I am a human and I am a male and I was once a child so that means I used to collect sports cards. Specific sport made no difference, really. If a picture of a man was placed on cardstock, I wanted it. I even had those “Yo! MTV Raps” cards, obvs. Minus a brief period in college when I thought I’d figured out a supreme hustle*, collecting them was a hobby that I only maintained through maybe age 13, and one that I’d forgotten about completely these last few years of adulthood.
However, this past weekend, my dad, patron saint that he is, showed up with a fresh box of 2012-13 NBA Hoops trading cards. (When I asked him why he bought them, his response was a perfectly blunt, “I just did.”) He was in town to experience the birth of his new grandchild, but that all seems incidental. When I came home from the hospital and saw the cards on the kitchen table, I shrieked, tossed New Baby into the nearest receptacle, then tore through the box.
There were 11 packs in the box, each containing five cards. After I’d opened them and arranged them into order according to each individual player’s ability to give me a basketball boner (that’s how Beckett prices their worth, I believe), I constructed a super team from the group.
Getting a coach in a pack of trading cards is no less disappointing than getting an apple while trick or treating, or the 12 minutes in between pretend blowjobs on late night cable movies, but I received five coach cards in my 11 packs : Gregg Popovich, Tom Thibodeau, Scott Brooks, Alvin Gentry and Avery Johnson.
Brooks and Gentry get the axe first because Brooks looks like a guy that aggressively tried to sell me a vacuum cleaner at Best Buy once and because Gentry’s name is too close to gentrification and if you support gentrification you are a racist and one thing I don’t want to be is racist. So I’ll go Popovich for the head coach — what with him being one of the greatest coaches to ever live, and all — Thibs as an assistant to craft a hellacious defense and Avery Johnson to GTFOH. If I need my team to flame out against the Warriors in a playoff series, I’ll call Johnson.
Head Coach: Popovich
Assistant Coach: Thibodeau
GTFOH: Avery Johnson
(Note: I’d like to point out that I think Avery Johnson is capable of being a very fine coach, and I’ll always have an especially warm spot in my loins for his underdoggedness because of that 18-footer in the 1999 NBA Finals that eventually led to the Spurs celebrating their first franchise championship. But I’ll also always HATE HIM DEEPLY for leading the Mavericks past the Spurs in the 2006 playoffs. I never rooted for a team to lose so hard as I did those Mavericks against the Heat in the Finals that year. I’m almost certain my vitriol is responsible for Josh Howard calling that timeout at the end of Game 5. Anyway, point being: Fuck Avery, because I love Avery.)
I received 10 cards of players categorized as “center.” (I received a Pau Gasol card, but they have him listed at forward, which I will never agree with.) Of those 10, the best five are Dwight Howard, Joakim Noah, Roy Hibbert, Brook Lopez and Kendrick Perkins. The other five are names like “Hawes” and “Mahinmi” and some other ones that I think someone just made up as a joke to play on me.
I know that Dwight is the best of the bunch, but I’m inclined to go with Noah, mostly because I remember reading this post on TrueHoop back when the Bulls played the Celtics in 2009 about how much of a winner he is (or something). I don’t know. Oh, plus, his eyes are pretty far apart, and I’ve always appreciated the structure of hammerhead sharks, so that too. Dwight can be backup.
Starting Center: Joakim Noah
Backup Center: Dwight Howard
I received 19 cards of players categorized as “guard.” First, the most obvious mistake: There must’ve been some sort of oversight at the NBA Hoops manufacturing office, because Manu Ginobili is listed as “guard,” when he should’ve been put into the “God’s Hand” category. Anyway, so he’s definitely getting one spot. (I’ll keep him as our sixth man/fourth quarter king, since that’s when he wrecks shit the most naturally.) The second most obvious mistake: There’s no differentiation between Point Guard and Shooting Guard, so they have Rondo and Rose in there with Ronnie Brewer and Jason Richardson just the same. I’ll divvy them up proper.
Five of those 19 guys are pretty well regarded players (God’s Hand, Rondo, Rose, Wade and Harden), four are solid players that would earn regular minutes on most teams and a lot of minutes on bad teams (Kemba Walker, Brewer, Brandon Rush, Isaiah Thomas), one is a viable old guy that can occasionally still catch fire (Jason Richardson), one is an old guy that is to NBA teams what cancer is to eyeballs (Vince Carter), one is a guy that perpetually seems like he’s three or four shots per game away from being an all-star or Flip the homeless guy from “Above The Rim” (Jamal Crawford), two are guys that could go either way good or bad (Jeff Teague and Jose Calderon) and four are guys that Google doesn’t respect very much (Marcus Thornton, Jordan Crawford, Dion Waiters, Brandon Knight). Since God’s Hand can’t play ALL the positions — I mean, he probably could, but it wouldn’t be very fair to the other team — let’s set it as:
Starting Point Guard: Rajon Rondo. I need a point guard that wants to pass first. Plus, I don’t know how well Rose and his ACL are getting along.
Backup Point Guard: Derrick Rose. I actually received two Rose cards, which why I feel comfortable putting him here. I mean, if Derrick Rose One’s ACL goes out, I can just bring in Derrick Rose Two. I don’t understand why the Bulls don’t just get two Derrick Roses. Shit’s not that complicated.
Starting Shooting Guard: Dwyane Wade. No player in the NBA has a better “I Just Got Fouled And I Still Made The Basket And Goddamnit I Have A Gorgeous Life” and-one strut than Wade. Every team needs that. I like to think Jesus did something similar after he rose from the dead. He probably said, “In yo face, bitches” too. Nay, he DEFINITELY said that.
Backup Shooting Guard: Vince Cart — sike. James Harden got it.
I received 21 cards of players categorized as “forward.” One of those cards, however, is a special Scottie Pippen insert from a series called “Franchise Greats.” Since this isn’t a video game and this is all completely valid and obviously plausible (the thing about the cloned Derrick Roses notwithstanding), we’ll omit him.
Of the remaining 20, four are current or former franchise players (Carmelo, Pau, Pierce and Bosh), one is a likeable psycho whose most important contribution this season came when he appeared on “Ink Masters” (Matt Barnes), one is a guy whose name rhymes with Kismack Diyombo (Bismack Biyombo), nine are guys that are humans and like to play basketball and maybe that’s it (Mike Dunleavy, Richard Jefferson, Tyler Honeycutt – that’s a great name if you’re a piece of ham — Quincy Miller, Ersan Ilyasova, Jon Leuer, Gary Forbes — not the guy the magazine is named after, it turns out — Dante Cunningham and Trevor Booker) and five are guys that will likely have long, productive NBA careers without ever becoming stars (Ryan Anderson, Kawhi Leonard, Trevor Ariza, Evan Turner and J.J. Hickson). The picks seem pretty clear here.
Starting Small Forward: Melo. I want someone to shoot me out of at least nine games each season.
Backup Small Forward: Pierce. Anytime a guy gets stabbed a million times and doesn’t die, he’s always going to get picked. Plus, remember last year in the playoffs after he nailed that game-clinching three over LeBron and then jawed the whole way back to the bench? I need that in my life, always.
Starting Power Forward: Pau Gasol. He’s meaner than people realize, and his hair is amazing, and he has eyebrows that look like they belong to someone from a “Magic: The Gathering” card and how can you not love that? Also, I’ll just never forgive Chris Bosh for that post-championship champagne celebration.
Backup Power Forward: Chris Bosh. Because, I mean, he’s still a pretty great player.
We still have two game-time roster spots available. Let’s give one to Kawhi Leonard because he plays for the Spurs which automatically makes him smart and awesome and protected by destiny. And let’s give the other to Ryan Anderson, in part because he is the exact sort of proto-player that modern offensives need, but mostly because there aren’t any white guys on the team yet. And fuck you if you think I’m picking Mike Dunleavy.
*The supreme hustle: I’d order certified collector’s edition cards from the home shopping channel and then sell them on Ebay. I remember making a lot of money one month, then using it all to buy blow, then buying blow on consignment, then doing all of that blow instead of selling it, then the local mafia breaking both of my legs because I couldn’t pay them the money. Then they murdered me. College was weird. (Everything that follows the first sentence is a lie. Sorry.)