In lieu of a traditional franchise-by-franchise NBA preview, we asked Tyler Parker to give us five players to watch on each team. If we want. For reasons entirely his own.
Kevin Love, Forward
Son of Stan. Played only 22 games last season. Put up averages of 17 and 11. Used to look like an extra in 8 Mile. Had the chin beard thin and sharp and defined. Things change. He’s somewhere right now looking absolutely fantastic. Jim Moore, GQ’s longtime creative director, just wrote a book. It’s called Hunks & Heroes. The book launch was at the Polo Bar. Love went, took a picture with him, put it on the internet. Moore commented:
Such a HERO and of course, a HUNK! You are a great man of talent and style, and I’m so honored that you came to my book launch and made me feel short. ❤️ Jim
Where’s the lie? I would love to be a great man of talent and style. That would be awesome. Who do I speak with to make that happen? Is this something my father should’ve spoken to me about when I was a boy?
Moore isn’t the only fashion icon Love’s spending time with. He went to the Ralph Lauren show during New York’s Fashion Week, took a photo with the man himself. Both men look happier than I have ever looked. Maybe Love is in a Double RL ad real soon wearing a $690 fleece-paneled denim jacket and $1,800 suede pants. He could pull them off. He could pull anything off, save maybe that Thom Browne suit-with-shorts combo LeBron made all of them wear a couple years ago.
Larry Nance Jr., Forward
This entire section will be an excuse to post cool dunks, because Larry Nance Jr. would probably like to dunk on you. Would probably like there to be many people watching while he did it. Said what’s up, Mason Plumlee, last year. Gave him the finger guns and everything.
Embarrassed Kevin Durant the year before that.
Appears to give great hugs.
Once took a picture with Roy Hibbert, Gerard Butler, and four people whose names I don’t know at UFC 199. Butler’s flashing a peace sign. Nance is pointing at him.
Used to be a Wyoming Cowboy. Broke the hearts of several New Mexicans in 2015.
The first thing I think when I think of him, though, will probably always be this.
[In the most Klay Thompson voice you can possibly imagine.] SHEESH. Guys on the Nets bench had to compose themselves, remind one another which team they played for. Timofey Mozgov and Metta World Peace had to hold onto their respective heads to keep them from exploding.
Darius Garland, Guard
“Darius is the people’s champ. Darius can talk to anybody. Always laughing. Always smiling. Darius just has that cool vibe.” —Zion Williamson
Played just five games at Vandy last year due to injury. The fallibility of the human body is deeply depressing. He’s much more than a shooter. Tight handle, has it on a string. Wildly skilled. Pull-up game’s strong with this one. Likes him a nice in-and-out dribble. Great at changing up his pace, keeping the defender off balance. Deep range. Happy to pull up off the bounce from any and everywhere. This isn’t interesting-sounding at all but he’s just smooth with the ball in his hands.
Garland was my favorite player in the draft non–Zion division, so I will mention none of his weaknesses here. In fact, I will pretend they don’t exist. He’s perfect.
Came with the Fear of God 1’s on Cleveland’s media day. His shoe collection isn’t up to the level of a PJ Tucker just yet, but it’s already impressive enough to have warranted a video.
He’s a Klutch man. Somehow got front and center in this picture.
As for the in-vogue question regarding the Cavs backcourt, I have no idea whether Sexton and Garland can play together. I’m not smart.
John Henson, Forward
Had this conversation with a guy a few years ago. We were in the concessions line on the second floor of the United Artists Court Street Stadium 12 in Brooklyn. I think I was seeing Fences, but I honestly don’t remember. The man wore a pink jumpsuit and had a face that looked like a thin roll of toilet paper, his hair raining off him when he’d scratch his head.
He asked, “You like popcorn?”
I said, “If it’s good popcorn, yeah, but I also like it if it’s bad.”
He asked, “Is that a John Henson North Carolina jersey?”
I said, “Yeah.”
He said, “What is it about him?”
I said, “He has no hate in his heart and a wonderful smile. Once, purely out of boredom, he made the sky go from black to mango to black again. This was at three in the afternoon on a Tuesday in July. I remember I had bought me a nice sign that day to hang in my apartment. It said: ‘Seems like it’d be kind of exhausting to talk about the state of television with Steve Nash.’”
He asked, “You put butter on your popcorn?”
I said, “I think that ruins it.”
Collin Sexton, Guard
Played at Pebblebrook in Mableton, Georgia, then for Avery Johnson at Bama. Almost hilariously fast sometimes. Makes plays in transition that made the late, amazing Fred McLeod, the Cavs’ legendary play-by-play man, say, “He put him in cement boots.” McLeod died suddenly last month at the age of 67. He was great at his job. Here’s a host of other things he said in response to Sexton last year.
“JACKKNIFES INSIDE BEAUTIFULLY WITHOUT COMMITTING AN OFFENSIVE FOUL. Flex, young man. He’s got 14.”
“Collin Sexton, IN A BLUR, finished it off.”
“He can really turn on the jets, can’t he?”
“Sexton, with Young, and the soft slam.”
Want to take a moment here to appreciate the term “soft slam.” McLeod was fond of it and I think it’s excellent.
“Sexton, a foot race. He should win it. HE DOES with a left hand again against a charging Paul George.”
“Sexton steps into one. Too firm. Got his own miss. He knew it. Back up. AND DOWN with the left hand. Cruised inside nicely.”
Don’t know that I’ve ever heard an announcer call a drive into the lane a cruise. Just great, great stuff.
We’ll end on this. Near the end of the third quarter of a November 24, 2018, game against the Rockets, Sexton had the ball on the break, and instead of driving to the rim like he might’ve at the very beginning of the year—actually, I should just let McLeod go from here:
“Going to work, wisely backs it out. Good decision. He continues to learn. Backs out, open 3, THEY GIVE IT TO HIM HE SAYS THANK YOU VERY MUCH.”
Hold on. I spoke too soon. I want to end on this. Little over four minutes left in the fourth of the same game. Sexton’s got the ball. Eric Gordon’s on him. Sexton hits him with a couple in-and-out dribbles then goes into a between-the-legs/behind-the-back combo, takes one more dribble to get his feet right, then lets it go. McLeod goes, “Dancing with himself. Some rhythm. AND HE GOT IT. YOUNG BULL CONTINUES TO WEAR ’EM OUT!”
Tyler Parker is a writer from Oklahoma.