A look around the league and the Web that covers it. It's also important to note that the rotation order and starting nods aren't always listed in order of importance. That's for you, dear reader, to figure out.
C: Grantland. Pour yourself a nice, tall cup of coffee and settle in for another Jonathan Abrams joint, this time chronicling the 1980s Houston Rockets, a team that seemed destined to dominate due to its "Twin Towers" frontcourt of Ralph Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwon, but never quite put it all together. It's a story of square pegs, round holes, the beginnings of the positional revolution, the terrifying thought experiment of what a Jordan/Olajuwon/Drexler core might have looked like, lots of drugs, lingering ghosts and woulda-coulda-shouldas. It's a whale of a tale, warts and all, told by the people who lived it.
PF: The New York Times Magazine. Pour another cup — or, since it's later in the day now, maybe an adult beverage — to pair with Sam Anderson's feature on the Oklahoma City Thunder, described herein as "more than just a basketball team: it's the culmination of 20 years of civic reinvention, and the promise of more to come." The ginormous takeout makes little mention of James Harden until the final — the bulk of it was most likely written before Harden's trade to the Houston Rockets — which lends an oddly haunting aura to the proceedings ... it's almost like you're reading the last grasp at explaining why something matters just before it stops mattering. That this dropped on the same day as Abrams' Rockets history feels eerie and kind of depressing.
SF: The Classical. To happier topics! Your favorite post-punk sportswriting destination's whole "Why We Watch" player-by-player NBA season preview series has been fun, but our buddy Paul Flannery's piece on Rajon Rondo, who "offers on a nightly basis [...] the possibility contained in the unknown," is especially excellent. For one thing, as I've said before, nobody writes Rondo (or KG) like Flannery does; for another, this sentence — "We ask for honesty from athletes, but what we really crave is validation for our own beliefs and narratives" — is some of the most incisive real talk you'll read in a sports page anywhere.
SG: Heat.com. Couper Moorhead takes a closer look at how Mario Chalmers has matured as a playmaker, offering a detailed yet digestible study of the fifth-year man's improved decision-making, pace, accuracy and more. This line made me choke a little: "So far, Chalmers is producing 1.3 points per possession, a number that puts him among the top 10 in the entire league." So, um, maybe I shouldn't have been making all those jokes.
PG: Bullets Forever. The Washington Wizards have a $43 million problem, and its name is Tremeka Okaforiza. Seriously: If Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor don't start helping on defense *or* on offense to stabilize a team already missing its two best players due to injury, then the Wizards' cap-sacrificing deal for them has to be considered the worst move of the post/offseason, right?
6th: Dime. Roy Hibbert tells Spencer Lund about, among other things, the time Shawne Williams tried to rag on Larry Bird. It went about as well as you'd suspect.
7th: Living and Dying by the Jazz. Tyrone Corbin does not want to chest-bump you, Randy Foye, no matter how many 3-pointers you hit.
8th: San Antonio Business Journal. People can't get enough San Antonio Spurs or Golden State Warriors apparel, apparently?
9th: HoopSpeak. Beckley Mason answers one question ("What's with Pau Gasol?") by posing one of his own: "What if he's just worn down, tired, emotionally and physically exhausted?"
10th: BBallBreakdown. Rounding out the Lakers coverage, Coach Nick uses tape study and a stat dive to state, clearly and unambiguously, that L.A.'s problem is not its offense.
Got a link or tip for Ball Don't Lie? Give me a shout at devine (at) yahoo-inc.com, or follow me on Twitter.