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Stampler Contemplates Preppiest Form of Suicide, Spurs Lose Basketball Games

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Alright, alright, let's get this over with. I don't want to do this and you don't want to be reading this, but obligations are obligations, fanships are fanships, and obsessions are obsessions. Without enduring the pain of the bad times the joy of the good times is empty, meaningless. Insert deep philosophical life-altering mumbo-jumbo here.

I'd just love to tell you all about it, but you have to clickity-click on that "continue" thingy. Oh, and find some tissues, because I have issues.

The fact of the matter is the last few days have been rather horrible for your humble tour guide to Team Awesome. I no longer have my newspaper job (oh we love what you do, but the recession and finances, you know...). My bartending job is a complete joke. We're dead every night, I'm pulling in like maybe $30 in tips per shift, and new people are going to take over the place starting tomorrow I think, make it a Mexican themed restaurant and replace me with some buxom 22 year old chica the nanosecond they get their liquor license.

Lately I've been supporting myself financially by winning gobs (relatively, for me) of scrilla by playing poker against Manolis' parents and some of their friends. I'm not at all a good player, but I've done okay at these games because everyone else around me is a lot wealthier, a lot less... nuanced, let's say, about some of the basic statistical principles of the games, and these crazy Greeks have some mental imbalance where they think folding a hand makes them look frail and weak. They say they don't care about the money, that they stay in almost every hand because it's fun, but I fail to see how anyone could find any joy in losing two or three hundred bones a night to a bum like me. I'm going to miss these games when they're gone.

Anyway, gambling for a living is a soulless existence, just as much as slinging beers to unscrupulous, conscienceless alcoholics. You're not happy as much as relieved when you win, because it means you haven't lost. I guess Pop feels that way a lot. Anyway, like I said, bartending isn't anymore spiritually rewarding. I'm basically a drug dealer. I'm selling poison to sick people. I have a customer who claims to make over six figures at his job, yet every time I leave my station to tend to some other matter (like processing his credit card for example) he reaches over the bar and pours himself free beer. This man calls himself my friend but openly steals from me and talks shit about me behind my back virtually every day. He tells my girlfriend she can do way better than me. Another good customer of ours, who let the first gentlemen refill his glass while he was back there, told Manoli and I how guilty and awful he felt afterward. He said he was so ashamed with himself.

And then literally a half hour later he asked me for his "halfer," where I refill his glass halfway before he leaves as a thank you for his generous tipping throughout the night. I wish I could write fiction this well.

But wait... there's more!

I'm uh... single again, I guess (like any self-respecting sports blogger should be, right?). It wasn't me, it was her, she said. And I believe her, because she's the kind of insane chick where something like dumping your boyfriend on a random whim is just another "thing that happened on Tuesday." Maybe her therapist told her to do it. Or maybe the guy at the bar. It doesn't much matter. I'm not even upset we're not together anymore. She was way too unstable for me ever to get too emotionally invested. I'm just upset I got lied to a bunch. Nothing pisses me off more than getting lied to. Also, I have to tell my mom now that she won't be going on the big July family trip to Mexico, so cancel her ticket. My sister will have her boyfriend there. My mom will have her boyfriend there. And I'll be the single loser. That sounds awesome. At least I'll have all those happy memories of Manu kicking ass in the '09 Finals just a month ago to comfort me, right? Right?

Also, just to add the cherry on the misery sundae, I found out midweek that my Eagles Brian Dawkins jersey is now, officially, a throwback. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. The miserly Eagles never re-sign anyone over 30, and obviously Dawkins was declining to the point that he couldn't even cover tight ends anymore, but still, this hurts. It'd be one thing if we had a youngster waiting in the wings who was ready to take over, but really, I'm skeptical that Quintin Demps is that guy. I certainly wasn't impressed with him as a rook.

The Eagles front office and all their spin doctors of course trotted out the argument that every free agent they let go always played like crap for their new team. I have no doubt whatsoever that trend will continue with Dawkins. He's going to stink out there. My counterargument, however, is that it's silly to assume that just because a player stinks on a new team that he would have been just as bad on his old team. With Philly Dawkins knew the scheme, his teammates, his divisional and conference opponents, and he felt a sense of obligation to everyone in the organization and to the fans who loved him to play as well as he possibly could. The coaches did the best to maximize his strengths and hide, as best they could, his weaknesses. No matter how "done" Dawkins is, he'd have played better in '09 with the Eagles than anyone else. In Denver nobody will know him, nobody will know how to use him properly and he won't have any built in goodwill from the fans, who'll surely be expecting like a half dozen picks and sacks each from the highest paid safety in the NFL. They'll be booing him and lamenting his signing by October. It's a lose-lose for both sides.

So yeah, that's been my past week, and we haven't gotten into the Spurs. Cue the depressed preppy white boy anthem:

I'm well known at the bar for my eclectic taste in music.

Adam's Song by Blink 182 (via minicle202)

I don't really understand why all these bad things are happening to me. Clearly the Flying Spaghetti Monster is displeased with me, but I don't think I've been a sinful Pastafarian or anything. I have been eating a lot of pasta lately at this Italian place, It's Italia, close to where I work. Is that what's upsetting HIM? Am I not supposed to do this? I mean, in Christianity, it's good to eat bread and drink wine and doing these things honors Jesus, right? Does Pastafarianism work differently? Anyone? Bueller?

Forgive my trespass oh noodly one. Ramen.

Cavaliers 97, Spurs 86

The LeBron James-Michael Finley matchup didn't work out nearly as well as Wayne predicted it would and the game was essentially over shortly after halftime after LeNike canned three straight threes in a span of 1:10 to stretch Cleveland's lead to 15.

It wasn't at all surprising that we lost to these guys without Timmy or Manu or that James went off against Finley and Udoka. What was surprising however, is that Pop never gave Bruce the chance to sic him. What was that about? Is this more bullshit big picture psychology, where on the off chance we face these guys in the Finals we don't want LBJ to have any film on Bowen? It was the latest example of Pop making a strategic decision that runs directly counter to conventional wisdom. In fact, we need a new term for the phenomenon: Non-strategy.

Non-strategy, as Powell alluded to in his latest rant, is Pop playing guys like Fatality, the Hooligan, Fab, and the JV over Hill, Hairston and PMB 20+ minutes in a game the team has no chance of winning. Non-strategy is throwing a game against the psychologically fragile Moonmen when two of the big three could've suited up. Non-strategy is giving Findog 25+ mins night after night after night, then wondering why he's completely shot by the playoffs.

Look, I don't think our four game winning streak and the two home wins over Dallas and Portland where Tony played bareass nekkid were a mirage. I really do think we're as much of a contender as anyone else (even the Lakers have been very blah of late). But a depleted roster can only play above its head for so long, and Pop badly, BADLY mishandled the Cleveland game. He had to know that Tony, Thomas, Bonner and everyone else were running on fumes. He had to know another miracle wasn't in the offing against a pissed off Cavs team and James coming into town for a nationally televised game after an off-night at Houston.

To me, given the situation with Duncan, Pop had two logical options:

A) Even though the doctors cleared him, give Timmy one more game off, and since you know Tony and the other veterans are dragging, bench them as well and completely throw the game to Cleveland, giving Hill, Hairston and PMB heavy minutes. Everyone is fresh and ready to go at Portland.

B) The doctors have cleared Timmy, and you know the second he comes back everyone else will relax too much and expect him to carry them, so throw him out there to work the rust off and take your lumps with the inevitable blowout. Now Timmy will be angry and in game shape and everyone will be focused on the Portland game.

Naturally, he chose

C) Rest Timmy even though the doctors cleared him, play Tony and the other vets and expect them to keep playing out of their minds for the third straight game against an angry and determined Cleveland team, and then welcome Tim back with open arms at Portland.

Given that Tim was a game time decision and that he was a full participant in the morning shoot-around, I think the guys expected him to be out there and were deflated when they learned he wouldn't be. They just had nothing to begin the game. No energy, no spirit. Not only was Tony completely out of gas (I texted Powell that I'm getting very tired of watching him suck game after game and he responded that he's watching "30 Rock") but none of the bigs were protecting the paint or rebounding. I can't believe the box score says that the Cavs had "only" 15 offensive rebounds. I swear watching live it seemed like twice that.

When Finley's our best starter, we're in big trouble. Tony finished 3-of-16 and Rocket was -31. Nobody on the bench did much better, as exemplified by Fatality's 0-of-7 outing. Yet he finished a team best +17. I bet the Rockets' GM would love him. Like Shane Battier, he makes everyone around him better! (BECAUSE THEY ALREADY ARE).

The obvious bright spots and topics of discussion afterward were the youngsters, Malik Hairston and especially Pops Mensah-Bonsu. Both of them, to me, are fairly similar. Guys who go to the basket and get offensive rebounds and jump high and bring energy on defense, and who've got a ways to go on defense. While I enjoyed watching both play, I'm not going to whip myself to a lather for either one for the moment.

I don't see either gentleman cracking our playoff rotation. While both of them are great offensive rebounders, they look to be, for now, rather average defensive rebounders. That's not a good way to win Pop's affection. He doesn't care at all about offensive rebounding, preferring instead for everybody to run back and prevent easy transition buckets. He is obsessive about defensive boards though, and if a rookie has an indifferent attitude toward procuring them, he's not going to play. Also, in Hairston's case, he has no jumpshot at all and for a swingman in Pop's system, that's simply not going to fly. You have to be able to stick the three in this offense as a wing player, even if you can only do it from the corner. And PMB would have to be a lot more attentive about his defensive rotations and a lot less attentive about his press clippings to get real minutes.

For Cleveland, the guy who stood out to me was Delonte West, looking malnourished as ever. What nickname do you prefer for him, The Jaundiced Jumper or Captain Scurvy? I never thought much of the guy in Boston. He was a decent defender, but not much else. Now though he is hitting his threes at a 40% clip, and thanks to his haircut he's found a way to make himself even less attractive somehow. Also, Daniel "Boobie" Gibson now has a star shaved into the side of his head, and Sideshow Bob you already know about. If they acquire Drew Gooden, as rumored, he and his beard would fit right in.

James was impressive though, and I can't fathom how anyone, even Bruce, can guard the guy. He's like the Shaq of small forwards, too big, too fast, too strong, and he must be doubled at all times. He does have a weakness though: His neurotic, borderline-psychotic obsession with his fingernails. There isn't a woman alive more concerned about how her nails look than James is. Every time he goes to the bench, he brings out his gold nail clippers and gives himself a "manny." If I was guarding him - and I'm being dead serious here - I would totally try to get into his head about his manicuring OCD.

Me: "Hey LeBron, nice move back there man."

LBJ: "Uh, thanks."

Me: "I gotta ask you though, when you dunked, did you scrape your hands on the rim or something?"

LBJ: "I don't think so. Why, am I bleeding or something?"

Me: "Naw man, it's your nails. Have you seen them? They're absolutely filthy.."

I swear he would look at his hands and immediately signal to Mike Brown to make a substitution. It would completely unnerve him.

09manicurist_medium

Forget about the game LeBron, Amy said you're next in line!

Or, you know, we can just try putting Udoka on him again. That might work.

Trail Blazers 102, Spurs 84

Compared to this boat race, the Cavs game was a positive nail-biter (no LeBron pun intended). The Blazers throttled us from the opening tip and brought their "A" game in every facet. Brandon Roy couldn't miss and LaMarcus Aldridge did what LaMarcus Aldridge always does at home against us: Turn into Dirk Nowitzki with a suntan. I swear there can't be another team in the NBA who has so many tall guys who can shoot. Even "Dewey" Blake held his own against Tony.

Now I'm not a basketball expert. Obviously. I don't know how anyone who's read this blog for any decent length of time could possibly reach a different conclusion. That being said though, I think I have a theory as to why we played so poorly.

See, Timmeh thought that he could kind of ease his way back into the lineup and not be expected to carry the burden because Tony and the fellas were playing so well without him. Sounds reasonable, right?

Yeah, except the rest of the guys, mentally fried and physically exhausted from having to play without their top two players, saw Timmy in his uniform and collectively thought to themselves, "Phew, el jefe is back! It'll be fun to sit back and watch the big guy kick ass."

You see, it was all one big misunderstanding, like that one episode of "Three's Company" where Jack thought he heard his girlfriend say she was going to cheat on him with his two female roommates, Janet and Chrissy, only to discover in the end what she actually said was that she was going to cheat on him with his best friend Larry and his landlord, Mr. Furley. Boy was Jack's face red!

In our case, the misunderstanding caused us to lose a game in rather embarrassing fashion as we were hopelessly behind midway through the second quarter. Fucking HILARIOUS.

09threescompany_medium

Not only is this my mother's all-time favorite TV show, but it's also pretty much what happens whenever Manu starts a game with Tony and Tim. Holy shit! I just realized that Manu is the Joyce DeWitt of the offense. Now I'm even more depressed.

The only other noteworthy aspect of the game (for me anyway) were the Blazers annoying announcers, who somehow managed to be maniacal, whiny homers, yet bizarrely reverential of the Spurs at the same time. I know Portland hasn't made the playoffs in like five seasons, but they acted like their team were the biggest underdogs in the history of sport and that we were more menacing than the 1980 USSR Olympic hockey team (I think those guys have better Q ratings than the Spurs).

The halftime score was Blazers 64, Spurs 37, and these guys still acted like the Spurs were one good three minute run away from making it a game. Now I've watched the Spurs a long time. We could've brought out the '03 Duncan, the '05 Manu and '07 Finals Parker for the second half and the Spurs still wouldn't have come back and won this game. But these dipshits were still incredulous at every 50-50 call by the refs, castigating Fab for his "South American flopping" and calling Timmy a "seven foot whiner" (if only!).

For those of you watching other feeds, this sequence pretty much encapsulates the evening's broadcast.

[Pop pulls Tony and inserts Hill with 3:34 to go in the second quarter, the score at the time 54-30].

[Thirty seconds pass].

Dipshit announcer: "You gotta watch out now for Parker. With just three minutes to go til half, this is when he really looks to take over the game."

[Thirty more seconds pass].

Dipshit announcer: "Oh, Parker's on the bench. That's the rookie, George Hill out there."

Dipshit color guy: "Now where did he go to school again?"

Even worse, by around the 6:00 mark of the fourth, when it finally dawned on these two geniuses that the hometown team would indeed somehow be able to withstand that furious Spurs comeback, they started getting cocky and openly taunting us.

"Oh look, there's Pop again, grousing to the refs. What else is new?"

Games like this, I really wish we had Manu....

[Editor's Note: Coming tomorrow: Clippers recap. Spurs won so everything's all better now, hooray!"]