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Apr
23

A 1-Man Show

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by Dr. L.A. Gabay

“When life gets out of control, Hoops can be the key to finding humanity.”

Gustav Gauntlett can’t dunk, but he can shoot, pass, write and act. All of what he can—and cannot do—is skillfully featured in his new basketball-infused one-man show: Hoops.

Hoops is the story of five different characters: A homeless man living on the court, a gay white son of a black cowboy in Omaha, an inmate in Pelican Bay Prison, a Mexican mother living in East Harlem, and a soldier in Afghanistan. Basketball is the text, subtext and thematic thread connecting each character in this 75-minute play. Written with straightforwardness, sans sentimentality, Hoops provides a functioning disconnect between the protagonists’ heroic possibilities and their imperfect realities. This resignation is perhaps most amplified through Reggie Williams, the homeless man, as we witness the point shaving events that have steered him from blue chip recruit to trashcan gleaner.

Hoops was written over a two-year span while Gustav was a regular at pick up games at Sara D. Roosevelt Park in Manhattan’s lower east side. “You meet so many interesting people on the New York blacktop. In my mind, I found myself trying to imagine their backstories, and used those thoughts as the antecedent to fully develop the characters.”

Performed with the rhythm of Basketball and flow of a sweeping fast break, Gauntlett’s physical precision and theatrical intimacy is striking. Basketball is both a private solitary game but also a group collective. Hoops A 1-Man Show invites humor but is not comedy, supplies pathos but lacks melancholy. The show focuses on the inner world of the characters in relationship to the cleanly constructed basketball-marinated vignettes. It is during these exposed snapshots where Gustav’s referendum on these characters is intuitively drawn (not just the emotional moments but the transformational ones) as they look back at their past while facing an unsure future. The writing doesn’t attempt to legislate feelings, but it does offer insight and challenges the audience to be athletic of the mind and expansive in thought. Basketball in Hoops, functions as a socio-theatrical force to examine some critical individual issues.

In this spirit of societal reflection, Walt Chambers, the Pelican Bay inmate, is an affluent suburban kid whose strongest form of prison currency are his point guard skills. These talents serve him well by keeping him safe. His foul shot ritual verbal mantra, “Focus…no fear” is linguistic evidence of the everyday uncertainty of incarcerated life wherein basketball offers momentary relief and occasional exaltation.

Later in the scene, Chambers adds, “With 10 seconds left in a championship game, the team down by one with the ball, is the single most exhilarating emotional experience.” Sports and people are far too complicated to be boiled down to simple equations, but Gustav Gautlett does provide transparency and spontaneity as the play ends differently, literally depending upon how the ball bounces.

Hoops premiered in San Francisco this past September, and reads as a kind of Vagina Monologues for a hip-hop laced streetball-playing consortium. Using a similar aesthetic structuration to Eve Ensler’s seminal piece of work, it is Gustav’s intent to expand on these stories in different locations to include neighborhood-specific basketball narratives globally. “The blacktop has no boundaries,” says Gauntlett.

In its current evolution, the many thematic textures of Hoops reach an amalgamation from this particular production’s multi-sequential video, music, and economically injected voice-overs; providing a raw and powerful hardwood theatrical offering.

Catch Hoops: A 1-Man Show at the HERE Arts Center on April 17 at 8:30 p.m. (doors 8 p.m.). Purchase tickets for $ 18. Learn more about the play and its characters at HoopsTheater.com.

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Apr
22

Post Up: Heat on Top

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by Brett Weisband | @weisband

Wizards (41-38) 96, Magic (23-56) 86

It wasn’t pretty by any means, but the Wizards picked up a win over the Magic on Friday. They did so despite shooting under 43 percent, as the Magic were even worse at 41 percent. Nene led Washington with 17 points, Bradley Beal kicked in 16 and John Wall (10 points, 12 assists) notched a double-double, overcoming a 3-10 night from the floor. Coupled with a Bobcats loss, the Wizards moved back into sixth in the East.

Arron Afflalo led Orlando with 19 points, while Jameer Nelson went for 12 points, 11 assists and 7 rebounds. The Magic went cold in the fourth, hitting just 4-15 from the field as the Wizards pulled away.

Knicks (34-45) 108, Raptors (46-33) 100

With their Playoff chances on life support, the Knicks got a win in Toronto to keep a glimmer of hope alive. Carmelo Anthony shook off his shoulder injury – which he’s refused an MRI on – to score 30 points on 8-17 shooting. Amar’e Stoudemire looked like his old self, continuing his hot spring with 24 points and 11 boards. Despite the W, the Knicks are just one loss (or an Atlanta win) away from being officially eliminated.

The Raptors went through several long scoring droughts and dropped their chance to clinch the Atlantic Division for the just the second time in franchise history. The good news for Toronto was that they had their starting five intact with Amir Johnson’s return to the lineup. DeMar DeRozan put up 26 points, Kyle Lowry had 25 and Jonas Valanciunas continued his tear, going for 14 points and 21 rebounds.

Celtics (24-55) 106, Bobcats (40-39) 103

Boston squeaked past the Bobcats, using a team effort to overcome a monster game from Al Jefferson. All five Celtics starters hit double figures in scoring and the team shot 52 percent from the field, hanging on to win after the ‘Cats clawed back in the final minutes. Avery Bradley scored 22 points, Jared Sullinger had 20 and hit the clinching free throws, and Jeff Green and Brandon Bass dropped 18 apiece.

Charlotte nearly erased a seven-point hole in the final two minutes, carried by two big buckets from Big Al, who finished with 32 points and 10 rebounds. Gary Neal had 13 off the bench for the Bobcats, who were without Kemba Walker and saw their five-game winning streak come to an end. Charlotte drops back behind Washington in the standings with the loss. 

Hawks (36-43) 93, Nets (43-36) 88

Atlanta managed to hold off the Nets to drop their magic number for clinching a Playoff spot to one. The Hawks let an 11-point lead in the third quarter slip away, but Paul Millsap (27 points, 10 rebounds) and Jeff Teague (22 points) handled business down the stretch to preserve the win; the two combined to score 13 of Atlanta’s 19 fourth quarter points. Teague also took the opportunity to destroy his brother Marquis with a crossover, National Sibling Day be damned: 

Nets fans can’t be too upset with the loss, as it puts their crosstown rivals a game away from being eliminated from the Playoff chase. In the loss, Paul Pierce (13 points) eclipsed the 25,000 point mark for his career, joining Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki and Kobe Bryant as the only active players to reach that total. The Nets played without both Deron Williams and Shaun Livingston, both out with minor injuries. Mason Plumlee led Brooklyn with 17 points on a perfect 6-6 night off the bench.

Heat (54-25) 98, Pacers (54-26) 86

Miami made a statement to their rivals on Friday, blitzing the Pacers in a win that wasn’t as close as the final score indicates. LeBron James started the game on fire and finished with 36 points for the Heat, who scored the first 16 points of the second half and didn’t look back from there. With the win, the Heat take back possession of the top seed in the East, and they’re in position to lock up home court through the Eastern Conference Finals. Miami stretched its lead as large as 23 points in the second half, with Indiana making a few small runs that didn’t amount to much of a challenge. Mario Chalmers had 13 points, Chris Bosh had 10 and Udonis Haslem contributed 11 points, 9 rebounds and invaluable defense.

The Pacers’ offense showed signs of life at times, but they couldn’t string together enough coherent possessions in the second half to get the lead down. Paul George had 22 points and David West put up 18 points and 8 boards for Indy.

Of real concern is Roy Hibbert’s performance. The All-Star big man was smothered by Haslam and finished with 5 points and an astonishing 1 rebound, which seems impossible when you remember that he’s 7-foot-2. Hibbert’s numbers have gone taken a sharp dip as the season has worn on; he’s averaging 9.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and shooting 41 percent from the field since the All-Star Game.

Bulls (47-32) 106, Pistons (29-51) 98

The Bulls climbed out of a big hole and ran past the Pistons in the second half. After trailing for nearly the entire first half and being down by 18 midway through the third quarter, Chicago stormed to the lead with a 15-0 run in the fourth quarter to grab the win. D.J. Augustin provided the spark off the bench with 24 points and 6 assists, picking up 8 points and 2 assists in the Bulls’ big run. Joakim Noah had 12 rebounds and 10 assists, but missed out on his second straight triple-double, scoring only 6 points. Taj Gibson chipped in 17 off the bench for the Bulls. It was a good night for Chicago in the standings, as they moved ahead of Toronto for third in the East and clinched home court in the first round with Brooklyn’s loss.

Andre Drummond was a monster in the losing effort, going for 26 points and 26 rebounds (somehow this only ties his career high in just his second season), including 12 offensive boards. Rodney Stuckey pitched in 22 for Detroit.

Grizzlies (47-32) 117, 76ers (17-62) 95

Memphis dominated the 76ers, keeping their window to make the Playoffs open. Marc Gasol put up 21 points and 10 rebounds, Mike MIller dropped in 19 off the bench and Zach Randolph had 10 points and 11 boards as the Grizzlies coasted. The win allowed them to pull even with Phoenix record-wise and into the final Playoff spot thanks to tiebreakers over the Suns. Memphis plays the Lakers on Sunday, followed by games against the teams they’re competiting with for a postseason berth – Phoenix and Dallas – to end the season.

Thad Young and Tony Wroten both went for 18, with Wroten taking it to the team that drafted him in 2012. The Sixers mercifully have just three games remaining on their schedule.

Timberwolves (40-39) 112, Rockets (52-27) 110

The only question about this game is where Corey Brewer ranks on the list of obscure players to ever drop 50. There is definitely no question that this was one of the most insane matchups of the season. Brewer went off for 51 points, just barely topping his previous career high of 29, and joining luminaries like Tracy Murray, Walt Wesley and Tony Delk in the 50-point club. He knocked down 19-30 shots for the Wolves while also swiping 6 steals, more than making up for Kevin Love’s absence.

Despite Brewer’s ridiculous night, Minnesota needed a last-second shot from Dieng (12 points, 20 rebounds) to escape with the win. The rookie bobbled the ball on the Wolves’ final possession, but gathered himself and knocked down a fall-away jumper to deliver the win. Minny was missing more than just Love, as Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic and Chase Budinger also sat out. Dante Cunningham pitched in 20 points and 13 rebounds and Ricky Rubio had 16 points and 10 assists.

James Harden put up a wacky of a stat line as well, going for 33 points, 8 rebounds, 10 assists and 6 steals while making just 7 field goals. Harden drilled a triple with 17 seconds to go to tie it up before Dieng’s game winner. Chandler Parsons but up a 27-7-7 line for the Rockets, who are still without Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley and are in danger of losing home court in the first round of the Playoffs.

Thunder (58-21) 116, Pelicans (32-47) 94

Oklahoma City pounded the short-handed Pelicans, using their star power to overwhelm a team that has none of its stars healthy. Kevin Durant had 27 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists and Russell Westbrook went for 24 points and 7 assists as the Thunder coasted to the W. OKC had a double-digit lead three minutes into the third and didn’t let up from there. Serge Ibaka nearly put up a triple-double with 16 points, 10 rebounds and 8 blocks. 

Already missing four of their top five players, the Pelicans suffered another blow when Tyreke Evans (13 points, 6 assists) went down with what was called a bone bruise in his knee. Darius Miller and Austin Rivers tied for the team lead with 18 points.

Bucks (15-64) 119, Cavaliers (32-48) 116

With the worst record in the League all but wrapped up, the Bucks figured it was safe to win a game, pulling one out against the Cavaliers. Brandon Knight went for 24 points and backcourt mate Ramon Sessions dropped in 20 as the Bucks shot 52 percent on the night. The two guards combined to score nine straight points and 11 of 13 for the Bucks as they pulled into the lead in the fourth quarter.

Dion Waiters scored 23 to lead the Cavs, Jarrett Jack had 21 off the bench and Tristan Thompson registered a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Spurs (62-18) 112, Suns (47-32) 104

The ever-incredible Spurs clinched the Association’s best record for the year, coming back from a major early deficit to get past the feisty Suns. San Antonio fell behind by 20 points in the first quarter, gradually working their way back into it. Kawhi Leonard (18 points) scored seven straight for the Spurs to break a tie in the fourth quarter, and Danny Green (career-high 33 points, 12-17 shooting, 7-10 from deep) hit one of his many 3-pointers to pad the lead with two minutes to go. Tony Parker returned to the lineup and scored 18 points in 24 minutes, while Tim Duncan sat on the second night of a back-to-back after tweaking his knee in Dallas on Thursday.

Eric Bledsoe did everything he could to carry the Suns with his point guard partner Goran Dragic on the bench with a sprained ankle. Bled went for 30 points (11-16 shooting), 11 rebounds and 9 assists, attacking the Spurs relentlessly and hitting all six of his shots in the lane. Gerald Green had one of his many scoring explosions this season, netting 27 in the start, while Markieff Morris had 20 off the bench. In the shuffle at the bottom of the West, the Suns slid down to ninth place with the loss.

Trail Blazers (52-28) 111, Jazz (24-55) 99

Portland took care of business in the fourth quarter, riding Damian Lillard to the win late. When it came to crunch time, the All Star took over, scoring scoring 14 of his 16 points, including four triples, as the Blazers turned a two-point deficit into an 11-point lead over a five-minute span. LaMarcus Aldridge posted a double-double with 18 points and 14 rebounds and Wesley Matthews dropped 21 as all five members of the Portland starting unit scored in double figures. The Blazers are now a half-game behind Houston for fourth in the West with two games to go, both at home against the Warriors and Clippers.

Derrick Favors had 21 points on 10-18 shooting for the Jazz, while Enes Kanter (15 points, 13 rebounds) and Trey Burke (14 points, 11 assists) both notched double-doubles. Alec Burks showed what he can do with as a starter, going for 16 points on 7-11 shooting.

Warriors (49-30) 112, Lakers (25-54) 95

Steph Curry led the Warriors into the Playoffs in triple-double fashion, posting 30 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists as Golden State clinched a second straight Playoff berth. With the trip-dub, Curry matched Joakim Noah and Lance Stephenson for most in the Association with four each. The Dubs coasted against the Lakers and, even better, welcomed David Lee (10 points) back to the lineup after a seven-game absence. Marreese Speights put up 16 points off the bench, Klay Thompson matched him with 16 of his own and Steve Blake put up 13-5-5 against the team that dealt him earlier this year.

The Lakers hung around in the first half, but a run by the Warriors toward the end of the second quarter stretched the margin to double digits and L.A. never recovered. Nick Young went for 25 off the bench to lead the Lakers and Jordan Hill (18 points and 12 rebounds) and Ryan Kelly (14 and 11) both had double-doubles. The Lakers matched the most losses in a single season in franchise history in this lost year.

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When 26 of the nation’s top prospects take the court in the Jordan Brand Classic on April 18, they’ll do so in gold-accented, limited-edition Jordan Melo M10s, elite players’ uniforms and exclusive cityscape tees. Check out the New York City-inspired collection above and some details from Nike, Inc. below:

This time of year eyes around the world turn to the hardwood as the best players at all levels compete to determine who is the greatest. On April 18, Brooklyn, New York’s Barclays Center will host the Jordan Brand Classic, where the future of the game will play Next vs. Next in the 13th annual Jordan Brand Classic. 

Participants in the National Game will don limited edition Jordan Melo M10s featuring a black or white upper and a New York City-inspired pattern on the collar. Continuing to pay homage to the Concrete Jungle, players’ uniforms will feature the same graphic depiction of the cityscape from above with accents of gold.  

Both M10 colorways will be available for purchase beginning April 18 at Flight 23 at Footaction, House of Hoops Harlem, Nike Town New York and House of Hoops Fulton for $ 165.  Drawing inspiration from the color and pattern of the elite players’ uniforms, exclusive Jordan JBC Cityscape Tees will also be available beginning April 12 for $ 35.

Update Friday, April 11: Jordan Brand confirmed today that Grammy Award-Winners and friends of the family Macklemore and Ryan Lewis will perform after the Jordan Brand Classic All-American Game at Barclays Center on Friday, April 18.

Tune In

The Jordan Brand Classic tripleheader will begin with the International Game at 2:30 p.m., followed by the New York Regional Game at 4:30 p.m. 

The All-American game will be nationally televised at 7 p.m. EDT on ESPN2. and viewers will have the opportunity to vote for the East and West MVPs, respectively. Follow @Jumpman23 on Twitter and Tweet the selection’s last name with #TakeFlightJBC. 

The National Game will feature 26 of the top prospects in the country, including all of the top-10 rated players from the ESPN 100, highlighted by No. 1 Jahil Okafor (Chicago, IL), No. 2 Myles Turner (Bedford, TX), No. 3 Cliff Alexander (Chicago, IL), No. 4 Tyus Jones (Apple Valley, MN), and No. 5 Emmanuel Mudiay (Dallas, TX). 

Tickets for the Jordan Brand Classic are currently on sale at all Ticketmaster locations, the Barclays Center box office, online at ticketmaster.com, or by calling 1-800-745-3000. For more information, visit the official website at www.JordanBrandClassic.com, and follow @JordanClassic on Twitter.

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And now…the highlight reel to go with the still photos of the 2014 College Slam Dunk Contest. See Marcus Lewis, Adreian Payne and more jam with style.

(H/T: Ballislife)

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Apr
09

Empire Statement

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by Dr. L.A. Gabay

John Wallace

John Wallace’s basketball itinerary reads like a story from a New York State Atlas. Born in Rochester, Wallace was the 1992 State High School Player of the Year and led Greece-Athena to an unbeaten record and the state championship. He next headed up the I-90 East to Syracuse where he fittingly took the university to the first NCAA Championship game held in the greater New York Area in 50 years.

With 131 points and netting a game high of 29, John was the 1996 tournament’s high scorer. Wallace completed his own version of the New York basketball tri-artic (playing high school, college and professionally in state) as he traveled back down US17-South and the hometown Knicks selected him as the 18th pick of the 1996 Draft—an absurdly illustrious draft class featuring Kobe, Iverson, Nash and Ray Allen.

Wallace’s 10-year pro career took him outside the 54,556 square-miles of the Empire State to destinations as domestic as Detroit, Phoenix and Miami and as international as Toronto and Italy. And though his jersey and mailing addresses changed, he never got rid of his New York State driver’s license.

After retiring from the game, John began working for the Knicks alumni and community outreach program, became involved in several businesses and focused on raising his children. John’s commitment to fatherhood stems from his early memories of his dad being incarcerated. The trajectory of his youth came to an impasse at age 14 when he and some peers stole a car. John felt uneasy and left while the others consummated the robbery, eventually getting caught and doing time. That epiphanic moment made John realize his good fortune and he began to cultivate his “well beyond average” scholastic and athletic gifts. John spent his days in honors classes and nights in the gym. 

So resonant are the proxy notions of guidance, direction and care toward young people for John, that he and his childhood friend, Modie Cox, created Winning Because I Tried, a non-profit initiative that goes into schools upstate, the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn to ensure that foundational mechanisms are in place for those students to succeed in and out of the classroom.

Speaking to high school students from Brownsville, most of whom have been through the juvenile detention or foster care system, John, who still looks like he can play (at least for the Sixers) shares, “There are rules, but we have multiple chances and people don’t decide our fate…we do.” So impactful are his words and program that last November, the Starlight Foundation honored John for his philanthropy work in NYC.

John Wallace

Most recently John started doing radio color commentary for the Knicks. “That’s a terrible call,” he exclaimed with a smooth dulcet voice and a wonderfully infectious laugh during a west coast Golden State game. This broadcast was almost 18 years to the day—April 1, 1996—when John, drifting near the foul line and moving sideways to get into his defense set, received a questionable whistle that officially ended his college career and Cuse’s chances for a Championship.

“I have complete understanding of the difficulties of being a basketball official, but I just wish there was more accountability.” Before leaving the Meadowlands Arena that night he had a “not very empathetic” moment with each referee working the Syracuse-Kentucky championship game. His biggest disappointment was not being on the floor for his team. 

John Wallace, who got a 1200 on his SAT (when they only went up to 1600) is smart and reflective enough to know that while the officiating may or may not have affected the NCAA final game that year, his fate and future were up to him. “We work hard to create our own luck and misfortunes,” he muses. The roadmap of John Wallace’s life has been continually repaved and occasionally re-routed to avoid detours and traffic. Just like the imposing terrain and solid infrastructure of the state he calls home, John Wallace is large, important and resilient.

Images via Getty

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