In addition to the many wins, losses and plays of note, this week’s NBA news cycle also featured a Beef between irritable two older men. Mark Jackson was on TV, where he said, “Hey, everyone said Melo was bad at defense, but actually he’s not.” This statement, probably incorrect, so Van Gundy said man what are you talking about, then Jackson said hey you know who we can blame for this, then are his coaches, who didn’t motivate him enough. It was a facile argument, made for reasons that have nothing to do with the game at hand and everything to do with obscure axes that Jackson has decided to grind on national television.
Sitting at home, apparently in his cups, one of Carmelo’s former coaches responded on Twitter to this thing that wasn’t really about him
Jackson replied to this mostly-unprompted-but-also-not-totally-untrue attack with a classic “This wasn’t really about you actually but also fuck you buddy, God bless:”
And the Wheel in the Sky kept turning, man was enraptured by nature’s majesty, children were born, the elderly passed from this world, jumps shots hit back iron, trees burned, their ashes fed the next generation, a sparrow ate a worm and used its body’s innate energy to perform the miracle of flight.
Here’s the thing about this fight, as it applies to me, personally: I can’t pick a side, because both of these dudes are haunting my mind, inflecting their weird neuroses on me day and night, tormenting me with their very personhood.
For the last few weeks, I have been appearing on the Roundball Rock Patreon, reading and discussing Big Karl’s 2017 Memoir, “Furious George: My Forty Years Surviving NBA Divas, Clueless GMs, and Poor Shot Selection.” It is one of the most harrowing documents of personal dysfunction I have ever read. George Karl is a man so unsympathetic, so dominated by his own neuroses, so totally unable to get along with anyone, that his best friend in his profession is literally Rick Marjerus. When he takes a second to muse on Rick’s fatal flaw, instead of saying “He was a gigantic asshole,” he says “He spent too much time abusing buffets.” It is a catalog of one dude’s war with everyone he ever worked with and his tragic inability to modulate his behavior to accommodate anyone’s feelings but his own written, Lolita style, by a guy who has absolutely no awareness of how his own profoundly toxic behavior contributed to his various downfalls.
There’s a part in the book (I am NOT looking it up to quote it, you can’t make me) where Karl talks about Phil Jackson, who is, in his own mind, his greatest and most hated rival, even though Phil beat Karl’s ass every chance they got. Karl says yeah, Phil Jackson liked to coddle his players, pay attention to their feelings, but not me, bay-bee, Georgie Porgie don’t roll that way. At no point does he take a second to wonder aloud if, hey, maybe the fact that Phil saw himself as a manager of people and not a grand tactician at war with his obstinate soldiers might have contributed to his success. It drives you insane.
But Mark Jackson is somehow even worse. Because, look, I read Karl’s book of my own volition. I made this deal with the devil, and I have to pay, and I can accept that. But I never told ESPN or ANYONE to subject me to the JaxMan’s thoughts on the Big Game every second night or so, to be beholden to that dude’s toxic, weird personality, night after night, year after year, decade after decade.
People reading this, familiar with my opinions, might recall my various defenses of Reggie Miller’s work as a commentator on Twitter and elsewhere. Some people say, Hey Corbin, you’re right and Reggie, and you know what? I am. Some people, though, are joyless pedants who only want Nate Duncan and Danny LeRoux to call games, evaluating shot values and flattering their intellect by saying things they agree with.
Because, look, even if Reggie says weird stuff, he’s a pleasure to be around. He says something goofy and weird, you can rag on him online for it, then get back to the game. It’s fine. It’s nice.
Mark, on the other hand, sticks you in prison with him and the JeffMan, railing against whatever in the game has annoyed him, flattering the Carmelo Anthonies of the world by drastically minimizing their malfeasance, egging Van Gundy onto one of his tedious hobby horses (The kind Jeff mostly doesn’t indulge when he works alone, where he’s mostly good at his job), loosely utilizing whatever is happening on the court to defend his ignoble tenure with the Golden State Warriors. Mark Jackson is the private health insurance of NBA announcers: sucks, everyone hates it, millenials want to replace him, he’s inordinately expensive while not doing its job effectively in any meaningful way, but it will never end.
There’s only one way out: someone has to hire this guy to be their coach. The man is THIRSTING for another set of janky anecdotes to use in future game calls, and the only way to get the juice is to put on the polo and bring the thunder to the lives of young men. I am sorry to whatever fanbase will be subjected to his retrograde offense, tedious postgame interviews, weird stories about how players who are injured might be rooting against the team and doing faith healing on injured ligaments. But someone has to take the bullet on this and deliver us from the dull fire we’re all subjected to during every goddamn NBA Finals.
And so, I will address the best teams for Jackson to do something other than call games for. You’re welcome, unless it’s your team, in which case, I thank you for your sacrifice for the greater good.
PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: As I write this, the Sixers are getting swept by the Boston Celtics. Someone’s head will have to roll, and it probably won’t be the players the front office so bravely Processed for, so it stands to reason that Brett Brown is not long for this world. The team has had a lot of trouble coalescing around its star players, a group of young men adrift in the ocean of disunity. What better way to BIND THEM TOGETHER than to give them an irritating older man to direct their collective frustration at? Bonus: Joel Embiid with a coach who is forcing the ball into the post? Baby, that’s vintage basketball and we all love it.
DALLAS MAVERICKS: You hire Jackson, he “gets you to the next level,” you disappoint in the playoffs, hire Carlisle back, three Finals appearances in a row. Proven method.
CHICAGO BULLS: They’re bad, he’s bad. On paper,t’s a match made in heaven The only problem? Mark will ask for money, and Jerry Reinsdorf’s main goal in life is giving people as little money as possible, unless they play for the White Sox. The Bulls would never go for an expensive guy who has some moderate successes under his belt when they can give a career assistant his first job for a sub-million dollars a year/three years contract.
BROOKLYN NETS: They had slow start with their newly minted stars. Something needs to change, goddamnit. Get Jaques the hell out of here and ride with St. John himself, born in Brooklyn, Mr. Mark Jackson. I think he and Durant and the K-Man would have a lot of very moving late night convos on the plane, just vibing about life, coming to deeply strange conclusions about what the best kind of fruit is.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS: Hmm actually this one is a BAD idea, not worth it. Next!!!
DETROIT PISTONS: Can’t you just hear him saying “Motor City” in your mind? “Blue collar team,” “Bad Boys intensity,” “Motown,” “Mama, there goes that manufacturing job!” Doesn’t it seem so natural? Don’t you love it? Isn’t it like velvet in your brain’s ear? Lotta truth here.
NEW ORLEANS PELICANS: Zion needs more post-ups. Also Jackson is the NBA coach who would look most natural in a football coach headset, and that’s the main vibe ownership is looking for over there.
See? Add a visor, a little chonk to the mic, you have a PERFECT football coach. If he succeeds with the Pels, maybe he can even move up the org and work as a special teams assistant for Sean Payton?
HOUSTON ROCKETS: Is Mark Jackson a terrible fit with the organizational ethic as it currently exists? Yes, absolutely. But Tillman Fretitta is just THIRSTING for an excuse to fire Daryl Morey.If they fire D’Antoni after not making the Finals and Jackson proceeds to lead them to a slow start, Tilman can dump Morey knowing Jackson’s allies in the media will do half the work slandering that numbers weirdo on his way out the door. That way, ol’ Dr. Bankruptcy saves face while making his own dream come true: Hiring a GM who makes $80,000 a year and also pays for his own employee discount at the practice facility snack bar.
MILUAKEE BUCKS: “Championship or Bust” means something in this league, and there’s no better way to get a bust in than to get Mark in to alienate Giannis out of town ASAP. It was a nice run but it’s rebuild time, guys, earlier the better.
WASHINGTON WIZARDS: All the bad blood in DC already spills out into the media, might as well see how far you can take it. It would be a cutting edge experiment in radical transparency in sports. Get Hard Knocks in there too. Mic up every player and release the transcripts a half hour after the game. Every post-game podium is just two members of the organization standing at two different podiums, debating about WHY they lost that night’s game. Mark knows it’s because of Satan.
A COLLEGE: Mark could probably ‘Croot pretty good. He’s on TV and he’s a pastor! Also his iso-heavy offense will appeal to mega-talented teenagers looking to shoot up NBA draft boards.This is what the universe wants.
CHARLOTTE HORNETS: Can you imagine the shit MJ would subject Jackson to? Psychological terrorism. Might round into shape just to walk in halfway through practice, challenge Jackson in front of the team, fucking DEMOLISH HIM while slandering his family and his beliefs, high five all the players in the gym, then leave and go gamble in the back room of a steakhouse with three other billionaires and a sentient grizzly bear.
Wherever he ends up, at least it wouldn’t be “My television.” Someone, please, just take the hit. I deserve it. It’s been a hard year.