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I haven’t watched an NBA game in maybe four or five years. I live in Portugal, so it’s not even on in the background at a bar. I think the last one I watched might have been the Cavs-Warriors finals where Steph Curry threw the ill-advised behind-the-back pass, and LeBron won his only full-season title without being part of a dream team.
But my 11-YO daughter Sasha is now into basketball — she plays in an under 12 mixed league and under 14 girls one. At 5-2, she’s the tallest kid in her class, though keep in mind this is a French-Portuguese school, so it’s a low-bar to clear. That said, she’s taller than all the boys on the team, and she serves as a Dennis Rodman-Ben Wallace rebounder and defensive stopper who doesn’t do much on the offensive end. But the important point about this is she’s now interested in basketball, and she asked me if we could draft a fantasy team next fall.
Of course I said yes, but as I mentioned, I’m not remotely up on the current NBA, so I knew it would take some research. She got right to it, clicking around RotoWire and taking notes on the players. I told her it wasn’t necessary to take notes, but she was so into it, I didn’t press it too much, so she kept going, page after page.
I’d post a shot of her notes, but she declined to give me permission. I think she’s worried people would laugh at them, and she’s right, but she doesn’t realize people would love them. In fact, I just offered her a euro for them, but she’s holding out for 2 — we’ll see if I can get her to cave before publication.
But the next NBA season is six months away, so I didn’t think much of it until I got an email from tbe NFBKC reminding people that their NBA playoff leagues had yet to fill and were tipping off Saturday morning. I asked Sasha if she wanted in — it cost $150, and the NBA playoff package was 16 euros — and of course she said yes. (I had recently let her pick the teams for an NCAA sweet-16 pool with Alan Seslowsky where we won $122 of which I gave her 50 euros, so she thinks this is easy.) And what does she care anyway as I’m putting in all the money? She doesn’t yet fully appreciate that her prosperity also depends on her parents having some savings. To her a credit card is basically infinity, similar to the way Neel Kashkari views the Federal Reserve.
In any event, we signed up and picked our team by going through the RotoWire depth charts and figuring out who averaged the most fantasy points per the scoring system during the regular season. (For this contest you have to pick one player from each playoff team.) Wherever it was close, I let her make the call, so we have James Harden over Joel Embiid and a few other mildly controversial picks. It turns out Harden was only four percent owned, so this was a good pick, no matter how it pans out. It was also a good occasion to explain the game theory behind taking lesser-owned players.
We also went Nic Claxton over Mikal Bridges, and when Bridges went off for 25 points in the first half, she excoriated me for the error even though she signed off on it. I assured her that the first game of the first round wasn’t going to matter much and reiterated the game-theory points I had made (and which she seemed to receive) about Harden-Embiid. She replied that if it’s so important to get lesser owned players, why didn’t I just take all scrubs and that I should have taken Bridges. Tough crowd.
I also had to mute the commercials because during breaks the NBA League Pass programming is an orgy of idiocy. Cheerleaders gyrating, side-show performers doing tricks, morons dancing because they see themselves on the Jumbotron, terrible jock jams and corny rap. I went to a Clippers game 16 years ago, wrote about this, and apparently it’s only gotten worse.
From the blog in 2007:
These guys are the world's elite basketball players - so few have the talent and skill to play in the NBA - and they're sharing the stage with some bimbos and clowns? If you went to hear classical music at the London Philharmonic, would it not be demeaning to have me and the other RotoWire Editors playing pickup basketball on their stage to entertain you during intermissions? Or maybe we'd jam out on the piano and violin for you. Can the teams not have some respect for the players and the game?
Otherwise, the product is good. Seeing the NBA through Sasha’s eyes renewed my appreciation for it. She wanted to be involved in something she sees me do, and now that she plays, she understands what’s going on. We’ll see whether she gets interested enough to take on the hobby in earnest or whether it’s just a way of bonding with her dad. Either scenario is fine by me.
. . .
Postscript: I caved and paid
the two 10 euros for her notes: