Sacramento Kings Grades v. Rockets, 10/18/2017

As taken from my original post on Kingsfans.com  (this is only here to prove to anyone reading this blog that I am in fact still alive):

Alrighty folks, well that certainly was an exciting start to the season wasn’t it?

While the outcome wasn’t ideal and the refs once again found a new way to screw over the Kings, there were encouraging performances all around and a halftime performance by Lil Jon for some reason. It looks like I’m going to be doing grades for the majority of the season so let’s get things rolling shall we?

Skal Labissiere (C+) — 33 min, 12 pts, 10 rbs, 1 ast, 0 stl, 0 blk, 5 tov, 1 pf
With Z-Bo slow to recover from some oddly timed dental surgery, Skal got the season opening start and performed, well, adequately. On offense Skal showed flashes of the smoothness that makes him such an appealing prospect. Additionally he travelled repeatedly (as reflected in his team leading 5 turnovers). On defense, Skal’s twig-esque lower body largely went unpunished by Mike D’Antoni’s three-or-dunks offense and he was able to challenge Ryan Anderson much better than he did last season (which isn’t saying much because all Ryan really does is just sorta stand around the corner regions of the court and wait for Harden to throw it to him). He also made a visible effort on the boards tonight and wound up with a double-double, although a lot of those boards came because the entire Rockets team was standing twenty feet away from the hoop to take a three). Overall, it wasn’t a bad night for Skal but there was definitely room to improve.

Justin Jackson (C) — 19 min, 5 pt, 2 rbs, 0 ast, 0 stl, 0 blk, 0 tov, 1 pf
If you had told me that one of our five rookies was going to start the season opener, Justin Jackson would not have been the first name that came to mind. With Joerger notorious for taking a careful approach with his rookies and young guys, the fact that J-Jax is already getting the starting nod speaks volumes about his coach’s trust in him (and also about the lack of depth at the 3 spot on this roster). Though the stats from his debut aren’t exactly gaudy, I thought the rookie played within himself and the system for his first game. Struggled shooting the ball early off then settled into the game in his second stint and showed off his nice floater game. On defense, he didn’t make too many mistakes (aside from letting Luc Mbah a moute sneak behind him for a dunk), though once again the Rockets system isn’t exactly designed to single in on and punish rookies. Overall, a perfectly average shrug of the shoulders as a game start to Justin’s NBA career.

Willie Caulie-Stein (A-) — 32 min, 21 pt, 10 rbs, 1 ast, 0 stl, 3 blk, 1 tov, 1 pf
For one night at least, those people looking to ship Willie off to Philly for Okafor or whatever are going to have to eat crow as Trill turned in perhaps the best performance of the night for the young Kings team. When Willie started the game off by rushing a forced shot on O, I thought we were in for once of those nights but, much to my pleasure, Willie soon settled in and made plays off of boards and around the rim. While 10 rebounds is barely above average, they’re a good sign that the notoriously board averse former-Wildcat was dialed in and ready to roll. In the second half, started showing up as a rim protector, charting three blocks in the third quarter, all while showing off an improved jump shot (kinda) to go with the inside action on offense.

Now, I know some of you are going to point at Capella going off for twenty points tonight as some indication of Willie’s deficiency on defense but, to be fair, some of that (at least in the early going) seemed to be more on the team’s emphasis on keeping Harden from simply waltzing into the paint than Willie pooping himself when his team didn’t have the ball. After halftime, Joerger seemed to make a bit of an adjustment in the defensive scheme and from there on, I thought Trill did a much better job of pressuring Capella than in the first half (the stats would also seem to bear that out).

Overall, an encouraging start to the season from the apparently black sheep of the Kings prospect group. If Willie somehow turns in performances like this every single night, our team will be in very good shape going forward.

George Hill (B) — 32 min, 16 pt, 3 rb, 3 ast, 0 stl, 0 blk, 4 tov, 3 pf
This was a solid debut by perhaps our biggest free agent signing in the last ten years and I’d imagine we’d all be very happy about George Hill’s future as our starting point guard were it not for the fact that his backup may just be the most exciting player in the NBA (okay, that’s an exaggeration but still the point remains). The Indianan was just solid in almost every facet of the game: defense, offense (turnovers aside), intangibles (just watch the dude coach up his guys at almost every dead ball). In the third when the game started to slip away, Hill started to turn up his own offensive output to keep the team within range and did a fairly good job of making the Rocket guards work for their cake. Teamed with Temple and Fox to wreak defensive havoc on the Rockets in the second half. Those of you already plotting ways to get him off our roster should probably hold that thought. The Floor General should be a key cog of our squad going forward.

Buddy Hield (B) — 33 min, 19 pt, 5 rb, 4 ast, 1 stl, 0 blk, 2 tov, 5 pf
It was a tale of two halves for Buddy. In the first, Hield looked as bad as he had for most of summer league and preseason: forcing shots, misplaying possessions on defense, generally trying to do too much. In the second half, Buddy pretty much looked the same except for one key difference: his shots were going in. It sounds simple but that’s the gist of it. When Buddy’s shot is off, it’s like getting a root canal with no novocaine while one of the nurses jabs you in the privates with a cattle prod. When Buddy’s shot is on, it’s like getting a root canal with no novocaine while one of the nurses jabs you in the privates with a cattle prod except your a 40-something-year-old Japanese business who frequents SM bars after work and enjoys these sorts of things. Nevertheless, one can only hope that the third quarter explosion is more of an indicator of things to come in the season going forward.

Kosta Koufos (C) — 18 min, 2 pts, 6 rb, 0 ast, 0 stl, 1 blk, 1 tov, 3 pf
Kosta is who he is. While a lot (i.e. almost all) of his offensive production is predicated on whoever the hell else is on the floor with him, you can never really question his effort. While he rebounds better than probably anyone else on this roster and plays the best team defense of any Kings’ big man, the Greek (Bare) Peak isn’t exactly someone you go to and ask to produce offense for you. There were several possessions where De’Aaron tried to squeeze the ball in to Kosta for the highlight lob but that isn’t really Kosta’s game either. Either way, another typically solid game from the veteran big man even if it didn’t result in the spectacular plays we generally want to see when we pay money to watch pro ball.

De’Aaron Fox (B+) — 24 min, 14 pt, 4 rbs, 5 ast, 0 stl, 0 blk, 3 tov, 2 pf
Well aside from sheer Lebron-scoring-twentysomething-points-on Doug-freaking-Christie-level dominance this was just about the best debut you could possibly expect from your stud blue chip rookie. It was all on display against the Rockets: the insane speed, the crafty handles, smart defense, the jumper with room for improvement. While the shot remains a work in progress, the fact that De’Aaron runs like he’s trying to outrun a stampeding buffalo herd all game renders that a less important point that it would be with another player lacking such a gamebreaking skill. I’m going to talk about Vince Carter not really being athletic enough to play consistently good defense in a bit here but whenever De’Aaron had the ball he made everyone else on the court look like Vince Carter. Maybe Fox’s lack of bulk makes him look faster than he actually is but based on a simple eye test I would have a hard time being convinced that he isn’t already the quickest player in the entire league.

The Kings caught a bit of a break with CP3 missing the game with a “bruised shin” (pulling a Lonzo?), meaning that the Rockets didn’t have a point guard to punish the rookie with. For the most part, Fox played a solid game on that end of the floor. While he had a tendency to creep off of his man on the perimeter, Fox’s elite speed means that he can get back in position before the other team can even swing the ball to the open man.

Considering his age, this debut off the bench was more than enough to help fuel the De’Aaron hype train. At the same time, you could see all the things Fox still can do to get better, be it his floor vision or his shooting stroke. Just don’t try to gift him with In-n-Out

Vince Carter (C) — 14 min, 6 pt, 1 rb, 2 ast, 0 stl, 0 blk, 1 tov, 1 pf
The Kings ran a feature in-arena during one of the quarter breaks where the young Kings tried to figure out whether or not Vince Carter was born before or after a variety of “classic” toys and memorabilia. They got most of the questions wrong. I only point this out to remind you that (a) Vince Carter is older than the hills and (b) Vince hasn’t really been Vinsanity Vince for at least a decade now. Role player player-coach Vince Carter, however, plays for the Sacramento Kings and looked alright… on offense at least. One of the problems with being a 40-year-old in the NBA is that while you may have accumulated decades of knowledge and tricks in your time in the league, your body has sorta gone down the other direction so while Vince Carter, crafty old dude who can hit three pointers, is an asset on offense, Vince Carter, old dude who can’t quite move like he used to, isn’t quite as nifty on defense. This isn’t to say that he was bad or anything, just that I can see why he’s now a bench player limited to fifteen or so minutes a night.

It doesn’t make having a dude who was drafted the same season as Jason Williams and Mike Bibby on the team any less cool.

Malachi Richardson (inc but a D probably) — 6 min, 0 everything, 1 pf
The second year player saw some time in the first half. He didn’t do anything with it.

Garrett Temple (B-) — 30 min, 5 pt, 1 rb, 3 ast, 4 stl, 0 blk, 1 tov, 2 pf
This was an interesting performance in that it combines both incredible defense and ho-hum offense. Garrett came into the game in the first and hit his first three of the game and then largely forgot how to shoot for the rest of the night. Thankfully, the man made up for his offensive struggles by absolutely smothering Harden all night. No, really, this was a Doug Christie-esque “Sure, you’re a superstar but you’re gonna have to work your ass off for your thirty points tonight” performance. Just didn’t give any ground on defense and took advantage of the few times where the 2017 MVP runner-up was lazy with the ball. People like to make fun of Aaron Bruski for his blind love for Garrett Temple but its defensive performances like tonight that remind you that it was an absolute travesty that Garrett didn’t get any votes for the All-Defensive Teams last year.

***

And that’s all folks.  Up next, the Kings hit the road early and take on the Dallas Mavericks and their own rookie point guard firecracker in Dennis Smith Jr. in a Friday evening match-up of teams almost guaranteed to not be relevant in the playoff conversation this year.  Don’t miss it.  Or do.

 

Advertisements

Going through the motions.

The updates and blog posts have been few and far between of late.  Of course, if you’ve been paying any attention whatsoever you already know this.  Life has a funny way of coming back around on you.  One minute you’re convinced that you have enough to say or write to put into words every day and the next you’re sitting around pounding your head into the wall trying to squeeze out a word turd through your prolapsed mental asshole. Continue reading

The Obligatory It Sucks Being a Kings Fan Post

(Editor’s Note: So maybe some of you know but I occasionally write stuff for a biggish Sacramento Kings fansite.  That site happened to crash with the news that the franchise had just traded its best player to the New Orleans Pelicans for the equivalent of a bag of potato chips, and not even the good kind but sour cream and chives flavored.  With nowhere else to put my thoughts, I decided to just dump the damn thing here.  Sorry in advanced.)
So, here’s the deal, I had written a ten thousand word thing about how the Kings finally seemed to be getting on the right track and how we could finally start getting past the circus label.  It was all done and ready and I was just waiting for the All-Star “Game” to end before posting it… and then Vivek Ranadive and company found a way to somehow make their past blunders look good.
Jesus effing Christmas, what a clusterfuck.  Vivek, whose name is apparently Hindi for Clueless Shithead, not only decided to trade arguably the best player in Sacramento Kings history but trade him in the most undignified and stupidest fashion possible, apparently taking the first trade possible (a trade, by the way, not too far off from what the Pelicans were offering the Sixers, who have more common sense than the Kings apparently, for Jahlil Frickin Okafor!!!) several hours after telling Boogie’s agents they weren’t trading him!  To top things off, they did the whole deed during the game, resulting in Boogie learning he’d been traded DURING his post-game press conference.
Classy, Kings.  Very classy.
20141214_pk_cousins_0110
Demarcus Cousins deserved better.  With all his faults, he seemed genuinely invested in the team, franchise, and, more importantly, the city of Sacramento.  Full disclosure here, Boogie was possibly my favorite player ever to play for the Sacramento Kings.  I had/have his rookie jersey and actually went out of the way to get it signed.  The only player I have ever done that for.  And the Kings just decided to discard him like a chainsmoker taking a coffee shit.  Good god, man.  How is this even possible?  I don’t think I’ll ever fully wrap my head around this.  I’m not even sure I want to.  It hurts too much.
So where does that leave the Kings now?
Well, we still have Dave Joerger at the very least.  A good coach who now has to take this radioactive wasteland of a roster and somehow, I’m guessing, coach well enough to not get fired.
You’d think that the Kings are now set to tank for the rest of the year but there’s actually a fairly good chance that the top brass actually expects the team to be better post-Boogie.  They’re in for a rude awakening.  Whether intended or not, this team is going to lose games.  Lots of games.
The current best player on the roster is Darren Collison, who, according to rumors, is also on the trade block. After that, who the fuck knows?
Here’s the depth chart (excluding Rudy, who is now probably gone):
Center: Kosta (probably also going to be traded)/Papa
Power Forward: Willie (I’m assuming we’re starting him now, seeing as he’s now our third best offensive player)/Tolliverse/Skal
Small Forward:  Matt Barnes/Afflalo  (Both guys are possibly gone as well)
Shooting Guard: Hield/Ben/Temple/Malachi/Rights to Bogdan (This is now the only position where we have any depth)
Point Guard: DC/Ty (Two solid pro role player point guards.  Probably gone soon.  Expect to see Isaiah Cousins and Kendall Marshall here in their stead soon.)
To compare, here was the roster over the last stretch of the 17-win Kenny Natt squad where we were the worst team in the league:
C: Spencer Hawes/Ike Diogu/
PF: Jason Thompson/Calvin Booth
SF: Andres Nocioni/Donte Greene
SG: K-Mart/ Cisco/Rashad McCants
PG:Beno/Bobby Jackson/Will Solomon
Look at that roster and tell me that this current squad of players wouldn’t have trouble beating the 2008-2009 Sacramento Kings.  I mean, Joerger can probably outcoach the Nattster in his sleep but this game would be far closer than any of us would probably like to admit.
And that is the state of our team as of now.  Not just back to square one, but back to square negative ten.  The Maloofs had the excuse that they were going broke.  What’s Vivek’s?
Oh…  That’s right…
[IMG]
Buckle up guys!  The Suckitude Express has just left the station and things’ll only get bumpier from here.
As for me?  I might need to take a break from sports for a good long while.

Stephen’s Schedule: September 2016 Edition!

I realize now that I’ve spent a lot of time talking about my entertainment career while doing an absolutely awful job of actually giving anyone a chance to see what I do up close and personal.

Japanese owarai live events can give you a great view of a side of Japanese culture yet to really attract any international attention and I encourage anyone living in Japan to check one out at least one show during your time in Japan, even if you have little to no Japanese ability.  You don’t even have to come to my show (though I certainly wouldn’t object to that).  Just go to an owarai live.

With that said, here’s a list of my appearances for the month (at least the lives where we’re actually performing, rather than simply working warmup).  If you want to go, hit me up in the comments or on twitter and I can get you tickets at a slightly reduced rate (day of tickets usually have a several hundred yen mark-up that I can get rid of for you).

IRUKA PUNCH OWARAI LIVE SCHEDULE: SEPTEMBER

  • Thursday, September 15th: Trial Lesson

    • Shibuya Theater D
    • 3PM start time.
    • Tickets: 1000 yen.
  • Tuesday, September 20th: NEXT
    • Ikebukuro GEKIBA
    • 6:45PM start time
    • Tickets: 1500 yen (WILL CALL ONLY. Contact me for tickets!)
  • Wednesday, September 21st: Trial Audition
    • Shibuya Yoshimoto Mugendai Hall
    • 4:15PM start time
    • Tickets: 1000 yen.
  • Friday, September 30th: Satora Next
    • Shibuya Yoshimoto Mugendai Hall
    • 2:15PM start time
    • Tickets: 500 yen.
schedule

For you Japanese speakers out there.

 

Tickets are still available for all the listed shows.  All appearances will be as part of my combi, Iruka Punch.

img_7489

We’ll be waiting.

Japanese Comedy: An Introduction

So it’s almost been an entire year since I made the rather impulsive decision to uproot my (nominally) cushy life, quit my easy-to-do English teaching job, and moved to Tokyo to pursue a career in Japanese comedy.

As it turned out, joining the Japanese geinoukai (“entertainment world”) was both as simple as one, two, three and much much more complex than I anticipated.

untitled

The main thing you need to understand about the Japanese entertainment system is that the agency rules all.  Whereas the wide-ranging perception of the western entertainment world is that of the managers and agents working for the talent, the reverse can be said of the Japanese system.

To get into the Japanese entertainment world, you need to get into a company.  And to get into a company, you need to go to school.  And so, go to school I did, a twenty four-old college graduate white dude in a world mostly unknown to the unwashed gaijin hordes (Take that, dude who just posted the five-thousandth weird-Japanese-ice-cream flavor reaction video on Youtube.)

I’ll possibly get into the different companies of the Japanese entertainment world somewhere down the line but for now, I’ll just tell you that I am on track to become a part of Japan’s largest comedy company by the end of the month after an arduous grind of a year at Tokyo NSC, Yoshimoto Kogyo’s school for aspiring comedians, wannabes, and people who have absolutely nothing better to do and drop out after three months (this constitutes a large chunk of the entering class every year).  It’s been a slog, some parts fun, a lot of parts varying degrees of infuriating and boring, but its almost done and I finally, FINALLY, find myself in a position where I’m allowed to talk about the stuff I’ve done, seen, and learned.

So here we are, tired, sick, with feet cold and wet from the rain.  What better time to start talking comedy.

Comedy in Japan

Japanese comedy has some similar traits to the American comedy that I grew up with and loved.  It also has inherently different traits of its own, the biggest being a general emphasis on small teams, opposed to the inherent “aloneness” of the Western stand-up comedian, which I guess makes sense, considering Japan’s inherent emphasis on team building and group harmony (Blatant stereotype alert!).  Sure there are solo acts but, for the most part, the comedians you see hosting TV shows, slumming it on stage, or bumming around train stations looking for loose change are doing it in pairs (known in Japan as owarai konbi).

In today’s modern Japanese comedy world, acts can roughly be broken up into three different categories.

Pin (ピン)

The broadest of the three categories, this category of Japanese stage comedy can simply be summed up as doing things on your own, be it traditional Japanese stand-up (or, more accurately, kneel-down) known as rakugo or doing things on stage in character or, and I kid you not this is sorta a thing, dancing around in a man-thong whilst doing poses that make you look naked.  Broad comedy, right?  I could get into the different kinds and styles of pin comedy but there’s a bit of overlap and by the time I’d finished explaining things, you’d all probably be bored out of your minds so let’s leave the nitty gritty off for another day.

Conte (コント)

Possibly the form of Japanese comedy most recognizable to people abroad, Japanese conte comedy has much in comedy with the sketch comedy of shows like SNL or half the shows being shown on Comedy Central when it’s not re-airing episodes of Scrubs that nobody watches (Sorry, Zach Braff).  In this form, the starring conbi or group in question gets their acting on to deliver a short scene of some comedic merit.  The audience, generally finding what they are seeing humorous to some degree, laughs, which is the action of exerting air through your windpipes in a manner that produces noise.

Really anyone who’s seen a episode of Saturday Night Live knows what a sketch is and if you don’t, well shame on you.

Manzai (漫才)

Two dudes (or three… or dudettes) and a mic.  Since I’ve come to be a part of the Japanese entertainment world, many a person has tried their damned hardest to convince me this is a style of comedy unique to Japan.  But as I see it, it’s unfortunately not.

Having much in common with vaudeville acts of old, manzai as it is commonly performed is a conversation between the boke (idiot) and the tsukkomi (straight man).  As a system of delivering jokes, it’s really fool proof and timeless and acts like Abbot and Costello or Laurel and Hardy have shown us.

There is a certain slapstick element to the thing that can be a little hard for Westerners to swallow at first (along with the usual “cultural differences” problem that can make humor a little hard to go over for the foreign eye) but manzai can also be incredibly funny and is, more importantly, perhaps the most popular form of comedy in Japan, with countless theaters across Japan holding several manzai shows a day.

It is on this form of Japanese comedy that I will first focus.

That Time Superman Used Social Networking

On a bit of an end-of-the-year life break and decided to watch some of CBS’s new Supergirl series when this particular interaction via the internet between Kara Zor-El and her more famous cousin caught my eye and made me laugh more than it probably should have.

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 8.11.34 PM

Clark Kent, apparently hip enough to use instant messaging, not hip enough to not use grandpa emojis

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 8.12.03 PM

Bad dialogue writing 101

 

Between his use of instant messaging and use of cool “hip” emojis, this truly isn’t your grandpa’s Superman.  Am I wrong in really wanting this version of Superman to have a really, really bad official Twitter account?

 

 

Speaking of Twitter accounts, follow Stephen @STEPHEN_TETSU for more fun!

Oh, Japanglish 2015 Winter Edition

As the country gets more and more tourism oriented in the run-up to the 2020 Summer Olympics, Japan’s collective English level has been slowly rising, which still doesn’t prevent the occasional awkward gem/ odd cultural misunderstanding.

gone

Think, for a split second, back to when you were a child, lost in the heat of the summer, alive and dancing, dancing and alive, all living on the edge of a moment that you never knew was coming, like a ballerina balanced on the edge of the stage, looming just over a faceless sea of spectators who knew what came next.  Think about how they never told you.  Think of all the moments you had to experience for yourself, all the pains and aches that came with them, the aching calling of something that both was and wasn’t there waiting for you.  Think about those times.  Think about how imprecise your memories are of them, like glass seen through the smoke of a fire that just won’t stop moving.  Think, if you can.  Try to place yourself back in those moments and remember just how much is missing from your memory.

Think about just how much is gone.  Think about how you will never have that back.  Think and remember that memories are like a pond someone forgot to skim, that no matter how hard you try, you can never quite see the bottom. Continue reading

Going to the Movies in Japan

12301171_419502581574429_1054228277_n

So unless you’ve been living under a rock with no connection to the outside world aside from this blog for the past two years (in which case, thank you and get a life), you may well know that this week saw the release of perhaps the most anticipated film of perhaps the last decade, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Part 4.

Since this is Japan, most new Western film releases generally show up in theaters after a several year delay (only a slight exaggeration), meaning that the new addition to the apparently lucrative Alvin and the Chipmunks franchise will show up in your nearest Tokyo theater around the time that I am married with several children.  So rather than watching everyone’s third favorite bunch of talking tree rodents, I had to settle for some movie called Star Wars instead.

Apparently, though I’m not quite sure, this movie was a sequel of some sort and just another cog in the Disney hype machine if I may say so myself.  Talking robots, spaceships, and laser swords, this movie will probably never catch on.  A box office bomb, I’m certain.

Anyways, even though I’ve been living in Japan for the past two years plus now, I broke my solemn vow of curmudgeonism and ventured for the first time ever to a movie theater in the hustling and bustling heart of Tokyo.

Now, if you’re ever planning on going to the movies, there are probably a couple of things you should know…

Continue reading