Julie & Julia-ing 2 Chainz: Shrimp Scampi

The Realest

One day, you wake up and you know you have to make a change.

You sit at the same desk. You do the same work. You eat the same sandwich from the same deli. It has all become rote. You’re going through the motions.

It’s important that you acknowledge how OK that is. Even the grandest of journeys have a few lulls. You have to drive through Barstow to get to Vegas. Luke needed to train with Yoda on Dagobah before he could pull off that really cool backflip over the sarlacc in Episode VI. You need these gaps to allow excitement to build, to train for your own super sweet backflip.

Around two months ago, Atlanta rapper 2 Chainz released a cookbook of 15 recipes that embody his culinary lifestyle. Salmon teriyaki, shrimp scampi, something called “me time sauce”, it’s all in there. 

This is my Dagobah. 2 Chainz is my guide. And together, we’re going to do the culinary equivalent of a backflip as we Julie & Julia the 2 Chainz Cookbook.

Shrimp Scampi

The dish

SCENE: A COUCH IN AN EMPTY APARTMENT. A MAN LIES PRONE, HIS LEGS SPRAWLED ACROSS A DUSTY COFFEE TABLE. NBA HIGHLIGHTS FLICKER ACROSS THE TELEVISION. THE ANNOUNCERS ARE BARELY AUDIBLE.

SOMETHING ABOUT THE MAN ISN’T QUITE RIGHT. HIS EYES ARE GLAZED OVER. HIS CHEEKS SHINE RED, AS IF THEY’VE BEEN BUFFED TO A BUTTERY SHEEN. IN THE DISTANCE, THE SOUND OF A CHURNING DISWHWASHER CAN BE HEARD.

HE CONSIDERS HIS PHONE. FLIPS THROUGH SOME TEXTS, CHECKS DEADSPIN, GRANTLAND, FACEBOOK. THE INFORMATION THAT SCROLLS ACROSS HIS SCREEN DOESN’T REGISTER. NOTHING DOES ANYMORE.

ALL HE CAN THINK OF IS THE BUTTER AND THE GARLIC AND THE SHRIMP AND THE PASTA. AND THE LEMON. LEMON EVERYWHERE. AS THE CAMERA ZOOMS IN YOU SEE BITS OF PARSLEY HAVE FALLEN ONTO HIS SWEATER, STUCK THERE LIKE DISCARDED HARD CANDY.

A FAINT SMILE CROSSES HIS FACE AS HE CLOSES HIS EYES. MAYBE HE’LL SLEEP. MAYBE NOT. ONE THING’S FOR SURE, HE’S NOT MOVING FROM THIS COUCH. NOT AS LONG AS THE SMELL OF GARLIC AND BUTTER WAFTS THROUGH THE APARTMENT LIKE BARBITUATE MIST, SNEAKING INTO HIS NOSTRILS. SENDING HIM DEEPER INTO THE OPIUM DEN OF IS MIND.

I really liked 2 Chainz version of shrimp scampi.

The sauce is essentially lemon, garlic, butter and oil, with some parsley thrown in as a garnish. It goes well with rice or pasta. You can throw in vegetables if you feel like inserting some nutritional value. It won’t matter though. Shrimp scampi is the food equivalent of a tranq dart.

Four hours after finishing my meal, I peeled myself off my couch and wandered around my apartment in a state of confused bliss. Where am I? How did the dishes get done? Have I been drinking? Why am I sweating grease? Jesus, there’s parsley everywhere. Is that lemon scent from the Clorox wipes or… no, that’s a discarded lemon rind. Should I save that if I ever need lemon zest? Why the hell would I ever need lemon zest?

The consumption of 2 Chainz shrimp scampi turns standard household tasks into Odyssey of the Mind challenges.  Conversing with people outside your circle is out of the question. The remote control becomes a sort of unholy rubik’s cube that no formula can solve. You just ingested half a stick of butter and a cup of olive oil over pasta and shellfish. Imagine getting drunk on absinthe and watching a Twin Peaks marathon. That level of weird becomes your reality after 2 Chainz scampi.

For a minute, I wondered how a man who makes his living on stage could perform after consuming a food that would send most men into an Agent Cooper-like dream state. Then I remembered that 2 Chainz loves sizzurp.

The preparation

2 Chainz’ first step calls on you to shell and butterfly two pounds of large shrimp – an extremely tedious and disgusting task. This video will show you the proper technique. It takes a bit of practice.

Butterflying shrimp isn’t for the squeamish. You’re basically ripping the legs off of a bottom-dwelling water insect and cutting it open. It’s nasty, and you may lose a bit of your appetite by the time you’re finished. Also, be sure to sharpen whatever knife you use before you start because those little shits are tough to cut.

Once you’ve butterflied them, place the shrimp in a baking pan and drizzle them with oil. Next, take whatever you think is a healthy amount of garlic powder and double it. We’re in this for bold flavors. Sack up. Sprinkle the pan with the garlic powder, salt and pepper and set your oven to broil.

Use the preheat time to prepare the scampi. Boil the prescribed amounts of oil, butter, parsley, garlic and lemon in a saucepan, stirring frequently. The mixture should come to a boil in a relatively short amount of time.

Once all of that has come to a boil, dump it in the saucepan on top of the shrimp. Make sure the sauce has distributed evenly so the shrimp can soak up that buttery goodness. Take a moment to come to grips with the fact that eating this will probably require angioplasty. Once you’ve embraced your looming case of heart disease, put the pan in the oven.

"A minute on the lips, forever on the hips." - Drake

“A minute on the lips, forever on the hips. I wear a lot sweaters, sometimes when it’s not even cold.” – Drake

ENTERTAINMENT BREAK/establishing ambience

The only issue I take with 2 Chainz’ scampi is the utter lack of Chainz in the preparation.

Cranking “Used 2” on repeat saved an otherwise lackluster crab cake recipe. For the salmon teriyaki dish, watching clips from Hype Williams’ horrifyingly offensive Belly allowed me to consider Nas’ late-1990s output, as well as question how the enablement of DMX fulfills the responsibilities of a philosophical gangsta with violent priors (it does, in so many ways). Even if the salmon came out poorly, the experience certainly added some intellectual heft to my opinions on Nastradamus.

The only non-food related suggestion 2 Chainz makes in his scampi recipe is to listen to “I Do It” while you put the baking pan in the oven. That’s it.

Unlike the transcendent “Used 2”, “I Do It” sucks. The song features Lil Wayne and Drake, two above average artists who have never failed to bring out the worst in each other. When you pair them with 2 Chainz, the result is a five minute exercise in douchebag rap. This song would fit nicely in a promo for Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory on MTV, or a documentary on the love lives of Entourage fans living in the San Fernando Valley.

The enjoyment one takes from a 2 Chainz track is rooted in wonderment. Does this guy have any idea how ridiculous he sounds? Drake, as evidenced by this photo, knows exactly how ridiculous he has become. When he tries to sound like anything other than rap’s answer to Joni Mitchell, he comes off like a man who worries about overdraft fees after putting a round of shots on his tab. It’s kind of a bummer.

As for Lil Wayne’s involvement, the less that is said, the better.

The song would have been better had it just been these two.

Promethazine and fingerless gloves. And a deep v neck. Says everything. 

So yeah, preparing scampi with this song in the background was a letdown. At least, until the song’s outro, sung by an unnamed R&B singer: 

Y’all ready? 1, 2, 3

Right now it’s me time

A little time for myself, me time

Oh yeah, right now it’s me time

Don’t want no one else now, me time

B*tch please don’t call my phone, don’t call my phone

Said I wanna be left alone, be left alone

Please, please don’t stop by my home

No, no cause I fell it’s just a matter of time

Till you people make me lose my mind

I’m bout to leave this world behind

Right now it’s me time

You need to go kick rocks now

Me time

It’s like Morrissey and 2 Chainz had a little emo baby together and taught him to sing like D’Angelo. If you weren’t in the mood to eat butter-broiled shrimp alone yet, I’m sure that ditty helped.

(Semi-related side note – the second song to shuffle play in the Spotify search queue for “I Do It” is, “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” by Bryan Adams).

Final steps

2 Chainz’ instructions say to broil the scampi until the shrimp tails start to brown. That only took 5-10 minutes with my oven, so be sure to start boiling pasta before you broil the shrimp.

I’ve already said it but I’ll say it again, shrimp scampi is incredibly rich. You shouldn’t need more than ¾ cup of pasta per serving unless you struggle with self-control. Serve the pasta in bowls or deep plates, then use tongs to transfer the shrimp from the pan. Next, scoop out some of the excess scampi at the bottom of the pan and pour it over the pasta.

Be very careful as you do this. Although it’s quick to cool, scampi is basically boiling hot oil and butter. If you spill it on yourself, it will burn you and it won’t be easy to wash off. Do this next to a sink to be safe. The only thing more important than “Me Time” is safety and avoiding texts from the other guy in Playaz Circle.

Throw a little extra parsley on each plate and serve it with a lemon wedge. As you take your first bite of shrimp and the butter dribbles down your chin, try to not think about the look on your future wife’s face as she calls an ambulance after you experience chest pains 40 years from now.

Dick Cheney used to eat this too, you know.

Dick Cheney used to eat this too.

Don’t listen to “I Do It” while you do this. Maybe play “Used 2” a few more times. Then put on Twin Peaks.

Final grade

2 chainz half chainz

1.7 out of 2 Chainz

The entertainment portion of this recipe left much to be desired. I’m not in this for the food, 2 Chainz. I’m in this for nonsensical instruction in a lifestyle I have no hope or desire to replicate.

The scampi is delicious. Mildly hallucinogenic, but delicious.

2 Chainz life lessons

Much like Amy Adams’ character in the terrible movie trailer on which this article is based, I learned a lot about myself in preparing Shrimp Scampi a la 2 Chainz. The key lessons, bullet-pointed, are below:

  • There is a direct relationship between the consumption of shrimp scampi and an unyielding, seemingly opiate-induced lethargy.
  • Scampi can be shot, snorted, huffed, gummed or smoked. Don’t freebase it. You have more class than that.
  • It wouldn’t hurt to throw a vegetable or two in with the pasta. Just saying.
  • Buy air freshener before you shell and butterfly shrimp in your home. My countertop smelled like a wharf.
  • Eating this made me want to re-watch Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time In America. Not sure why, but worth mentioning as it seems like something 2 Chainz would recommend. Food for thought for future editions, 2 Chainz.

Julie & Julia-ing 2 Chainz: Crab Cakes with Mango Salsa

The Realest

One day, you wake up and you know you have to make a change.

You sit at the same desk. You do the same work. You eat the same sandwich from the same deli. It has all become rote. You’re going through the motions.

It’s important that you acknowledge how OK that is. Even the grandest of journeys have a few lulls. You have to drive through Barstow to get to Vegas. Luke needed to train with Yoda on Dagobah before he could pull off that really cool backflip over the sarlacc in Episode VI. You need these gaps to allow excitement to build, to train for your own super sweet backflip.

Around a month ago, Atlanta rapper 2 Chainz released a cookbook of 15 recipes that embody his culinary lifestyle. Salmon teriyaki, shrimp scampi, something called “me time sauce”, it’s all in there. 

This is my Dagobah. 2 Chainz is my guide. And together, we’re going to do the culinary equivalent of a backflip as we Julie & Julia the 2 Chainz Cookbook.

Crab Cakes with Mango Salsa and Me Time Sauce

The dish

Some men choose to believe that God spent the seventh day at rest. I choose to believe that He spent it perfecting a red pepper aioli to drizzle over His finest creation – the crab cake.

Crab cakes. Muscular, armored crab in fluffy cake form. Sweet and savory. Undeniably filling yet light on the palette. Since this article is embossed with references to Meryl Streep vehicles and hiphopdx.com comment threads, let’s just say that crab cakes simultaneously evoke the supremacy of Kendrick Lamar’s “Control” verse and Streep’s delightful romp through “Hope Springs”. Crab cakes man, they’re delicious.

Unfortunately, 2 Chainz does not know how to make crab cakes. This should have become apparent when I saw that his recipe calls for two full tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce (gross) and a mayo/mustard/olive oil slash line of 3 tablespoons/1 tablespoon/2 tablespoons (a cardiac triple crown). And half of a lemon of lemon juice? Before you bake? Get the f*ck outta here with that, 2 Chainz. That’s regoddamdiculous.

Listen, I’d never call myself an expert at an art so pure as crab cake preparation, but dammit, I’ve served crab cakes. I knew crab cakes. Crab cakes were friends of mine. 2 Chainz, you’re no crab cake.

But we’ll get to that.

The preparation

As I mentioned last time, 2 Chainz claims that he put each of his dishes to the test on a tour bus traveling at 70 miles per hour. That gorgeously constructed lie crumbles like an over-saturated shellfish patty with this recipe.

Finding the ingredients for the mango salsa, crab cakes and Me Time Sauce required trips to two separate Brooklyn supermarkets. Does your weed carrier handle the acquisition of fresh scallions, sir? What about mango? If the attendants at Union Market struggle to find these ingredients, then how does Gunplay negotiate such a task? (Big shout out to the woman who huffed and pointed, “They’re here!” at the produce rack when I asked about the scallions. Without your neighborly condescension, this whole endeavor would have been for naught.)

Unlike his salmon teriyaki, the 2 Chainz version of the crab cake requires approximately 45 minutes to an hour of preparation and a number of highly specific ingredients. Once you have assembled your Old Bay, cilantro, fresh mango and red onion, salt, pepper, bread crumbs, mayo (loads of it), mustard, Worcestershire, crab meat, scallions, butter (even more butter) and olive oil, you begin by taking a break to watch SportsCenter for a bit because it’s been a long day and you’ve earned it.

It's a lot.

It’s a lot.

Once you’ve grown sick of twerking references that make you feel old and heartfelt interviews with Terrell Suggs, begin preheating your oven to 375F. If, like me, you have a terribly unreliable oven that sometimes leaks gas, this could take as long 30-45 minutes. That’s OK though, because you’re going to spend 20 of those minutes trying to not slice your fingers off while you peel mangoes.

This is where 2 Chainz’ 70 mph on a tour bus line falls apart. Julienning peppers and onions is one thing, hacking away at a tough, round, slippery piece of fruit is another. Had I been in motion, I would have almost certainly lost the use of my left hand to self-inflicted knife wounds, something no amount of Me Time Sauce will remedy.

After you’ve chopped up the mango, throw it in a bowl with some finely chopped red onion, olive oil, salt, pepper and lime juice. Stir that up and throw it in the fridge where it can stay trill.

Even though it’s not in the recipe, I used the surplus preheat time to make 2 Chainz’ Me Time Sauce next, though I failed to execute on some of the more opulent steps the recipe suggests. As I mentioned in an earlier post, it’s important to improvise. 2 Chainz recommends hitting the mall to spend a few racks on a new outfit, buying a mani/pedi and coming home to catch up on old seasons of “The Wire”. I’ve never gotten a mani/pedi before, and finding the time on a Wednesday night after work would be difficult. That sounds like a Saturday activity, or something for a Treat Yo Self day. The first mani/pedi is an important step in a man’s life and I want it to be special. I want pampering, not some tumble in the backseat of a Chevy Nova. So to speak.

The ingredients for Me Time Sauce are mayo, barbecue sauce, Old Bay and lemon juice. Mix until it’s pink. You really can’t screw it up. It’s delicious. Throw that in the fridge with the mango salsa so that it too can stay trill.

It's pinkish.

It’s kind of pink. A pinkish hue.

The next step is the most important and why we’re here in the first place – the crab cake. Take all the ingredients and throw them in a bowl. I cut the amount of seasoning he recommends then added a little bit at a time to taste. Except the Worcestershire and lemon. I followed his advice on those and it totally overwhelmed everything else. Also – you can use more scallions than he says. In retrospect I wish I had. I suppose the lesson in all this is that you learn to live with regrets.

[Looks mournfully out a window toward the Brooklyn sunset]

Mix all of the ingredients until they form a crabby paste. If you follow his advice on the amount of oil and lemon juice, it will come out as more of a liquid than a solid. Based on my own experiences, I’d cut the those two ingredients by half, then add in small amounts until you get a comfortable consistency. Bear in mind I’m working with a crummy oven, which no doubt affected the quality of the subsequent bake.

Melt an entire stick of butter in a baking pan. Form six crab cakes and assemble them on the pan, then throw them in the oven for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, use the excess butter that’s pooled into a delicious mess at the bottom of the pan to baste each crab cake. Repeat every 10 minutes until they’re golden brown. Stay trill.

ENTERTAINMENT BREAK/establishing ambience

The pairing of Hype Williams’ “Belly” with Salmon Teriyaki was an unmitigated disaster that I’m still coming to terms with. Whatever accompanied the crab cakes was almost guaranteed to be an improvement.

And, my God, it totally was. Here are the first steps, taken directly from the recipe:

Position yourself in a room surrounded by a handful of TVs playing SportsCenter with the sound off

Play “Used To” as you prepare your initial ingredients and preheat oven to 375F

As if there were any other option. I’ve been passively watching highlights set to aggressive hip-hop while preparing food for years. If there were a Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for cooking shitty food, watching sports and listening to rap, I would have written it by now.  Hell, maybe that’s what this is.

Zen and the Art of Eating Your Feelings to Rap Music

Zen and the Art of Eating Your Feelings to Rap Music

If you haven’t listened to “Used To” (alternate spelling, “Used 2”, NSFW), do yourself a favor and put it on right now. That is a damn good song. The video’s solid too – a nice throwback to Juevenile-era New Orleans bounce. The message isn’t exactly positive or appropriate for situations in which rampant misogyny would be frowned upon (most), but still, incredible.

Here’s the hook, courtesy of rapgenius.com:

I still f*ck ‘em like I used to

I need to put that shit on YouTube

Cause you know we got that dancefloor crazy

Single ladies and come and have my baby

I still f*ck ‘em like I used to

I need to put that shit on YouTube

Cause you know we got that dancefloor crazy

Hey my n**** come and grab your lady

It’s not poetry, but the man deserves kudos for being sex positive. I’m pretty sure YouTube blocks pornographic content, but A-for-effort, 2 Chainz.

Finishing up

Remove the mango salsa from the fridge and plate that shit. Use a slotted spoon so the juices don’t mess with the presentation. You’re serving crab cakes, not Kraft Mac and Cheese. You may not care, but your guests will.

Once the crab cakes turn golden brown, remove those from the pan with the spatula and place them DELICATELY on top of the mango salsa. Admire that for a minute, because it looks like heaven. Snap a photo and upload it to Instagram (don’t, that’s annoying). Serve the Me Time Sauce in a tasteful container to the side. Some people don’t like to top mayo-heavy foods with mayo-based sauces. Those people ride around on high horses, but you have to accommodate them.

Baseball and crab cakes, that's how people who don't make plans do.

Baseball and crab cakes, that’s how people who don’t make plans do.

Final grade

0.9 out of 2 Chainz

2 Chainz

Almost a full Chain.

Dammit, 2 Chainz. This should have been a slam dunk. You blew it.

First of all, Worcestershire should always be used sparingly. Old Bay’s the better complement to crab anyway, let it be the dominant condiment. Secondly, throwing that much oil into the mix turned what should have been a delicious crab paste into something soupy and gross. Making patties out of that is a pain; and certainly not something you could do on your tour bus without spraying everyone in your proximity with crab juice. How do you think Gunplay would respond to that? Remember, his name is Gunplay and this is what he did to his accountant.

There are two ways to fix this. After you have baked the crab cakes, throw them in a pan with oil and butter and fry them up for a minute or two on each side. Adding oil and butter may seem like a dubious proposition but it’s totally it’s not. If Paula Deen has taught us anything, it’s that the best way to combat fat is by adding fat and applying heat. Also, racism.

2 Chainz life lessons

Much like Amy Adams’ character in the terrible movie trailer on which this article is based, I learned a lot about myself in preparing Crab Cakes a la 2 Chainz. The key lessons, bullet-pointed, are below:

  • 2 Chainz’ grasp of the culinary arts may be looser than he has advertised.
  • “Used 2” is perfect music for preparing food, running or driving. Despite its subject matter, it’s probably less perfect for the “Getting. It. On.” playlist you’ve hidden on Spotify.
  •  SportsCenter is better with the sound off.
  • Fry, don’t bake.
  • Worcestershire sauce is like Murphy Lee’s career. Always leave them wanting more.
  • Learn to live with regrets.

Julie & Julia-ing 2 Chainz: Teriyaki Salmon

The Realest

One day, you wake up and you know you have to make a change.

You sit at the same desk. You do the same work. You eat the same sandwich from the same deli. It has all become rote. You’re going through the motions.

It’s important that you acknowledge how OK that is. Even the grandest of journeys have a few lulls. You have to drive through Barstow to get to Vegas. Luke needed to train with Yoda on Dagobah before he could pull off that really cool backflip over the sarlacc in Episode VI. You need these gaps to allow excitement to build, to train for your own super sweet backflip.

Around a month ago, Atlanta rapper 2 Chainz released a cookbook of 15 recipes that embody his culinary lifestyle. Salmon teriyaki, shrimp scampi, something called “Me Time Sauce”, it’s all in there. 

This is my Dagobah. 2 Chainz is my guide. And together, we’re going to do the culinary equivalent of a backflip as we Julie & Julia the 2 Chainz Cookbook.

Continue reading

Jumping on the bandwagon

You're probably making this face right now.

You’re making this face right now.

You have a problem. You love basketball, but your favorite team probably won’t make it to the playoffs.

If you’re a fan of the Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Hornets or Cleveland Cavaliers, you knew this moment would come. That’s good, people tend to underestimate the importance of acceptance at times like these. And given your team’s history of mismanaging personnel/acquiring post-prime talent, a lifetime of grief has enabled you to reach this stage with relative ease. It probably led to less stress in your life as a sports fan. Maybe you took up cooking or yoga in the time you didn’t spend  watching your defense blow double-digit leads. That’s great, really. You look healthier.

If you’re a fan of perennial playoff contenders like the Los Angeles Lakers (it was a DIRTY PLAY!), Dallas Mavericks or Portland Trail Blazers, this is probably a difficult time for you. But you know what? That’s okay too. It may sting right now, but NBA seasons are like goldfish — when they die, you flush them down the toilet and get another one when the county fair comes back around in the fall. Unless there’s a lockout. Or a kid dies on the tilt-a-whirl. Or you live in Sacramento.

Continue reading

Kyrie Irving terrifies me

Cleveland does not need this.

Not that it particularly matters. It would take a miracle for the Cavaliers to make up the 12 games that separate them from the 8th seed Milwaukee Bucks with only 19 games to play. Even if Jesus came down from on-high and graced the banks of the Cuyahoga with a benediction, all it would do is grant the Cavs an opportunity to lose to the Miami Heat. At that point, like a modern-day Job, Dan Gilbert would wonder if God would save us from LeBron James and the Miami Heat. 

Nevertheless, Kyrie Irving’s most recent injury is terrible news. Not just because he plays for a hapless but hopeful Cavs franchise, but also because of the talent he has displayed in two injury-shortened seasons. The combination of efficient shooting, passing and play-making Irving offers is incredibly rare, and not really comparable to more traditional elite point guards like Chris Paul or pre-Brooklyn Deron Williams.

His strengths as a shooter and passer resemble Phoenix Suns-era Steve Nash, but Nash was never forced to be his team’s primary scoring threat, as Irving has been over the last two years (you could extend the comparison to include their deficiencies on the defensive end, but more on that later).

Also, unlike Nash, Irving can move explosively to the rim. Even though he’s relied on the three ball and his mid-range jumpshot, if he manages to harness that ability to drive the lane in the next two to three years, he’ll clearly be one of the most effective offensive players in the league.

In a lot of ways, he already is. In 100 career games, Irving has averaged 20.7 points and 5.5 assists per outing. His .467 field goal percentage skews low, but that’s only because he takes an inordinate number of three point attempts (4.1 per game). His career effective field goal percentage, which takes into account the added value of the three ball, is .518. That level of efficiency ranks slightly below that of veterans like Dwayne Wade, Stephen Curry and Manu Ginobili.

And the best part is, he’s efficient from just about everywhere on the floor.

As you can see, Irving is effective from just about anywhere on the floor

As you can see, Irving is effective from just about anywhere on the floor

Fortunately, I had a chance to catch Irving in person earlier this year at the Barclays Center (believe it or not, Brooklyn Nets-Cleveland Cavaliers tickets were cheap to come by), and Irving put on a clinic against an above-average Nets’ defense.

Despite his reputation as a deep threat and mid-range shooter, Kyrie also showed a remarkable amount of creativity in driving through Brooklyn’s perimeter players and big men. 13 of his 19 shots came from within the paint, and those drives sent him to the line 14 times, where he shot 100 percent on the night.

Of course, even in Irving’s best outings, the Cavaliers are still the Cavaliers. The Nets won by double digits. But Irving’s 35 points and 8 assists kept the game close through the second half. But Irving’s presence on the court has been worth approximately 6.1 points per 100 possessions over the course of his career, according to Basketball-Reference.com. Suffice it to say, the Cavaliers are a terrible team without Kyrie Irving.

One area where he Irving needs to improve is on defense. But surround him with a few stoppers, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he eventually leads a team to a title.

Hopefully, injuries don’t stand in the way.

Roy Hibbert’s (not really) ugly contract

hibbert

Like sands through the hourglass, so are the games (not) started by overpaid players.

Every 2 point, 4 foul Andris Biedrins outing, every Gerald Wallace turnover, every Andrew Bynum haircut — there are countless examples of mis-evaluated NBA players who have signed franchise-breaking contracts (or subjected themselves to franchise-breaking trades), yet failed to perform by almost every conceivable metric*.

With that in mind — why is Roy Hibbert’s name on Bill Simmons’ short-list of  the NBA’s worst contracts?

In July, the then 25 year old signed a four year, $58 million contract after a breakout, All Star 2011-2012 season in which Pacers came within two games of reaching the NBA Finals. The contract, which includes a fourth year player option, only extends through Hibbert’s eighth season, when he’ll be just 29 years old.

Within the context of Simmons’ article, Hibbert is listed as a “Category 5: Overpaid But Undeniably Productive Guy”, which would be a fair assessment if he were considered merely productive. It’s a fair assessment if you look at his boxscore. His season average of 10.4 points and 7.9 rebounds per game are not the hallmarks of anyone’s idea of an “elite” NBA center, and certainly not if those 10.4 points are coming off .430 shooting.*

But Roy Hibbert isn’t just “productive” player. He’s actually one of the best defensive players in the league, as Simmons’ Grantland colleague Kirk Goldsberry explained in a paper presented at MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference (Simmons did link to this paper).

From Goldsberry’s report: “Overall, NBA shooters make 49.7% of their field goal attempts when qualifying interior defender is within 5 feet of the basket; however, this number drops to 38% when either Hibbert or Sanders are within 5 feet”.

To give that statistic a little more context, opposing players shoot only 38.2 percent from close range when Roy Hibbert is standing within 5 feet of the basket. The least efficient team in the NBA from less than 5 feet is the Charlotte Bobcats, and even the lowly Bobcats shoot 52.2 percent from that close to the basket, according to NBA statistics.

Hibbert’s presence on the floor serves as a security blanket for Indiana’s elite perimeter defense — the Pacers hold  shooters 34.5 percent from 20-24 feet, the second lowest percentage in the league behind the Chicago Bulls. With the former Georgetown big man on the floor, the Pacers hold opponents’ effective field goal percentage, which takes into account the added value of three point attempts, to .444, per Basketball-Reference.com, which happens to be less than the lowest team eFG% in the league (Again, Charlotte, with .452).

Even offensively, where he’s struggled this season, Hibbert has improved since the All Star break. After notching an ugly .413 in the first 53 games of the season, Hibbert has shot .542, including an 18 point, 7-of-14 effort against the the defense-centric Chicago Bulls.

Finally, here is a list of the last 10 NBA championship teams, along with their Defensive Rating (points allowed per 100 possession), per Basketball-Reference.com.

  • 2011-2012: Miami Heat, 92.5 points per game, 4th ranked defense
  • 2010-2011: Dallas Mavericks, 96.0 points per game, 10th ranked defense
  • 2009-2010: Los Angeles Lakers, 101.7 points, 12th ranked defense
  • 2008-2009: Los Angeles Lakers, 99.3 points per game, 14th ranked defense
  • 2007-2008: Boston Celtics, 90.3 points per game, 2nd ranked defense
  • 2006-2007: San Antonio Spurs, 90.1 points per game, 1st ranked defense
  • 2005-2006: Miami Heat, 96.0 points per game, 13th ranked defense
  • 2004-2005: San Antonio Spurs, 88.4 points per game, 1st ranked defense
  • 2003-2004: Detroit Pistons, 84.3 points per game, 2nd ranked defense
  • 2002-2003: San Antonio Spurs, 90.4 points per game, 3rd ranked defense

As you can see, with the exception of the Lakers and 2005-2006 Heat, every team on this list had a top-10 defense, and many of those squads possessed powerful defensive stoppers (Tyson Chandler, Tim Duncan, LeBron James).

The Indiana Pacers  currently field a defense that would be considered the third most effective on the above list, allowing only 89.7 points per 100 possessions from their opponents. If Goldberry’s report is any indication, Roy Hibbert plays a vital role in that defense.

Four years, $58 million? It’s certainly a lot of money, but the Pacers are getting their money’s worth.

*Definitely not the players fault though. As Rashard Lewis once said: “You sign me to a deal, you think I’m going to say, ‘No, I deserve $50 [million] instead of $80 [million]?’ I’m like, ‘Hell, yeah.’ I’m not going to turn it down. You can’t blame the players. If anything, we don’t negotiate the deal. We’ve got agents that negotiate the deals with the team. Y’all need to go talk to the teams and the agents.”

**He does shoot .722 at the stripe this year on 2.3 attempts per game. While that isn’t particularly impressive, it is good enough to eliminate the Hack-a-Shaq strategy many teams deploy against Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan and other mediocre free throw shooting centers.

Analysis: MJ Picks Kobe Over LeBron

Michael Jordan, unlike his jeans, will never fade away...

Michael Jordan, unlike his jeans, will never fade away…

Michael Jordan injected himself into the Kobe Bryant vs. LeBron James debate that no one really cares about now that LeBron has gone batsh*t insane all over the NBA. 

He picked Kobe.

The pick makes sense. Kobe’s a psychopath/terrible teammate, Jordan’s a psychopath/terrible teammate. Kobe is addicted to winning, Jordan is addicted to winning. Kobe eats rejuvenated blood plasma,  LeBron eats cereal to soulful Impressions grooves. Love that song.

But before we jump to any conclusions about Jordan’s preference in the Kobe vs. LeBron challenge. Let’s take a look at how Jordan  assessed basketball talent during his crowning achievement as an NBA executive — the 2001 NBA draft.

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