December 19, 2017

Bobblehead Nation 2017 Update

So we are a couple of months into the NBA season and about that same length of time since I posted my Bobblehead Nation post for this calendar year, my annual roundup of all the bobbleheads I can find advertised as in-arena giveaways on various NBA teams' websites. I've written a post like this each of the last four years and I always miss some because some teams just don't roll out their promotional schedules on a timeline convenient to me. Imagine that, right?

So this year to be more of a bobblehead completist I have decided to post an update to my original post based on some new intel from some teams around the league. Turns out I was just missing a couple of teams and there have been some TBDs clarified since my initial post. The Milwaukee Bucks lead the way here with a ton of throwback bobbleheads. Let's get right to it, starting with some that have already come and gone.

Well, before we get to that, let me say just how awesome the James Harden bobblehead the Rockets gave away earlier this month is. OK, now let's get to it.

15 Bob Dandridge (Milwaukee Bucks)
In my first bobblehead post of the season, I covered in detail the Phoenix Suns' plans to celebrate their 50th season in the NBA with a series of five bobbleheads this year, one for each decade that the team has been playing ball. There's another team celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and that's the Milwaukee Bucks, one of the most creative teams out there when it comes to giveaways. The Bucks' reaction to turning 50? Well, I thought based on their initial promotional schedule that it was pretty much nothing. Turns out the Bucks were waiting on the announcement of the good stuff and are actually rolling out seven bobbleheads to celebrate their half century, starting about a month ago.

The Bucks have won just one championship in their 50 years in the league and they did it in 1971, just three years into their existence. Bob Dandridge was the starting small forward on that team after being drafted by the Bucks the prior season. Dandridge played a total nine seasons in Milwaukee (his first eight plus his last year in the NBA). In between? He was a Washington Bullet and picked up a second championship in Washington the very first year he played here in D.C. Many credit Dandridge with being the guy who pushed the Bullets over the edge and got them a title. Maybe it's about time for a Dandridge bobble in D.C. too? Wishful thinking, I know...
6 Sidney Moncrief (Milwaukee Bucks)
It's been so long since the Bucks were really good that it's easy as a fan of today's NBA to imagine them as a perennial doormat or middle of the pack team for their entire 50 year history. Sure they got that one title in 1971 but that was so long ago (I was two years old) and they almost made it to the Finals in the early aughts (lost in the Conference Finals to Philly in 2001) but what about the rest of the 48 years?

Here's the news: the Bucks had a couple of eras where they were really good. They won five division titles in the early and mid 1970s back when they won it all. They also won seven straight division titles from 1980 to 1986. And this was when division titles actually meant something. There were only four divisions back then after all. The guy anchoring most of those teams in the 1980s? Sidney Moncrief.

Over those seven seasons (including his rookie year in 1979-1980) Moncrief started a minimum of 72 games per year. He made the All-Star game five times. He made the All-NBA First Team once and the second team four more times. He flipped that script for the NBA All-Defensive team, making the first team four times and the second team once. Oh, and he was also the Defensive Player of the Year twice en route to getting his number 4 retired in Milwaukee. Earlier this month the folks in Milwaukee got him in bobblehead form.

3 Bob Lanier (Milwaukee Bucks)
After single bobbleheads in November and December the Bucks crank up the heat a bit in January and hand out three. First up? Bob Lanier, who got to the Bucks the same year Sidney Moncrief did. Well, almost.

Lanier was likely already a hall of famer before he got to Milwaukee, posting seven All-Star appearances (including the 1974 All-Star Game MVP award) in his first nine and a half seasons in Detroit before being traded to the Bucks during the 1979-1980 season. In Milwaukee he became part of the core that won the first five of those seven straight division titles. Lanier's number 16 is retired in both Detroit and Milwaukee. In 2006, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Three down, four to go in Milwaukee.
6 D'Angelo Russell (Brooklyn Nets)
After a violation of the bro code with Nick Young (bye, Iggy!) and (more likely the reason for his L.A. exit) the Lakers drafting Lonzo Ball, former number two overall pick D'Angelo Russell found himself shipped off to Brooklyn and the worst team in the NBA this past offseason. Worst team last year anyway.
So how are things in Brooklyn this year? Well, record-wise about the same as things are for the Lakers? And Russell? Well, up and down. Up because he was putting up good numbers in the beginning of the year and he gets himself a bobblehead in early January. Down because he hasn't played for the Nets since early November with a leg  injury. No timetable for recovery right now but at least he gets a bobblehead, which apparently is some sort of ongoing curse this season for Nets players. Read on...
8 Jeremy Lin (Brooklyn Nets)
As bad as D'Angelo Russell has it with a leg injury and no schedule for getting back on the court, he's got it good compared to Jeremy Lin, who gets his own bobblehead just two days after Russell gets one. Lin's fate this year? One game and 25 minutes played, one ruptured patella tendon in his right knee, gone for the year. Terrible. Awful luck. I'm sure a bobblehead helps this situation in no way.

10 Brian Winters (Milwaukee Bucks)
To this point in the season, the Milwaukee Bucks have celebrated players who played on their early 1970s and early 1980s teams. With the rollout of the Brian Winters bobblehead on January 10, they celebrate both. Winters arrived in Milwaukee as part of a trade for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, after making the All-Rookie First Team with the Lakers during the 1974-1975 season.

If you are thinking being traded for Kareem is kind of a tough act to follow, you'd be correct. Winters was not anything close to the player Kareem was. But he did manage to make a couple of All-Star teams in 1976 and 1978 and did enough I guess in Milwaukee's eyes that they retired his number 32 jersey.
12 Charles Barkley (Phoenix Suns)
No, this is not a new bobblehead giveaway date, but at the time I wrote my initial post, the Suns hadn't yet revealed the player to be honored in bobble form this date. All bobblehead dates for the Suns' 50th anniversary season were determined by fan vote. January 12 is 90s night at Talking Stick Resort Arena and of course the fan choice HAD to be Barkley. For the record, I nailed the Suns yet to be announced results in my first post. See March and April below.

17 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Milwaukee Bucks)
So if you are the Bucks, there had to be a dilemma here, right? Do you go with a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar bobblehead or a Lew Alcindor bobblehead? Kareem played six seasons in Milwaukee after being drafted by the team in 1969 out of UCLA and while he had already converted to Islam, he was still known on the basketball court as Lew Alcindor, a name he continued to use publicly until after his second NBA season, the same year the Bucks won their one and only championship.

So...two seasons as Alcindor and four as Abdul-Jabbar but the championship came as Alcindor. What to do? The Bucks, apparently, are choosing Kareem over Lew. I'm not sure I'd make the same choice here but it's probably what Kareem wants. So be it. Regardless, Bucks fans get the best player to every suit up for the team on January 17. I'd be there early that day if I was a Bucks fan.

10 Allen Crabbe (Brooklyn Nets)
If I'm Allen Crabbe, I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. The third and final Nets bobblehead recipient this year has so far escaped major injury, unlike D'Angelo Russell and Jeremy Lin. I'm sure he's hoping there's no connection between bobblehead nights and injuries in Brooklyn. If there is, he can kiss his season goodbye soon.
Crabbe took the long way to Brooklyn. He was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers out of school who sent him to the Portland Trail Blazers that same night. After his third year in the league, the Nets signed him to an offer sheet that was matched by Portland. About a year later they decided Brooklyn could have him anyway, sending him to New York for Andrew Nicholson who they ended up waiving instantly. The Nets are obviously thrilled enough to make sure he has a bobblehead night this year. Let's hope there's no curse. For his sake.

15 Jon McGlocklin (Milwaukee Bucks)
Bob Dandridge won a title in Milwaukee in 1971 and gets a bobblehead this year. So did Lew Alcindor / Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The Bucks are handing out a third bobblehead celebrating that team in the form of Jon McGlocklin. McGlocklin is way less celebrated than the other two, having made just one All-Star appearance in his career and winning no significant postseason honors. But he's spent the longest time of any of the three around the Bucks team, serving as a member of the Bucks' broadcasting team for the last quarter century. His number 14 hangs in the rafters of the building where he calls home games.
1 Kyle Korver (Cleveland Cavaliers)
If I nailed the bobbleheads that the Suns would be giving away, I totally whiffed on the Cavs' choices. You just traded for an All-Star (Isaiah Thomas) in the offseason and you go with Kyle Korver and (spoiler alert for March 19 here) Derrick Rose? Sure each of those guys have been on the All-Star team in the past and yes, Thomas is currently injured but he's playing at some point this year, right? Otherwise you traded Kyrie Irving for Jae Crowder and Ante Zizic. I'm stunned there's no Isaiah Thomas bobblehead in Cleveland this year. Show up March 1 for your Korver bobble, Cavs fans.
2 Steve Nash (Phoenix Suns)
I predicted Barkley in January for the Suns' 90s night and I was right. I predicted Nash in March for the Suns' 00s night and I was also right. No flies on me. At least not here. Cleveland's another story. I guess I understand the fan mentality more than I do that of Cavaliers' ownership. Thank God for that!

7 Junior Bridgeman (Milwaukee Bucks)
Six down, one to go for the Bucks. The last Legend of the Rafters bobblehead giveaway in Milwaukee features Junior Bridgeman. Bridgeman (who's full name is Ulysses Lee Bridgeman) came to Milwaukee in 1975 along with Brian Winters in the trade for Kareem and spent 10 years with the Bucks in two separate stints, spending time on the rosters of both the great 70s and 80s teams a la Brian Winters.
In their 50 year history, the Bucks have retired a grand total of eight numbers. Their series this year is called the Legends of the Rafters bobbleheads. But there are only seven giveaways. The missing player with the eighth retired number? Oscar Robertson. What gives?
19 Derrick Rose (Cleveland Cavaliers)
So I've already expressed my surprise about the choice of players to receive bobbleheads from the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier in this post. My only other question here is does your new Derrick Rose have doubts about his suitability to be a bobblehead? Is he going to take unexpected absences every so often to contemplate whether he really should be standing with the rest of your Cavs bobbles? I'd still go with Thomas. Just saying.

6 Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns)
The Suns' 50th celebration wraps up with a bobblehead of a player on their current team on April 6. Who else could it be but Booker? Three for three on Suns predictions. Congrats on your five bobbleheads this year Phoenix fans. It's about all you got this year.

That's it for me this year in the league-wide bobblehead department. There may be some schedules out there yet to post but I'm done searching these things out. All told, there are a ton of bobbleheads for fans to collect this year. For me, I'm waiting for the Wizards solitary bobble in March. Patience...

December 17, 2017

Healthy Scratch

No, I'm not posting from tonight's game. The photograph above is from the Wizards-Cavaliers game on November 3 of this year. 

Every so often I miss a Wizards game. I'd say over the past ten years or so I've missed a maximum of four home games in any one year, including a couple (or at least one since I've been writing this blog) of zero miss (or perfect attendance) years. Sometimes life gets in the way. Christmas. Vacations. Birthdays. Weddings. A Smiths/Morrissey cover band at the State Theatre. Whatever. Inevitably something most years takes me away from Capital One Arena (or previously Verizon Center / MCI Center) at least once per year and has me checking the score on my phone or watching a game on the iPad even though my Wizards team is in action just a few miles from my home.

Tonight is not one of those nights. 

Let me clarify. Tonight is not one of those nights where life has gotten in the way of the Wizards home schedule. The Wizards ARE playing at home and I am NOT there and I am sitting at home watching. It's Sunday night and it's an early evening game and I'm on my couch with some snacks watching the Wizards playing the Cleveland Cavaliers on television and I have no excuse for missing this game. No excuse except Wizards tickets are getting just too darned expensive and the prospect of selling my tickets to someone else on a Sunday afternoon in December got to be too much. I had to take a pass on this game. If it were March or April or even February and definitely not after April I wouldn't have done this.

I feel like hell. I feel like I'm letting my team down by not contributing just a little to the boos that used to be rained down on LeBron James or the applause for a John Wall drive or Bradley Beal three pointer or Marcin Gortat rebound or whatever it is going on center stage on the Cap One Arena court. For sure I should be there. This is literally the first home game I have watched on TV from my home since November of 2009 when I was laid up at home unable to walk due to a massive gout attack (totally my fault; who knew cranberries were loaded with purines) after a road game in Indiana. 

This year I spent more on Washington Wizards tickets than any year in my life. $9,680 to be exact. I realize some folks spend way more but $10K per year is nothing to sneeze at. And it's going to go up. I'm dreading my season ticket renewal notice in late February or early March. I've been shelling out money for Wizards tickets for the last 18 years of my life and I've gotten very little emotional satisfaction in return. For sure, winning in the first round of the playoffs four times has been sort of satisfying and watching John Wall and Gilbert Arenas has been nothing short of amazing. The passes John makes are unbelievably skillful and Gil's cold blooded daggers were just spectacular back in the day. But one division title in the first 17 years of me buying season tickets and nothing playoff-wise beyond the second round? I'm not doing too well on return for my investment.

So I'm home. And I'm hoping the Wizards win. For what it's worth, I'll be cheering loudly from my couch in Arlington, while I'm munching on Cheez-Its and drinking $10 per bottle wine (just one bottle, I promise). Not that it will drown out the cheers of the (probable) Cavs fans sitting in my regular seats. Although, let's face it, they are probably just cheering for LeBron James and have never actually been to Cleveland. 

I would love that I didn't have to do this and honestly I probably didn't have to but there's only so much per year I can spend on tickets. I would love it if the Wizards would incentivize fans to attend home games through non-sellable low cost tickets like I proposed towards the middle of last year to get us to come to the games every night and recognize a savings. Even better I'd love for the Wizards to offer discounts over and above the current season ticket prices for fans that have suffered through 19-23 and 25-57 and another 19-63 and 26-56 and 23-39 and 20-46 (labor dispute shortened season) and 29-53 seasons. Do they realize I've shelled out cash for each of these seasons?

I don't expect anything. So I'm here at home watching the Wizards on TV. But I'll be there on Tuesday, rooting for the Wizards to beat the Pelicans. And I won't stop doing this until the Wizards price me out of my seats completely rather than for just one game per year. Let's hope they never do that. They've already forced me to sell this game. Here's hoping the next years won't be like this. I'm not holding my breath. 

Tonight is also the Wizards' annual toy drive. Love this graphic.

December 3, 2017

Kids Club News

If you know anything about me from reading this blog, you know how much I love bobbleheads. They are a central focus of my life as a Wizards fan and I'm in favor of any way to get any additional team-issued bobbleheads. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you'll know I've been fairly critical of the Wizards frugality in the bobblehead department. While teams like the Golden State Warriors or Dallas Mavericks are issuing five, six, ten or 12 bobbleheads in a season, the Wizards have stuck to their guns with the steady one per season.

But over the last couple or three years, the Wizards have started to show more flexibility. Four years ago, they offered a Martell Webster bobblehead with the Slam Dunk Kids' Club membership and then continued that tradition over the next three years with bobbles of G Wiz, Otto Porter and then Bradley Beal in street clothes. Now all you had to do to get more bobbleheads was find or invent a kid, pay $20 and pick up a free-quality team issued bobblehead. Then last year, the team issued a Monumental Rewards-exclusive Scott Brooks bobblehead. Things were looking up up up in the bobblehead department for Wizards season ticket holders.

Then this past summer, Monumental Sports and Entertainment made the decision to cancel the Monumental Rewards Program. Just like that, an opportunity for additional bobbleheads disappeared, along with my 97,107 Monumental Rewards points. Now, it seems they've done something similar with the Kids' Club.

No, the G Wiz Kids' Club hasn't disappeared. But the bobblehead component has. At least for this year. I've been tracking the Kids' Club announcement on an almost daily basis by checking the page on the Wizards website based on a promise from the team to have something announced by the end of November. They finally swapped out the information from last year in the last couple of days. This year for your $24.99 (yes, they raised the price) you or your kid (real or imaginary) get a drawstring bag, earbuds, pedometer, lanyard and water bottle. My niece already has a drawstring bag and water bottle from past years' memberships. I get the fitness focus for this grab bag but do we really need kids wearing pedometers? I say bring back the bobblehead.

I'm assuming part of the deal here is that the Wizards just feel like they ran out of bobbleheads to include with the Kids' Club. Martell Webster was an ideal fit for the Kids' Club because of how focused he was on his family. Otto Porter has also had a presence at Kids' Club events (as has Kelly Oubre, Jr.) so he seemed like a good bobblehead to issue. G Wiz of course fits well since his name is on the Kids' Club. Last year's Bradley Beal seemed like a stretch.

So an ideal theme for Kids' Club bobbleheads to me would be rookies. But since the Wizards have a tendency to just totally disregard the value of draft picks most years (including this year and last year), I guess they can't do that. Kelly Oubre, Jr. would be great but he just had an all-fans bobblehead giveaway last year. John Wall? The team already issued three Wall bobbles over the last few years (four if you count the season ticket holder only "starting lineup" bobblehead set). Marcin Gortat or Markieff Morris? Maybe a little scary? Not too popular with the kids? Markieff especially?

So why not go a little deeper into the team? I know issuing a bench player bobblehead goes contrary to the Wizards recent history of bobblehead issues (with the exception of Jordan Crawford instead of Emeka Okafor in the aforementioned starting lineup set) but other teams do it all the time. The Mavs issued bobbleheads 12 deep last year. If you made the team, you pretty much got a bobblehead. This year I could easily see Jason Smith who seems great with kids based on me standing in line for about five minutes at Six Flags to get Jason's autograph and who just had his first kid this summer. If he's not good, what about Mike Scott? He's covered with emoji tattoos. What kid doesn't love emojis??? Reach a little here, Wizards.

I'm dreaming, I know. Consider this blog post my appeal to bring back the bobblehead component of the Kids' Club next year. The Wizards know where I am if they need my input.

Is this the all-time Wizards Kids' Club bobblehead collection? Here's hoping the answer is no.

December 2, 2017

The Capital City Go-Go

Between the first and second quarters of last night's win over the Detroit Pistons, the Washington Wizards made an important announcement, revealing the name and logo of their minor league or G League affiliate which will begin play in the fall of 2018. The name? The (drumroll please...) Capital City Go-Go!!! The logo? Well, that's the picture at the top of this post.

How good are the name and logo? I'll get to my thoughts on that in just a minute. Let's talk about some more practical considerations before we get to the fan stuff.

From a basketball standpoint, yesterday's announcement is a next step forward in what is an important process and one which frankly the Wizards have been trailing most of the rest of the NBA on for a significant period of time. For sure, rolling out a name and a logo doesn't make a minor league franchise any more real but this process has steps and this is one of them. It now allows fans to believe that we are on schedule with having a support franchise of our very own.

Why is this so important? Well, in addition to bringing pro basketball to more people in this country at a more affordable price point, having a dedicated farm team allows concentrated player development and rehabilitation assignments. This year, 26 of the 30 NBA teams have G League franchises that are singly affiliated, meaning either that the two franchises are owned by the same organization or that the operations of the minor league team are run by the parent franchise. That means that the coaching system is identical between the two teams, allowing faster development of young talent or rehabilitation assignments for players coming off injuries in a basketball playbook environment exactly the same as they will find when they get to or back to the NBA.

The Wizards ain't one of those 26 teams with a dedicated G League affiliate. That means the League has way less value for the Wizards than about 26 other teams. In fact, this year the Wizards have used the G League only because they pretty much have to. Devin Robinson and Mike Young were signed to two-way contracts which allow them to play in both leagues under specific guidelines and salary structures. So far, the Wizards have confined both to the G League and left it at that. The only way they could have had less involvement so far is if they just opted to not sign any two-way contracts at all.

So how are Robinson and Young developing? Right now, no clue. Devin is playing the Philadelphia 76ers way on assignment to their Delaware G League franchise. Mike is learning how the Phoenix Suns do things down in Arizona. Earlier this week they actually played each other in a game. Assuming the G League franchise is actually interested in developing another team's players, does this setup sound ideal in any way? Not to me it doesn't.

So how else might not having a G League franchise hurt a team? Well, earlier this week, the Chicago Bulls announced they would be sending Nicola Mirotic and Zach LaVine to their nearby G League team for a rehab assignment. They are not the only team to have done this in the past. There's no way the Wizards are going to send some of their NBA players to another team's minor league affiliate so they just simply don't have that luxury available to them. The Wizards are a step behind here.

Capital City Go-Go shirts were mandatory shirt wear during second half warmups last night. 
So about that name and logo.

Really? The Capital City Go-Go???

OK, first, let me say I appreciate the effort to do something different. Of the 26 teams currently in the G League, 11 of them have nicknames that match their parent franchise (I'm counting the Iowa Wolves in this number) which is both unimaginative and sad. The best names in the G League are the ones that existed before single affiliation was a concept. The Maine Red Claws, Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Fort Wayne Mad Ants and Reno Bighorns are all awesome names. The Capital City Go-Go certainly matches the spirit of these names, just like the Memphis Hustle did when that franchise began playing this year.

I also appreciate the effort to create a name that's place specific instead of generic. Warriors can come from anywhere, as can Wolves, Raptors and Stars. There's no place else that Go-Go (named after D.C.'s own go-go style of music) can come from.

So what's my problem, you might ask? Well, there are a few issues. First, I object to the Capital City moniker. I am going to think of The Simpsons every time I read or hear that. In case you are not a Simpsons fanatic, in one episode Homer self-appointed himself the mascot of the local minor league baseball team the Springfield Isotopes and was so successful that he got sent to Capital City to pinch-mascot for the world-famous Capital City Goofball. Of course, he failed. I like Capital. Just not Capital City. I've had Tony Bennett in my head all day singing the Capital City song from The Simpsons. Hate that!

Second of all, it's not really very sports-y. It used to be mascots were concrete things like Orioles or Cowboys or Jets or Hawks or something like that. I get that some teams have appropriated more abstract concepts like weather (Heat or Lightning) but now we are dealing with sounds? I guess the Jazz is the same way. And how is the name going to roll off the tongue when the team's on the court? Are we going to chant "Let's go Go-Go!"???

Finally, and the biggest reason really, is that nobody outside of D.C. is going to get it. On one level, I love that. It's like an inside joke that everyone is in on except people not from the District. On the other hand, nobody really cares about the G League nationally and it's going to be ultra-confusing to explain to other people what my Capital City Go-Go shirt means. It's just going to bring up endless questions. 

Some nicknames have hidden meanings: I love how the Charlotte Hornets name references a quote from Lord Cornwallis during the Revolutionary War. But the great thing about the hornets name is it works whether or not you understand the hidden meaning. The Memphis Hustle is another name with multiple levels of meaning. The Go-Go name is just confusing and there's no hidden meaning although until it's explained, nobody's going to get it on any level.

And then there are the logos. We got three last night. The (what I assume will be) primary logo at the top of this post, a partial version of that same logo with just the bongo drum with basketball patterned drum head and then the alternate logo which features a note with three stars over a silhouette of the District of Columbia.

I think the primary logo is fine. I'm not crazy about the "Capital City" font but other than that I am pretty ambivalent about the whole design. My biggest objection is the name itself. Because the name makes up most of this logo, I can't imagine I'm ever going to be purchasing any apparel with this logo on it.

I actually like the secondary logo a lot. I don't like the red background but if the team sells shirts with this logo on it that are not red, I could see myself owning one or two of these things. It represents the District way more than the name itself. I'm surprised, and actually refreshingly so, that the team didn't make basketballs out of the circles on the note. Basketball logo designers have a way of turning every circle on a design into a basketball. Not doing that here was a good move.

I'm not sure I have the answer to what I wanted here. I wrote a post last year on this blog where I wondered what the name of the team would be. My answer was Capital Bullets, although I really liked my Ward 8 Wizards suggestion better over time. My answer was non-creative. The Capital City Go-Go is way more creative. But I just don't like it. Maybe I'll warm to it over time. I expected today that I'd be hunting around on the internet to see where I could find a t-shirt with the new team's logo on it. I haven't done that and I don't think I'm going to do it any time soon. I'm disappointed here. I get it. But I don't get it. Oh well.