she didn’t do, and other times where she’s totally fooled me all over again. But all I can do when something goes wrong is make an educated guess as to the culprit, and it’s usually the person who’s left their fingerprints all over shit before.

This is all part of the natural parenting dance: You try to establish firm boundaries and your kids, being kids, test those boundaries every chance they get. You will lose your goddamn mind trying to keep those boundaries defined, let alone enforced. But I’m improving. A little. A while back, I asked my daughter for her laptop because it was no-screens time, and she said she didn’t have it. Then I looked under her pillow and HEY PRESTO! There ‘twas. But instead of getting mad and screaming, I just laughed and said, “Nice try,” and then she laughed along with me. Truly, you must hate the game and not the player.

Jonathan:

My boss is making us do this Tony Robbins’ business training, and as you would imagine, it really sucks. I never cheated on tests or homework growing up, but I just typed “Tony Robbins homework crib notes” into Google. I can’t find anything. This is an untapped market, no? Crib notes for business training bullshit. 

My guess is that Tony Robbins, a known shitbag, is pretty litigious when it comes to people trying to sell abridged versions of his work. And really, how could any layman replicate the emotional impact you get from the real deal? Here’s a piece of sales copy from Robbins’s website. All the bolded parts here were bolded by me:

During this six-month business workshop, you and your team will receive business training in each of Tony Robbins’ six core business competencies. Each month, your trainer will delve into each of these six topics: emotional mastery, hiring and training your ideal team, Tony’s five-step sales growth roadmap, maximizing your team’s time, efficiency and productivity, your organization’s optimal workflow and Tony’s 7 Steps to Effective Leadership.

Got all that? In order to become a Supreme Business Leader, you have to master Tony’s six core competencies, two of which come in 12 separate parts. Pretty clear why ACCOUNTING is not one of the competencies.

Anyway, all of these gurus (Robbins’s website says Harvard lists him among the Top 200 business gurus! WHAT AN HONOR) need their names to be on everything: books, seminars, team bonding rodeos, etc. That phony baloney personal branding is all Robbins has. He can’t dilute that brand without the whole scam falling apart.

The worst part is that Robbins is talented enough—if talented is the weight word—at making the protection of his brand contagious. Your boss is making you do that training because he’s bought into Robbins’s cult of personality. So if you use cribbed notes, then he (gonna assume your boss is a guy here, because making people endure Tony Robbins is a guy move) will sniff out your treachery and castigate you for not getting the material from Mister Toothy himself. All of these dickheads take attendance as seriously as a fucking school principal does. It’s the worst.

Your only way out is to quit your job and start a company of your own. Now, the way you do this is by purchasing Co-op Models And You: a 12-part business initiative package from defector.com that comes on 17 gorgeous, hand-printed CDs. It’s available at the Defector Store right now for just $799. Offer not valid in Oregon.

Jamoosh:

Has ESPN unwittingly modeled themselves after a struggling NFL team? They jettison their top talent once their “rookie” (team/company friendly) contract is up. They offend, muzzle, and/or dump their most beloved team members for reflecting the communities and people who follow them. Half their starters would ride the bench at a different network and the other half are negotiating in private with another media company because they see the writing on the wall. Mediocrity is good enough because finishing 8-8 has enough feel-good moments to provide hope for the future. Diversity is something to pay lip service to as long as those diverse voices are in lockstep with the company’s whitewashed, cultivated image. Or is ESPN becoming just another dumpster fire?

Every NFL team is so reliably profitable that it CAN’T struggle, no matter how hard the Texans might try to. That’s different from 2021 ESPN, which has been hemorrhaging money for years now, in no small part to the insane rights fees that it pays TO the NFL, and will keep paying to the NFL once the league re-ups all of its TV agreements and Jerry Jones shuts off the water supply to Dallas–Fort Worth to celebrate the occasion.

ESPN, led by a blind bat in Jimmy Pitaro, has adopted a lot of the NFL’s worst practices, just as you outlined. That’s certainly the reason Dan Le Batard bolted right at the New Year. The difference is that the NFL can afford to fuck up like this over and over again, because the money never stops coming. But ESPN is now locked in a death spiral where Pitaro believes that the best way to mitigate the network’s losses is to keep doing shit that makes ESPN even less appealing to both its viewers and its employees.

There was a time when ESPN could get away with being like this. When the network began, it operated exclusively out of Bristol, Conn., which is an absolute shithole. They favored developing talent rather than importing expensive names, and they never let any of their homegrown stars forget who made them. Anyone who left ESPN risked jettisoning the brand name that made them. This is still the case, and it’s not a secret. Bomani Jones spelled it out for me plainly two years ago:

“ESPN definitely believes that what they give you along with the paycheck is the ability to work at ESPN. I’ve been through enough negotiations to know this.”

And I’ve seen enough former ESPNers get cast out and have their careers founder to know why the four-letter continues to operate like it’s still 1994. But you can’t run a joint like this when you’re paying a billion dollars a year for the NFL and you’re charging cable companies a carriage fee that TRIPLES the second biggest carriage fee.

The only reason I have cable right now is because of Sunday Ticket and ESPN. ESPN has a lot of games, but they add NOTHING of value to them because they don’t want to, and they don’t feel like they have to. That’s how you end up with the editorial side of the company gutted by layoffs, an MNF broadcast that changes announcers every five minutes, and a wall of off-game programming that’s barely distinguishable from one half-hour block to the next. When you’re an upstart cable network, you can cut corners everywhere and have it be part of your mythical origin story. You can also get away with if you’re an NFL team profiting off its own bullshit underdog status.

But when you’re a billion-dollar subsidiary of Disney run by a reactionary dickhead? Well now, eventually the bill is gonna come due. I hope Pitaro’s next job is selling self-help books at a little card table stationed outside a Tony Robbins speaking engagement.

Email of the week!

Claire:

My husband and I are expecting our first child in May. It’s a boy. We’d both agreed not to give him the same name as any of our relatives, friends, co-workers, etc. We also said that we could each veto names we did not care for. We were considering a handful of names but then my husband was suddenly struck by inspiration. He wants to name our son Duncan. Apart from me having a high school coach I didn’t particularly care for with that name, I wouldn’t have strong objections.

However, my husband is a Dunkin Donuts superfan. We don’t have many where we live. He will drive miles out of his way, will sit in the sometimes endless drive-thru line and has to backtrack in his commute to get their coffee and donuts. He has Dunkin Donuts t-shirts, drinkware, sunglasses, beach towels, Christmas ornaments and other trinkets. His family often sends him DD gift cards for Christmas and birthdays, so I know they are all aware of his predilection.

At first I thought he was joking but it soon became clear that he’s serious. I told him I don’t want our baby named after a brand. He said it’s not like Sony Michel where the spelling is the same. He said no one would make the connection but I pointed out that his entire family would. He doesn’t think that would be a big deal. But I do! It would be one thing if a name he liked just so happened to be the same as a brand but I know he wants to do it in honor of the coffee he drinks. We are currently at a standstill as he doesn’t like any of my suggestions as much as his idea. What should I do?

Agree to his terms. And then, when he’s not looking, fill out the name TIM HORTON on the birth certificate. MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA SUCK ON THAT, DONUT BOY!