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Writing Switch: Disorder on the court

Benjamin Welch and Sean Beckwith
Writing Switch

The past few days have been a heartbreaking time for Denver Nuggets fan as their star point guard Jamal Murray tore his ACL and is out for the season. The Nuggies finally felt confident in the pieces built around MVP candidate Nikola Jokic, but hopes of making a deep playoff run are fading. It sucks (see Arenas, Gilbert; 2007). We’re pretty sure not everyone who reads this column follows the NBA as closely as us, but who knows, maybe both of you do. This week, we play around with some basketball-related hypotheticals involving things everyone can appreciate: booze, gambling and partying like an A-lister.

What do players drink?

SB: I’d like to pick and choose what drinks each players imbibes, but the brand is so strong — or social media presence so prevalent — that they tell us. It seems like half the league has a vineyard or bottle of wine. Shit, I got rosé from Dwyane Wade at a Food & Wine grand tasting two years ago.



Instead, I’m going to look at what certain coaches are drinking because it’s the path least broadcast.

Stan Van Gundy (New Orleans Pelicans) — His team’s talent level-win ratio is incredibly out of whack to the point that I think someone has replaced SVG’s Blue Raspberry Gatorade with Windex. He’s got mini Shaq (Zion) with a handle and an albeit apathetic KD-type in Brandon Ingram, yet I can’t help but think there’s a “Steve Kerr shows Mark Jackson back to the analyst chair” move that takes this team to contender status.




Tom Thibodeau (New York Knicks) — Firmly in playoff position is where Thibs lives; the difference is that’s not where the Knicks are normally. He’s taken a typically poorly constructed Knicks roster and poured Red Bull over it. The issue with OD’ing on Red Bull is it’s a false high. Eventually there’s a crash (or in Thibs fashion, an injury due to over-extending players), but I hope management can get him enough talent and depth to build something when the Red Bull runs out.

BW: Everyone knows Lebron enjoys sipping fine wine. Me? I’m good with little plastic cups of Mogen David on Sundays. And that’s why — hot take alert — Lebron surpasses Jordan for greatest of all time.

You think Lebron stays up all night betting thousand-dollar rummy hands against Kawhi and Giannis before noon tipoff? Hell no. “I ate the whole pizza and got the flu.” That sounds bad enough, but you’re lying, MJ; you were hungover as shit from those Salt Lake City strip clubs! Lebron hasn’t even tasted pizza since middle school.

Oh, and Lebron’s 4 inches, 30 lbs. bigger, didn’t quit — twice — and will end up the all-time leading scorer and top-3 passer, with at least as many championships in an era with players much more skilled. Also his “Space Jam” was better.

But I digress. I’ve identified which NBAers look like they enjoy guzzling vodka and what flavor of Bang, the world’s most offensive energy drink, they mix it with.

  • Kelly Olynyk = Sour Heads Bang
  • Tyler Herro = Miami Cola Bang
  • Elfrid Payton = Star Blast Bang
  • Kristaps Porzingis = Rainbow Unicorn Bang
  • Javale McGee = Delish Strawberry Kiss Bang

Poker analogies

BW: In poker, like basketball, any starting hand stands a chance against any other one pre-flop. The best cards in the game, suited pocket aces, are only an 87% favorite over 8-3 offsuit. One of the worst feelings is having aces cracked in the World Series of Poker … almost as bad as 10 minutes later when the adrenaline wears off and it feels like you broke your foot from punting the trash can across the room. Russell Westbrook, who achieves a triple double every game, and Bradley Beal, the NBA’s leading scorer, are like holding K-Q but the board always runs out 2-4-10-8-4 and some goon is holding 4-8. And yet for some reason, my Washington Wizards are still betting aggressively at every opportunity, bleeding away chips and clinging to pots, when the reality is like, “Dude, just bust out so you can rebuy back in.”

There are many parallels between the Wizards and Sean’s Portland Trail Blazers, except the Blazers actually make the playoffs. The tandem of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum is like holding A-10 suited: You might get out-kicked by a bigger ace, but there’s always a chance to nit out with a flush or Broadway straight on the river and take it down. But ultimately it won’t matter because the Brooklyn Nets are playing Omaha and have way too many cards to even compete with.

SB: In honor of the “Ben Welch poker” philosophy of educated risks and eventual bad beats, let’s take a look at some of the NBA’s most notable Hold ‘em hands.

Nikola Jokic (ace of spades) and Aaron Gordon (jack) — This would’ve been a lot more fun had Jamal Murray not torn his ACL. Going into the playoffs with A-Q is a lot different than A-10. Honestly, I don’t even know who the Nuggets’ second-best player is right now, yet they have arguably the second-best player in the league. Bold prediction: Michael Porter Jr. will play his way into the No. 2 offensive option on the Nuggets by the time Murray returns.

Terrance Ross (7) and Dwayne Bacon (2) — I can’t imagine being an Orlando Magic fan right now. Let me paint a scenario for you: It’s you first in-person sporting event in a year-plus and you score Magic tickets. You get to the arena and pickup a program with Terrance Ross on the cover. Then the game starts and so do the shots from Bacon. Unfortunately, you don’t have the luxury of folding/not playing out the hand.

Create-a-superteam

SB: In honor of the late DMX, the only rapper who could bark on a record and have people take it 100% serious, I’m going to give my super team of the most unique rappers/flows:

Center: If you’re younger than 30, you’ve probably used an E-40-ism without even knowing he was the originator. When the Bay area legend’s delivery begins on a track, it’s simply unmistakable.

Power forward: There have been many who’ve tried to replicate DMX’s persona, style and charisma, but there’s only one Earl Simmons. If there was one thing he could do as good if not better than any rapper it was make you feel an emotion, be it anger, pain or excitement.

Small forward: People sleep on Busta Rhymes, but I’m not sure anyone else could hit the speeds and stops and variations and break outs of “Woo Ha!” and “Break Ya Neck.” He’s also just a unique cat in general.

Shooting guard: Ol’ Dirty Bastard aka Big Baby Jesus was to Wu-Tang Clan what Pigpen was to the Grateful Dead. Both were powerful, distinct voices who seem like obscene luxuries in hindsight (i.e. KD on the Warriors). Wu-Tang and the Dead were essentially super teams before we even coined the term.

Point guard: Andre 3000 not only was a fantastic lyricist but also was essential to Outkast hooks. I know Outkast is one of the founding members of Southern hip-hop, but their creativity would’ve shown through and been transcendent in any city.

BW: When I talk about poker, which is a lot, people’s eyes start glazing over and I can tell they think I’m a gambling addict. Well it’s better than them thinking I’m an alcoholic, hey-yo! But since it’s 4 a.m. and I snuck this in after the print edition came out (collect that and I’ll sign it), I’m going to list off the card sharks I would most like to meet and play with … never against.

Point guard: You don’t need your PG to be an all-star. Unless your name is William Kassouf, Curry, Ball, Irving, Lillard (ugh), Paul, or Westbrook (ugh), you can probably pass the rock to someone else. I just want him to smack talk the other players and put them on tilt and one day explode into that heater that turns you into a “professional.” Nine high like a boss! (If you got this reference please call me.)

Shooting guard: “Kid Poker” is basically my Kobe of the card table. Or maybe I should say my Jordan of the card table, since MJ’s only the third-best of all time and not second. Daniel Negreanu makes it deep into the money in every tournament he’s in, and he also went against Doug Polk, the best heads-up poker player in the world, for millions of dollars. He eventually lost, but DNegs is afraid of nothing.

Small forward: If you have your own MasterClass, you are like, a GOAT. Not only did Phil Ivey take a million-dollar bad beat against Tom “Durrrr” Dwann (that’s Ben Welch poker), he also got sued by a casino for noticing a slight defect in a card deck and taking them for $8 million. He lost the case — that’s how you know how the system is rigged. This world just isn’t ready for Phil Ivey.

Power forward: I read “Super System 2” and was like wait, what? That’s what made Doyle Brunson millions of dollars? Man, I wish I could have played against rich farmers around a hay barrel in the ’50s. Brunson is the card shark Bill Russell; he reinvented the game and I will cry when either of them die.

Center: Another OG, Phil Helmuth tore it up in his 20s and kept winning bracelets into his 40s (he still plays, just doesn’t cash anymore). It’s impossible to describe my personal playing style without mentioning the “Poker Brat.” I can gracefully lose on a coin flip, but suck out on the river and it’s like well, I’m leaving anyway, might as well have an escort from casino security and then later back at my room.


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