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.
Blake Griffin, Forward
His senior year of high school in Oklahoma he played against Pawnee in the 2A state finals. I went and watched. His team won. It was Griffin’s fourth state title in a row. After the game, he was towering up over everybody, people snapping pictures, his entire team holding up four fingers like the third quarter had just ended. He was like a T. rex playing against dandelions. You know how sometimes you’re on the internet and a video pops up that has somebody playing 2K on some cheat mode that’s made LeBron or Alex Caruso or whoever 20 times taller and bigger than everyone else? That’s what it was like. Goliath playing against a bunch of newborns.
Griffin’s sophomore year at Oklahoma: A buddy and I drove to Memphis to watch OU (I’m a fan) play Syracuse in the Sweet 16. That was the Jonny Flynn Six in the City team, the team that outlasted UConn at Madison Square Garden at the Big East tournament that year. Had Devendorf prematurely hopping on the scorer’s table and Andy Rautins’s hair looking like a crown.
Blake wasted them. Had 30 and 14. Went 12-for-15 from the floor. Did whatever he wanted. Dunked one late and hit his head on the rubber on the bottom of the backboard. Boeheim was apoplectic. I don’t know that. I’m just guessing. I say that because he always is.
That Sooners team basically went five deep. Each of the starters played more than 33 minutes. The next closest guy, Cade Davis, played seven. Tony Crocker and his long sleeves went for 28, hit 6-of-11 from behind the arc. In the next round, they lost to the eventual national champion, North Carolina. Griffin did all he could, went for 23 and 16, but Tyler Hansbrough and Danny Green and Wayne Ellington and Ed Davis and Ty Lawson and … man that’s a bunch of talent, no wonder we lost.
Tony Snell, Forward
Something really cool about me is I’m very into peace and quiet. I try to seek out locations that keep the noise down, give my ears a rest. If the internet is telling me the truth, the quietest place on planet Earth is an anechoic chamber at Orfield Laboratories in Minnesota. From Smithsonianmag.com in December 2013:
Inside the room it’s silent. So silent that the background noise measured is actually negative decibels, -9.4 dBA. Steven Orfield, the lab’s founder, told Hearing Aid Know: “We challenge people to sit in the chamber in the dark—one person stayed in there for 45 minutes. When it’s quiet, ears will adapt. The quieter the room, the more things you hear. You’ll hear your heart beating, sometimes you can hear your lungs, hear your stomach gurgling loudly. In the anechoic chamber, you become the sound.”
Speaking of silence. Snell is the only player in NBA history to have gone his entire career without speaking a single word; Snell defies logic. Sells on his website one of the better beanies I’ve ever seen.
I’m probably going to buy one. Here’s 11 minutes and 19 seconds’ worth of him and Andrew Wiggins working out against each other, then playing two-on-two against two trainers I don’t know. I’ll put this observation before the video rather than after it because I care about your time—it’s not exactly entertaining. You’re not going to miss much if you skip it, but you’re still reading this nonsense so maybe you’re bored out of your mind and searching for something to give your attention to.
Hooped at New Mexico in college. Coached by Steve Alford. Repped the Lobos well. Has lasted longer in the league than J.R. Giddens ever did. Played high school ball with Kawhi Leonard in Moreno Valley, California. What a golf course that locker room must’ve been. On its best day, I got to believe it rivaled that anechoic chamber. I’m told the two communicated via blinks and nods. I’m a liar.
Reggie Jackson, Guard
Long on confidence and tad bit weepy. Thought he should’ve started over Russell Westbrook. Cried tears of joy when he was traded to Hockey Town. Things have not gone the way he planned.
I’ve always felt Jackson looks like he just got done crying. I don’t mean that as an insult. Crying’s fine. I try to get a good one in at least once a week. I mean it as a statement of fact. Oftentimes, to me, he looks like he stopped crying literally the moment right before he appears on camera.
The peak of his career was a 32-point outburst against the Grizz in Game 4 of the first round of the 2014 playoffs. Nobody could do a thing with him. 11-for-16 from the field, 2-for-4 from 3, 8-for-8 from the line. This was at Memphis, the Thunder down in the series two games to one, the Grindhouse perhaps at its peak. Jackson cooked Beno Udrih and Tony Allen and Mike Conley and Mike Miller and whoever else they put on him. Won the game for Oklahoma City. Saved their season. None of it made any sense at all.
2014 was a long time ago. Five years might as well be a million these days. Things are different now. For the league, and for Jackson.
Andre Drummond, Center
Dated iCarly’s friend. That’s the first thing I think every time I hear his name. After that the list of thoughts goes braces, Connecticut, dunks, free throws, the Air Jordan X, and headbands.
Seems like a nice guy. He believes in you, believes in the healing powers of cold brew coffee. He cares about you, your soul, wants you to quit your job and follow your dreams. He knows what it’s like to want something more. He wants to be King Triton. Shoot for the stars and even if you miss you’ll land among the waves.
While being only above average at taking pictures of cheetahs, he’s a transcendent talent when it comes to tweeting fake deep quotes. Look at this heater.
“Always put everything on the line. Don't let your dreams stay dreams. Always smile at life.”— Andre Drummond (@AndreDrummond) September 28, 2019
His timeline’s full of them. Sometimes he’ll post four in one day. Sometimes he’ll post 10. Sometimes he’ll remix every favorite quote that appeared in your high school yearbook, toss them into a pot, cook up a lukewarm inspiration stew.
“Every day you have the opportunity to be a happier version of yourself”— Andre Drummond (@AndreDrummond) October 1, 2019
Blow the people away, Dre. Melt minds. Make us touch stars. Hey, reader, have you completely changed the way you interact with the world yet?
Joe Johnson, Forward
Woo, pig sooie. Calling all hogs. What is the best way to win a game? Give the ball to Joe Johnson and get out of his way.
Iso Joe has returned from the Big 3. The seven-time All-Star dominated that league, hit multiple game winners, won the MVP, led the Triplets—Jannero Pargo, Al Jefferson, Alan Anderson, Sergerio Gipson, former Cavaliers great Jamario Moon, and Lisa Leslie the head coach—to the title. The Princess Bride has been on his brain ever since news came out that some famous people want to remake it. He screams to the heavens, “We are men of action! Lies do not become us!”
Now the king of Little Rock’s back in the NBA, with his 17 years of experience and his wisened visage, and he’ll try to teach the pups on Detroit what it is to be a professional. Maybe he pulls Luke Kennard aside, tells him, “Please. Mr. Johnson was my father. Call me the Armadillo Cowboy.” Love to Skeets. Love to The Basketball Jones.
Tyler Parker is a writer from Oklahoma.