We interrupt our round-the-clock coverage of Rajon Rondo rumors to bring you something a little different.
Dan Devine helps run the fantastic blog Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo! Sports and was kind enough to answer some questions in our High Five series. See below for the results.
Tell us a little about how you got the gig on Ball Don't Lie (you mentioned something today about JE Skeets) and what it is like working with Kelly Dwyer and the rest of the fine folks at BDL.
I got on at BDL thanks to a combination of several of my favorite pastimes: screwing around at my real job, making/appreciating jokes, and being nice to people on the Internet. (Working for free isn't one of my favorite things, but that helped, too.)
I got into the basketball blogosphere mostly through listening to Skeets and Tas on The Basketball Jones, and reading Trey Kerby at The Blowtorch. I loved that there were people around my age who were making their own things, and whose approach to sports prized laughing at the absurdity of it all just as much as, if not more than, analyzing the minutiae. I started exchanging emails/comments with them, and I was lucky enough to become Internet friends with them.
After stints at Deadspin and FanHouse, Skeets got hired to run BDL, and we kept in touch. Trey started contributing to BDL, and we kept in touch, too. I eventually pitched a story idea that Skeets liked and he let me write it (for free, natch). That got my foot in the door, and Skeets told me I could keep it there if I wanted to try some basketball book reviews. I did, and after a while, I started getting a small freelancer's fee for each post.
When Skeets left to make TBJ a full-time job, Trey took over and wanted me to keep writing, so I did; pretty soon, I was writing every day. When Trey left to join TBJ, Kelly returned to his former role as BDL's editor, and he wanted me to keep writing every day, so I did. After about two and a half years of that, I got offered a staff job, which started in February of 2012. (It feels like it's been a lot longer than that.)
Working with Kelly has been an education. I'd say he's forgotten more about the NBA than I'll ever know, but that would mean he's actually forgotten any of it. I think his capacity for getting his arms around both big-picture stuff and the tiny grace notes that animate our love of the league still has few rivals. I think he loves the NBA more than anyone I've met, even after writing about it in one form or another since he was a teenager. That, in and of itself, is pretty inspiring on a day-to-day basis.
Getting to work with Eric Freeman for the past few seasons has been a pleasure, because Eric's got this dual-threat skill set that I appreciate and envy. He can take stories that everyone else is also writing about and tease out thoughtful nuances that make me look at them in entirely different ways, and he can go from that to full-body-laughing at the dumbest stuff the league has to offer without skipping a beat. I've only just gotten to start working with Ben Rohrbach, who's obviously no stranger to Celtics fans via his work at WEEI, but he's been great, too.
We have a pretty good gang. I'm lucky they still let me be a part of it.
You are a Knicks fan and you have both a good attitude about the team and a good sense of humor about it all (from what I've observed). Give us the the 30 second of where the Knicks are and where the Zen guy is taking them.
Where the Knicks are: assuming health, enough talent to be a top-10 (and maybe top-7 or 8?) offense, but enough holes on the other end (hello, Amar'e, Bargs, Jose and the center-by-committee approach to replacing Tyson Chandler) to be a bottom-five defense. Hoping that several changes -- from Mike Woodson to Derek Fisher, to the Triangle offense, from Woodson's switch-heavy defensive scheme to something simpler, etc. -- all pan out. And that guys like J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert start out hot after struggling following summer knee surgeries last season. And that Carmelo plays at least as well after getting his new deal as he did in pursuit of it. (Lots of hoping.) Probably somewhere between the sixth- and 11th-best team in the Eastern Conference.
Where Phil's taking them: hopefully to an era of increased responsibility in spending and trades, to a place of stability and respectability in terms of front-office dealings around the league, and to a puncher's chance of landing a defensive game-changer and some supplemental scoring/playmaking with max cap space in the summer of 2015. But as my dad used to say, "[Poop] in one hand and wish in the other, Daniel, and see which one fills up first."
Enough about you, let's talk about the Celtics. All anyone really seems to care about is Rondo. I can't seem to get away from the subject. In fact, there's a running joke on our blog where someone comments on every single article "this obviously means we're trading Rondo." What's your take? Do you think he stays or do you feel like Ainge will move him this year sometime?
I've always felt that A) the value of Rondo's production vs. his price tag, B) Ainge's understanding of that value and pursuit of equal/greater value in trade, and C) Ainge's reputation as a ball-buster of a negotiator makes it unlikely that Rondo gets moved. Unless someone's going to bowl Ainge over with multiple future picks and a lottery-type existing prospect on a rookie deal -- which feels less and less likely, since Rondo's now a short-term rental -- I think he stays.
... which, of course, means he's gone, right?
[Editor's note: He catches on quick.]
Marcus Smart, James Young, Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger, and Tyler Zeller. In 5 years, which one is going to be the Al Jefferson? Which one will be the Ryan Gomes?
First of all, as a member of the Providence College Class of 2004, I strongly object to this slander of Ryan Gomes, one of the greats in Friar hoops history. Show some respect for a 2004 first-team All-American!
I guess I'd say Smart's the Big Al (albeit in obviously very different ways). That size in the backcourt, the defensive capacity, the nose for the rim, the ability as an on-ball facilitator -- these all feel like things that will translate at the next level, even if he might not get full-time reps right away with Rondo and Bradley starting. Poor/inconsistent shooters can get better, and if he does, that's a pretty formidable package of skills.
I'm holding out hope for Olynyk, too. I think he's a smart passer and a pretty decent shooter with some wiggle on the interior, and if schematic changes can turn Big Al into the centerpiece of a top-6 NBA defense (as he was last year in Charlotte) after nine full years of being a sieve, then maybe Kelly's shortcomings can get hidden, too.
Zeller feels the most Gomes-y to me -- a player with some college pedigree who can show flashes at the NBA level, but might not do anything quite well enough to become anything more than a long-term reserve. (Here's where I remind you that Gomes played six full NBA seasons, parts of two more, and spent a year playing professionally overseas; a nine-year pro career isn't the worst fate you can conjure up.)
Sullinger feels like he falls somewhere in the middle, like he'll never be a star, but he can be a rotation player whose skills (rebounding, shooting, interior touch) and warts (size, defensive reliability, health) make him something of a nomad. I guess this makes him Drew Gooden?
I have no idea what to make of James Young yet, but I'm excited to get to see him and form an opinion.
Going back to the NBA as a whole, what are the most interesting storylines to follow this year? (And if you say "Rajon Rondo getting traded" I'm going to go into a Stephon Marbury eating Vaseline like meltdown.)
Stuff I'm excited about:
-- Year 1 of the Cleveland Experiment, growing pains and all;
-- Round 2 of Derrick Rose trying to come back, and whether he can turn Chicago's offense into something worthy of that defense;
-- Whether Pau Gasol will look as good with the Bulls as he does in Spain (which I hope) or as done as he often did in L.A. (which I fear);
-- Whether just bringing back the whole gang will be enough to keep San Antonio atop the league, and to push Toronto up to the East's elite;
-- which Team USA guys make a leap after their FIBA experience, because one or two guys always seem to after these tournaments;
-- the 82-game death match that will be the fight for the last two or three Western Conference playoff spots;
-- how Minnesota, Golden State and Denver handle the impending extensions for Ricky Rubio, Klay Thompson and Kenneth Faried;
-- Stan Van Gundy getting his hands on Andre Drummond;
... and one more, in pursuit of a cheap pop from Celtics fandom:
-- seeing what fresh hell the Lakers have in store as an encore to arguably the worst season in franchise history.
Thanks again Dan! And congrats on the new baby!
Check out more of our High Five series here.