In part one of a two-part preview of this year’s NBA playoffs, we look at the league’s Western Conference, oft-considered superior to its Eastern counterpart. But the book recommendations? Whoa Nelly, those will be top shelf on both sides of the court! Tomorrow: Check back here for more pointed recs, and to see how the other side of the hoopsiverse lives!
#1: The Oklahoma City Thunder
You like to root for a high-earning championship contender, but still wish to maintain an air of hipness. You’re not about to start wearing Dockers – at most, you’re having a Bonobos kind of year. Celebrate victory while still reeking of awesomeness with Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son – deserved crown holder of titles from Pulitzer, the Tournament of Books, and the Dennis K. Rodman Award for Excellence in North Korea Based Fiction.
#2: The San Antonio Spurs
Congratulations: you’re old as dirt and still fantastic at what you do. The dirt that younger dirt waits behind forever while buying gum at a bodega or boarding a bus? That’s you. You and Tim Duncan. You, Tim Duncan, and 88 year old William H. Gass, who despite looking like a bag of russet potatoes has written the best novel of his career in his 2013 Midwestern professor dirge, Middle C.
#3: The Denver Nuggets
Everyone on your team is capable, and you have perhaps the deepest bench in the league. Yet aside from Ty Lawson being a great college player who’s made the transition and looks like the mean-but-handsome lawyer in a Medea movie, no one has achieved breakout star status. Your author has the potential to win it all and have been fantastic all season long, yet casual observers are only just now catching on. Congratulations, you’re Jami Attenberg’s The Middlesteins, with the nuggets in question presumably of the edible chicken variety, dined upon by the book’s titular food-loving familia.
#4: The Los Angeles Clippers
Decidedly in vogue after recently making a statement in the field. Peaking at the right time, and garnering buzz around Hollywood. If you’re not Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings, basking in acclaim following her new novel’s release and last year’s esteemed NYT essay “The Second Shelf“, then I will eat my blessed hat (and this handsome one featuring Blake Griffin’s caricatured poonum).
#5: The Memphis Grizzlies
You’re a fan of that people who can develop an avid following on the Internet, but is shunned by the Luddite public at large. You enjoy experimental approaches to solving problems with modest budgets. While half the people we cover on this site fit this description, for now let’s go with Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be? Great crossover potential, winning concept, Tournament of Books semi-finalist. Could break a lot bigger than it has on paperback release. Those who like it adore it, and those who aren’t down really aren’t down. As my Algebra teacher used to say, “Nice beat, I can dance to it: I give it an 8.5.”
#6: The Golden State Warriors
You live in Northern California, don’t you have enough? Do you really care, standing amidst the mighty Sequoias, what Chris Mullin is up to these days, or whether Harrison Barnes is going to match up well against Andre Iguodala? Cram your face with some Cheeseboard ‘za, pick up George Saunders’ Tenth of December, read his terrific Book Club Q&A at the Bay Area’s hotbed of literary discourse (and intercourse) The Rumpus, and stop bothering me with your demanding needs.
#7: The Los Angeles Lakers
You were an inconstant embarrassment of late, with many accusing you of riding your legacy into the sunset. Your payroll was as bloated as your page count, and naysayers eager to see anyone but you on the bestseller list again too quickly deemed you dead on arrival. But like a true pro with established chops, you battled back to reclaim your perennial rite of passage, you damned bloodsucker you. Mazel tov: you’re Joyce Carol Oates, whose vampires and werewolves doorstop The Accursed is making waves at just the right time, just as you did by bumping the Rockets into a date with Durant (i.e. death).
#8: The Houston Rockets
Learning that life is a long-distance run rather than a sprint can be harrowing, non? The hype around you early in the season was fantastic, so much so that I already wrote a column about you in December, and attempted to invoke the ghost of Houston’s own Donald Barthelme just to help you out. You spent the money in ways high-profile and questionable, buying back Jeremy Lin after trading him away just two years earlier. Erratic yet fun-loving, with a penchant for baby mama drama, you’re Bret Easton Ellis, wunderkind-turned-Twitter embarrassment. Prepare to meet your maker, reread your lesser-known late career achievement Glamorama, and get ready to have your butt handed to you by the twenty-first century basketball equivalent of David Foster Wallace: a primed and rested Thunder, reigning down upon you like DSW critiquing a cruise ship talent show.