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.
Kyrie Irving, Guard
Said the Eye one day: “I see beyond these valleys a mountain veiled with blue mist. Is it not beautiful?”
The Ear listened, and after listening intently a while, said, “But where is any mountain? I do not hear it.”
Then the Hand spoke and said, “I am trying in vain to feel it or touch it, and I can find no mountain.”
And the Nose said, “There is no mountain, I cannot smell it.”
Then the Eye turned the other way, and they all began to talk together about the Eye’s strange delusion. And they said, “Something must be the matter with the Eye.”
Can’t you see I am the big man?
God level I am the “I am.”
I’m an actual genius when it comes to this game.
Rode out of Boston faster than Paul Revere rode through the countryside northwest of the city. The Squidwards are coming! The Squidwards are coming!
I don’t know that Gibran is Irving’s favorite poet, but I have to assume he’s in the top five if Kyrie will use him in an Instagram caption. When Irving retires he will go on a speaking tour of the United States and sell out stadiums. If not stadiums, at the very least some pretty massive vegan cafés. I’d buy a ticket.
Kyrie has been inspired by the pyramids of Egypt and SpongeBob SquarePants and the Day of the Dead and Friends and various breakfast cereals. He seems like he’d try to call his teachers by their first names. Is it possible to order his memoirs right now? Why has no one asked him to write a book? He has the energy of a friend who sucks at giving advice but has not yet realized it. I have a hard time believing he doesn’t journal extensively.
When he’s fully engaged, fully in his zone, it can be difficult to describe how fun he is to watch. He has the best handle in the league. He’s fully trying to embarrass everyone who guards him. What I believe is there’s dribbling and then there’s sorcery. Irving employs the latter to weave through a defense. It’s like the basketball listens to him more than it listens to other players. I’ve always felt he was an absurdist more than anything else. Sometimes the only response is to your shake your head and watch the move again, try to understand it, and fail. This took place in 2012:
That’s every bit as impressive as anything Porsche has ever made.
He would probably sincerely compare basketball to jazz and feel great about it. He’s the type to try to tell you what the novel you wrote is actually about. The type to try to tell you he doesn’t sweat. The type to try to tell you what you’re thinking.
Taurean Prince, Forward
The Next Kenny Atkinson Reclamation Project. I’m still a believer. Went to Baylor. Played for Scott Drew. Gave one of the best postgame press conference answers in NCAA tournament history. The question asked: “How does Yale outrebound Baylor?”
Yale beat Baylor that day. Tale as old as time. Prince was a senior. That was his last collegiate contest. He had a nice day at the office. Put up 28.
So, “How does Yale outrebound Baylor?” That’s a question you ask your friend when you didn’t get a chance to watch the game and you take a look at the box score and see the disparity.
Prince and the rest of the Bears were in their neon-yellow kits, the color of your standard operating highlighter. He sort of glowed, blankly looked in the direction of the reporter doing the asking, tried to understand. He couldn’t. Again from the reporter: “How does Yale outrebound Baylor?” I italicize because you can hear him italicizing. Prince deadpanned his answer, said, “Um. You go up and grab the ball off the rim when it comes off, and then you grab it with two hands, and you come down with it, and that’s considered a rebound. So they got more of those than we did.”
I want Prince to provide answers to other nonsense questions people ask.
Question: “What does happy even mean, really?”
“Um. Webster’s has a few options for it.
- Feeling pleasure and enjoyment because of your life, situation, etc.
- Showing or causing feelings of pleasure and enjoyment.
- Pleased or glad about a particular situation, event, etc.
- It’s also a song by Pharrell Williams. He’s a member of the Neptunes and great friends with Nardwuar.”
Question: “Why do I have to provide three different forms of identification to update my license?”
Prince’s answer: “Um. That’s what the state requires.”
Question: “How is it that just a regular grilled chicken sandwich costs $18?”
Prince’s answer: “Um. The world is a hard place to live.”
Joe Harris, Guard
The Splish Accountant. NBA All-Star 3-Point Contest champion in 2019. Beat Steph Curry in the finals. Shot the lights out of it in the Nets’ City Edition, Biggie-inspired, Brooklyn-patterned jerseys. Made Reggie Miller say, “Joe Harris can shoot. That. Thang.” I’m not sure there’s anything we can do as fans of the game to get TNT to take Miller and Chris Webber’s microphones away for the entirety of this year’s NBA All-Star Weekend, but we have to try something. A boycott of the event is probably unreasonable, especially if, somehow, the basketball gods get Zion in the dunk contest, but it’s really hard to listen to their voices say things.
Has his busker’s license. Looks like a big-time barista. Makes elite latte art, Tony Bennett’s smiling face in the foam. When Bennett was at Washington State, Harris committed there. When Bennett left Pullman for Charlottesville, Harris followed. Guys who went to Virginia seem like good dudes. See Hoops2O, Malcolm Brogdon’s nonprofit. They build clean water wells in East Africa. Justin Anderson helps. So does Harris. Goes to Tanzania, reps the Mariners on the Serengeti, understands the functionality of a neck gaiter. Here’s almost 14 and a half minutes of Harris and Brook Lopez shooting 3s at a USA Basketball practice. I find it really relaxing.
Spencer Dinwiddie, Guard
Has turned himself into a player of consequence. He matters. Can run the show while Kyrie gets a breather and checks out his horoscope. My proposed nickname for Dinwiddie would be The Publicly Traded Company. He’s trying to sell shares of his contract? Something like that? It’s the type of thing I’d pretend to understand in public—lots of nods with my eyes closed—but in the privacy of this little whatever I can admit to you that I don’t really, truly understand it.
Former Colorado Buffalo. Describes himself as a tech guy with a jumper. Has a powerful goatee. This thing could end wars. Mike Woodson–esque onyx face hair so thick it looks like felt. Seems glued on sometimes. Like it’s a disguise. Would love to see him let the follicles run wild on the cheeks, get to Baron Davis territory. Could easily rival James Harden’s if he wanted to. Went bananas against Harden’s team in January last season, hit every big shot. Went for 33 and 10. Went toe-to-toe with Harden. His 2019 masterpiece.
Jarrett Allen, Center
This is a little embarrassing to admit, but I have not seen a multitude of origami dragons in my life. Please don’t go out and tell a bunch of people that. I’m not good at arts or crafts, I’m terrible at working with my hands, and I have an extremely limited imagination. Origami was not important to my parents or my friends. I’ve had very little interaction with the art form outside of reading Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes so, ultimately, my opinions on such things cannot be trusted, but that being said, Allen’s really good at making origami dragons.
I’ll promise you right now: He is not afraid of giraffes. Five and a half years ago he was thanking a girl for buying him a Nerf gun for his birthday. N-STRIKE! Light beam targeting! Now he’s one of the best rim protectors in the association. Met LeBron at the rim last year and lived to tell the tale.
Ian Eagle: Oh! Rejected! The Fro just got the King!
He’s a throwback who should start this year but probably won’t because DeAndre Jordan is friends with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. To regurgitate something you might have heard on no less than 50 podcasts this preseason, I’m not dragging Sean Marks for signing Jordan. If that’s what it took to get Durant and Irving, you do it. You’ve heard this before. I just think it’s a bummer that it means less of Allen. He can be something. He already is.