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.
Alex Caruso, Guard
Caruso had a tip dunk against the Warriors last year that registered on the Richter scale. The man made Staples boom. Kevin Harlan was doing play-by-play for the game and turned his call up to 11. The full-throated reaction: “Caruso parachutes in! You cannot stop him! You can only hope to contain him!”
Tried to test Gobert last year too. Almost passed, but got fouled, clanked it off the back of the rim. For a short time this summer we thought we’d be getting some supreme yokeage from Caruso this season. A picture had surfaced of him lifting, looking like a physical marvel. Costco-sized biceps. The photo turned out to be doctored. To quote Andy Dwyer after he realized he wasn’t going to get to play with actual lasers in Pawnee Community College’s Introduction to Lasers: “One of the most significant bummers of my lifetime.”
Nobody’s going to tell you this, but be careful how much of the internet you trust. If I weren’t courageous, I would stay quiet. Unfortunately for the powers that be, I am courageous. There is a large number of lies being bandied about by nefarious types throughout the cyberspace. Do not be alarmed by my bravery. The internet people run long on deception. Sometimes, for instance, people will pretend to be someone or something they’re not. This actually happens. It’s a rarity, yes, but it does happen. Guard your hearts and your personal information.
LeBron James, Forward
Put up a picture on Instagram once of a neon sign that read Fuck social media, I’m dope in real life. The post right before that is an ad for a fancy luggage company he’s partnered up with—Rimowa—and the post right after it is a video of Mark Stevens, part owner of the Golden State Warriors, sitting courtside and shoving Kyle Lowry. James takes Stevens and the league and the fans to task. The caption topped out at 192 words. Stuck his feet in his mouth by criticizing Morey recently. Hand-to-forehead type stuff. Wait, what? type stuff.
A question I have is: If you guarded LeBron for an entire game, could you hold him to under 100? You would be his primary defender for the whole game, and neither of y’all would be subbed for. I don’t think I could.
I don’t know if he’s the best passer of all time but he is my favorite passer of all time. He’ll toss camels through the eyes of needles. It’s the power of the passes, the speed of them, the difficulty, the accuracy. I really think he’s underrated now. We forget things too quickly. Feels like he’s going to come back strong this year. The thing about James is, he almost always gets the last laugh.
Anthony Davis, Forward/Center
Finally made it to the Pacific. Went down to the shoreline. Stood in the waves. Thought about time, and if it was his.
On the one hand, you understand his frustration with the Pels. They had years to put a quality roster around him and never delivered a team that had a realistic chance to win the title. On the other hand, the way he handled his last season in New Orleans was regrettable. He looked silly sometimes, oblivious others. Him wearing the That’s All Folks shirt to New Orleans’s season finale is on the shortlist of the all-time tactless/buffoonish moments in sports history. Of course, that is probably an overreaction, and who cares what I think? He got what he wanted. And what he wanted will be entertaining.
As physical specimens go, he is not fair. He was pumped to meet Tim Cook. He was pumped to ride the Tower of Terror at Disney World. He has kept his unibrow for all this time, and that is real-deal commitment to a brand identity. The world is a soundstage. I understand the thought process. Seems pretty simple. Brow sounds better than Brows. Having a consistent aesthetic is the most important thing in the world. I predict that one day he will shave it in, like, a Super Bowl commercial for Gillette or Dollar Shave Club, or, I guess Apple will probably be making razors at that point, so maybe it’s them.
I think the season’s going to start and Davis is going to remind people of the monster that he is. Very few teams have the horses to keep him down, and the presence of LeBron alone gives him more help than he ever had in New Orleans. When he sits out for a long time like he did last season, it can be easy to forget that when he’s got all his pitches working, there’s probably not a more dominant player in the league. That he and LeBron will be running pick-and-rolls together is some pretty bonkers stuff. What is a defense supposed to do with that? What can anyone do there but fail?
Kyle Kuzma, Forward
Big Kooz. He proclaimed this past summer the Summer of Kuz. Went all over the Kuzworld. Worked with Melo—the rich man’s Kuz?—this past offseason. They got into a jab-step contest, and feelings were hurt. Used to be a picky eater. Now he’s saying things like, “I experienced couscous for the first time.” The new face of Puma. He’s been a panelist on ESPN’s hit new comedy, The Boardroom. Big Kuz will get some shots up. He’s not lacking in confidence. Believes in himself through and through. Not as bad as Laker haters want him to be. Not as good as Laker fans want him to be. Rather, he’s somewhere in between. What a stupid thing to type.
There is a peace sign on his right leg and a cross in the center of his chest. One shoulder blade reads KUZMANIA. The other reads BE DIFFERENT. Under that is the red 100 emoji. I feel like I have a lot in common with Kuzma. To me, same as him, there’s nothing better than getting together with my amigos, standing courtside, and talking with our hands over our mouths.
Robert Pelinka, General Manager
Fellas. What it is? What it isn’t? The season begins on Tuesday. You are well-prepared for it. I’m proud of the work you’ve put in here during the preseason. We got a chance to do some special things this year, guys. Some special, special things. Really feels a lot like how it felt for me and my fellow Friends castmates the night before the pilot aired. If you’d have told me that night that at the end of the show’s run I’d have $2.6 billion, seven Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, and my very own custom magical broom like the brooms that they have in Harry Potter, I’d have told you you were certifiable. But guess what guys? All those things happened. All that is true. Dream hard, men. Dream absurd dreams. I was born without hands, but look at me now. I have hands and a great job and so many friends, and Rob Schneider, from Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, is my personal driver. And butler. I will tell you now a phrase that I coined and trademarked. As far as I know I was the first person to use this phrase in the history of the world. The phrase is: Anything is possible.
It’s funny, as your general manager and leader, I look at all y’all here, each and every one of you just hanging on my every word, and I cannot help but be reminded of a story. When I was 8 years old—and this is true—when I was 8 years old I drove my solid gold Lamborghini Diablo to Montana with some friends. This was in 1638, a few days after the fall of the Soviet Union. I’d just gotten back from space camp and was restless for more adventure. I’d never seen the ocean before and wanted to check it out. Left out of Tallahassee and then went north through France, and then into Mexico, and then into South Africa. All told the trip took three hours.
Twelve people accompanied me on my voyage. I’ve written out a list of them that I will now read. Again, only I will do this reading. I know we typically do popcorn-style readings when I speak to you guys, but this is a special exception and involves only me so please don’t speak during it. I know that you all respect me and will remain quiet. Now, the list of 12 people who went to Montana with me:
1. My best friend and a guy who has gotten me through the loss of my eyesight, Abraham Lincoln
2. Big Bird
3. Elliott Yamin from that one season of American Idol
4. Kobe Bryant, who I worked with for 18 years
5. Someone who always had my back, my father, Kimbo Slice
And that’s 12.
When we got to Montana, the first thing we did was check out the Sydney Opera House, then we headed to the beach. The water was so blue there, you guys, I can’t even tell you. We were having a great day frolicking in the waves. As I’m sure you’re all aware, Yamin is 7-foot-5, so he is a blast to have as the base for chicken fights. He and I would team up and go against Big Bird and my father. Lincoln stayed in the cabana, read some of Barbarian Days, watched part of a Miami Heat–Detroit Tigers game. Wayne Gretzky actually wound up throwing a touchdown to win it with no time left on the clock. Kobe, who I worked with for 18 years, just laid face down in the sand. He was an old 72 at that point and, I think, tired from his recent trips to the sun. Out of nowhere, a Tyrannosaurus Rex broke through the tree line. He ate Lincoln in a hurry. None of us even got to say goodbye. Then he bit off the entire top half of Yamin’s body. Luckily, he was unscathed from the waist down, and it was touch-and-go for a minute, but obviously I think we’re all aware of his thriving film career. He has not let having no torso or head or arms define him. Big Bird abandoned us, just took off into the skies, flew away. Turns out he’s super selfish.
I’m not going to lie to you, I died four different times during the dinosaur fight. Was fortunate enough to come back to life every single time, however. Some men simply will not die. I’m one of them. It’s this strange thing where I will live forever and never die. My father and I were ultimately able to kill the dinosaur with a rocket launcher we made out of coconuts and ocean water. Before we murdered the beast, though, Kobe, who I worked with for 18 years, really paid close attention to how the T-Rex was handling himself while he was killing and eating—Kobe actually used some of that in his game that night against the Texas Rangers. Broke the record for points scored in an NBA game. And remember, this was back when you could have 10 defenders on the floor at once. They’d dedicate seven, sometimes eight guys to him. He wasted them all. Scored 197 in 38 mins. But that just shows you the kind of competitor he is. Hey. Let’s have a good day today. Want to see a lot of hugs and smiles.
Tyler Parker is a writer from Oklahoma.