Heaven is a Playground — Making sense of the abomination that is Sin City Saints

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In middle school, the perfect “mental health day” (see: the official playbook for Jewish mothers) started with a bowl of chickarina soup, saltines on the side and reruns of The White Shadow on ESPN Classic — Ken Howard, with his rutty-faced New York-Irish good looks playing a retired Chicago Bull now coaching high school basketball in South Central Los Angeles. And by coaching, I mean combating the societal ills of 1970s L.A. one wayward teenager at a time.

Homosexuality, teen pregnancy, gangs, drugs and Italian kids nicknamed “Salami,” The White Shadow was like a grittier, less Jewish Welcome Back Kotter (although the team did have bench warmer named Goldstein). Fun fact, the growth of basketball in Turkey during the 80s has been largely attributed to the popularity of the show among the Turkish.

Wanting to enjoy the sense of wonderment that a young Hedo Turkoglu must have felt while throwing back handfuls of Lahmacun during episodes of The White Shadow, I spent most of Wednesday binge watching Yahoo’s newest creation: Sin City Saints. By episode three I felt nauseous; by episode six I prayed for the sweet release of death; by episode eight I experienced what I believe Hunter S. Thompson was describing when talking about “the edge.” (It’s generally a bad sign when Rick Fox turns in the strongest performance among a cast that otherwise features Tom Arnold, the chick who played Chief O’Brien’s wife on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the dude who was “The Wiz” on Seinfeld.)

Sin City Saints follows an expansion basketball team in Las Vegas (presumably in the NBA), with the main hijinks revolving around the tech billionaire owner, who is played by the Wikipedia page-less Andrew Santino. The owner, after running over the team’s star player and in jeopardy of losing his club via action from the league commissioner, enlists the help of a New York City based P.R. guru, played by Malin Akerman. Trying to pull off Tasha Yar hair and failing miserably, Akerman is probably the worst part of the show: Her effort is comparable to Rajon Rondo’s in Dallas, which is problematic because she isn’t that great of an actress to begin with. (Think Kaley Cuoco in The Big Bang Theory bad.)

Subplots include the team recruiting Chinese player Wu, who comes with his stereotypically overbearing, perfectionist Asian mother. Said Asian mother sleeping with the team’s star player (the one who was run over) ala Delonte West. The team signing retired player turned burger magnate Billy King, played by Baron Davis, who, unsurprisingly, is not a good actor. Serbian player Arthak bullying the offensively emasculated Asian assistant general manager, and the owners effort to secure taxpayer funding for a new stadium.

Over the course of season one’s entire 192 minutes I did not laugh, giggle, cackle, guffaw, snigger, chortle, chuckle or tee-haw once. The writing and direction (shame on you Fred Savage from the Wonder Years) were so bad they made Blue Mountain State look like Friday Night Lights. Sin City Saints so desperately wants to follow in the footsteps of an Arrested Development, but in the end comes off like every other bit of garbage on network television, sans the one-line witticisms.

Amazon Prime has Transparent, Netflix has House of Cards, and HBO Go has Game of Thrones; I dig that in its infancy Yahoo Screen has free content, but as long as it’s anchored by fecal matter-like Sin City Saints and a Donald Glover-Chevy Chase-less Community it will continue to rank somewhere below Crackle on the hierarchy of streaming platforms.

At least HBO has the NFL themed Ballers, premiering in June.

Heaven is a Playground — Kyle Korver: NBA MVP?

With the NBA Playoffs tipping off, our own Noah Perkins chopped it up with I’m Sorry Mark Jackson’s (imsorrymarkjackson.com) Quinten Roseborough to discuss who the rightful NBA MVP is — or, more accurately, Noah’s highly controversial opinion that it is Atlanta Hawks sniper Kyle Korver. Somehow, Matthew McConaughey is a lynchpin of the argument — give it a read:

Noah Perkins, One-Bid Wonders

I consider myself a well thought out person, one who is willing to listen to reason, and change my opinion when presented with contradictory facts and information. There are few exceptions to this however: Jenn Sterger framed Brett Favre; socks go well with sandals; Six Feet Under is the greatest show in the history of television; and Kyle Korver is the most valuable player in the league this season.

To be fair, as far as “ridiculous” NBA opinions go, I also think Draymond Green is a better player than Blake Griffin.

I’ve had these debates many times: Reactions generally range from the drunkenly violent to the more polite Ivy League-styled lets-ignore-that-guy-he’s-from-Yale type shunning.

What has never happened — what I cannot fathom happening — is someone actually agreeing with me. Which is hard to believe when you dig into the money-ball numbers — Draymond’s advanced stats eviscerate Griffin’s. Not wanting to put everyone to sleep, I will let readers judge for themselves here. For those too lazy to click the link, Draymond’s Value over Replacement Player (the advanced statisticians wet dream) places him at 9th overall in the league; Blake comes in at 19th.

Which brings me to Kyle Korver.

99.9-percent of white players fall into one of three categories: the intrinsically hilarious (think Paul porn-stache Mokeski, Brian fire-crotch Scalabrine, and the name Cherokee Parks); the grotesquely overrated (IE Kevin Love, or, dare I say Larry Bird); and the wildly underrated, pigeon-holed Tiny-Tims of the league (players like Korver and to a lesser extent J.J. Reddick).

Korver is only a smidge, or depending on how you look at it, a Metta World Peace penis-length away from shooting 50-50-90 (field goal, 3-point, and free throw percentage) on the year. Only one other player in NBA history – Steve Kerr — has done that.

I get it, the dude only averages 12 points a game, but that’s all he needs to, what his presence on the court does for the Hawks in terms of spacing the floor is how the team has managed the second best record in the NBA. Celtics coach Brad Stevens said it best: “he averages 13 points per game, right? But you go into the game and you have to treat him like he averages 30, or else it could be 30.”

Per 100 possessions, the Hawks average 110 points when Korver is on the court. Without him, that number drops to 95. During the Hawks 19 game win streak he shot something like 66 percent from 3-point land when a defender was within two feet of him. Remember how good Matthew McConaughey was in True Detective after years and years of mediocre romantic comedies? That’s the kind of career renaissance Kyle Korver is having at age 34 in his 11th NBA season.

The metric we all use to judge value is wins; players not on playoff teams are (unfairly) dismissed from the conversation, which is why I can omit Russell Westbrook. The Atlanta Hawks are the top seeded team from the Eastern Conference; general logic would then dictate that their most important player would be mentioned as an MVP candidate, right? The Warriors have an insanely deep team — swap Curry out for Shaun Livingston, and that’s still a solid playoff team.

I love Dennis Schroder — I love the fact that he is a German dude who reps the Wesley Snipes in Demolition Man look — but let’s be real: can you really see the Hawks led by Jeff Teague and Al Horford as more than the 7th seed without Kyle Korver?

Quinten Roseborough, I’m Sorry Mark Jackson

No. Kyle Korver is not the MVP.

That being said, I too am tired of the white basketball archetype: The crisp chest passes, the high free throw percentage, the protestant work ethic. It’s all a bit… trite.

For as long as I can remember, the game has always had players who have broken the alabaster mold — Gordon Hayward, Bob Sura, Jason Williams. Kyle Korver, however, a mold-breaker he is not.

Kyle Korver embodies every white basketball stereotype known to man, from his remarkable shooting touch to his sub-par athleticism, to his boyishly good looks. I guess what I’m trying to say is that if they remade White Men Can’t Jump with NBA players, Korver would be the unanimous first choice to play Billy Hoyle.

I digress, though. While Korver’s contributions to the Eastern Conference-leading Atlanta Hawks are quite meaningful, he’s also probably not even the MVP of his own team. A team that with four selections was the most-represented during All-Star Weekend, and whose entire starting five was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Month in January.

And yes, while he might be having a McConaughey-like return to NBA relevancy, what’s to say that this year’s playoffs won’t be the Nicolas Winding Refn-directed Lincoln ads that signal the end of any true McConaissance?

Let me put it this way, say Adam Silver were to put all active NBA players into a pool and had each team fill out their roster fantasy draft style, is there any chance Korver goes in the first round? No. So by law, he cannot be the MVP.

I do however, agree with your assessment of the other potential MVP candidates, but you’ve conveniently left one name out of your analysis. Let’s be real here, there is but one true MVP and his name is James Edward Harden Jr.: 27 points per game, 5.6 rebounds per game, and 6.9 assists per game. All with an improved effort on the defensive end, and the assistance of no additional All-Stars.

If we, the advanced statistics championing, mid-range jumper decrying, basketball writers are Dr. Frankenstein, then James Harden is our Monster; an allegory for our continued obsession with efficiency, the physical embodiment of our endless quest for statistical objectivity. Harden takes what we claim is empirically and veraciously “smart basketball” and turns it into a grotesque combination of drawn fouls, contested jump shots, and loose beard hairs.

But, like Frankenstein’s Monster, Harden’s game too is as awe-inspiring as it is brutally efficient. Over the course of the season, he has established himself as the league’s most well rounded offensive force, a player who from the triple threat, employs his endless collection of moves and counter-moves to render all defenses futile, all to the tune of a top 10 true shooting percentage and a top fifteen assist rate.