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Shaq attacks verse in new TV series "Poetry in America"

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Shaquille O’Neal called himself “The Big Baryshnikov” and “The Big Socrates” in his days in the NBA. Now he can add “The Big Shakespeare.”

The basketball Hall-of-Famer, TNT TV analyst, commercial pitchman and onetime rapper is putting poetry on his lengthy resume as part of a new public television series.

He brings his best bard to a dramatic reading of a poem in his episode of the 12-part “Poetry in America ,” then discusses it with Elisa New, a Harvard English professor who hosts the show.

“I’ve always been into poetry,” O’Neal said in an interview with The Associated Press in a sunlit conference room overlooking the Los Angeles skyline. “I’ve been writing rhymes all my life.”

“Poetry in America,” distributed by American Public Television and presented by WGBH in Boston, is airing at various times on local public TV stations. Some episodes, including Shaq’s, are already available to stream.

On the show the 46-year-old former All-Star from the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat recites “Fast Break,” a poem by Edward Hirsch from his 1986 book “Wild Gratitude.” It describes some very imperfect players who manage to put together a perfect basketball play.

“A hook shot kisses the rim and hangs there, helplessly, but doesn’t drop,” the poem begins, “and for once our gangly starting center boxes out his man.”

O’Neal, whose 350-pound bulk would never be called “gangly,” still related to the center in the verse, but said he initially missed the poem’s point.

“The first mistake I made was thinking it was about basketball,” he said. “I read it real quick I said `fast break, shovel passes, sure, this is what I do.”‘

He said New, who sat next to O’Neal in the interview and like almost everyone is utterly dwarfed by him, gave him whole new insights that led to a fast friendship.

“When she broke it down intelligently for me, I was very astounded and very amazed,”

The poem is written for a close friend and playing partner of Hirsch’s who had just died. That’s easy to miss if you skip past the dedication at the top, as most readers do.

“It’s fun that only later as you’re reading, you look back at that dedication,” New said. “One line can change everything.”

Suddenly it becomes an examination of transcendent moments and human connections.

“It’s about friendship, it’s about caring, it’s about emotions,” O’Neal said. “I had missed that.”

His latest learning experience took O’Neal’s thoughts back to high school, where he had a 69 percent in English after blowing a test during the basketball playoffs, and needed a 70 to stay eligible for sports.

The teacher allowed him a retest, and suggested a tutor.

“This guy, his name was McDougal, he was a geek, he saved my academic life,” O’Neal said. “Everybody bullied him in school, except me.”

O’Neal said he took the work and “broke it down, made it seem so simple.”

“I retook the test, got an 80, and we won the state championship,” O’Neal said.

“Now,” he said, “I always tell kids I’m a geek.”

The professor had another name for him. “He’s a learner!”

O’Neal partly looked the poet during the interview in a polo shirt and jeans, having traded his basketball sneakers for a pair of slip-on Toms shoes, size 22.

When he wanted them, a company executive told him “it wouldn’t be worth it to make them in my size unless I bought 500 of them,” O’Neal said. “I told him to give me 2,000.”

 

Watch Jaylen Brown throw down massive dunk on Joel Embiid (VIDEO)

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Tuesday night was opening night in the NBA for the 2018-19 season. We kicked things off with a massive showdown between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers in Massachusetts, and the matchup hand delivered a powerful dunk to jumpstart the year.

The play came as time wound down in the fourth quarter, with Jaylen Brown dribbling on the right wing as the 76ers struggled to recover on defense.

Thanks to a Sixers player down under their basket after a missed shot, Philadelphia was left defending a four-on-five situation. Brown got free run at the rim, with just Joel Embiid standing in his way.

Embiid wasn’t quick enough to block the young Celtics wing, and the result was an incredible power dunk — or perhaps power layup a la Blake Griffin — that excited the crowd at TD Garden.

I’m so glad NBA basketball is back.

Report: Patrick McCaw will skip first Warriors game, championship ring ceremony

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The saga of Patrick McCaw and the Golden State Warriors continues.

The backup guard has oddly decided to make a few choices that will render him a free agent next summer. That also likely means that he will no longer be a member of the Warriors, and his salary could actually go down. It’s left most folks scratching their head about McCaw’s self-valuation heading into 2019.

Our own Kurt Helin tried to make sense of the back and forth between McCaw and Golden State without much luck. That’s because none of this really makes any sense, including what McCaw did on Tuesday.

According to a report from Yahoo, McCaw declinded to be in attendance as Golden State opened the season against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night. That also meant that McCaw did not receive his championship ring from last year (at least not at the ceremony).

Via Twitter:

The NBA is a weird place, and I can’t say that this is the oddest thing to happen in the NBA this summer. Remember, Jimmy Butler is still a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves. But a fringe player on the best team ever assembled demanding more money and perhaps grenading his own career earnings is certainly toward the top of the list in weird sports stories.

Kevin Garnett says Glen Taylor ‘doesn’t know s—t about basketball’ (VIDEO)

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Kevin Garnett is a Minnesota Timberwolves legend. He is also currently estranged from the team, and Garnett has not been shy about criticizing the franchise.

Jimmy Butler saga is still happening in Minnesota, and Garnett has of course been pulled into service to give commentary as both a concerned party and as a knowledgeable source. Garnett said recently that he thought things were, “a s—t storm up there” and that both sides might be a little unrealistic in expectations surrounding a trade.

Of course, Garnett added to his opinion on Tuesday when he said that Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor doesn’t know anything about basketball.

Warning: NSFW language ahead.

Via Twitter:

You don’t need to know anything about basketball to be a good owner. What you do need to do is be able to delegate, and select good management who does know what they’re doing. It’s not clear that Taylor has been able to do that, just given the situation that has developed with Butler and Tom Thibodeau.

Indeed, things appear to be a bit of a mess up north and the fact that Butler has not been traded is sort of embarrassing. The longer this goes on, the more we are going to hear commentary like this from people like Garnett.

The Wolves play the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday and Butler is expected to the active.

NBA rosters have 108 international players from 42 different countries

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NEW YORK (AP) — NBA rosters have players from a record-tying 42 countries and territories to open this season.

This is the fifth consecutive season in which all 30 teams have at least one international player on the opening-night roster.

Canada is represented by 11 of the 108 opening-night international players while Australia and France have nine.

The Dallas Mavericks have the most international players – seven. Utah and the Los Angeles Clippers have six each. Five teams – Boston, New York, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia and San Antonio – have five.

In addition to the 108 international players, another six are opening this season on two-way contracts between the NBA and G League.

There are 11 international players on opening-night rosters who have been NBA All-Stars: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks; Greece), Luol Deng (Minnesota Timberwolves; South Sudan), Goran Dragic (Miami Heat; Slovenia), Embiid, Al Horford (Celtics; Dominican Republic), Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies; Spain), Pau Gasol (Spurs; Spain), Kyrie Irving (Celtics; Australia), Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks; Germany), Tony Parker (Charlotte Hornets; France) and Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks; Latvia).

Nowitzki will set an NBA record for most seasons played with one team (21), breaking a tie with Kobe Bryant, who spent 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers.  Nowitzki will tie the NBA record for most seasons played overall (21), joining Robert Parish, Kevin Willis, Kevin Garnett and the Atlanta Hawks’ Vince Carter, who is also beginning his 21st season.