May 14, 2018

Cobra Kai 1.1: Ace Degenerate

This episode recap contains spoilers.

Written by | Josh Heald & Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg

Directed by | Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg

Summary | Thirty-four years after losing to Daniel LaRusso in the All Valley Under-18 Karate Championships, Johnny Lawrence still tastes defeat in every banquet bottle of Coors. Meanwhile, Daniel owns LaRusso Auto Group, an omnipresent chain of successful car dealerships. In three days in the San Fernando Valley, Johnny is fired from his handyman job, arrested for assault and disowned by his evil stepfather — with a buyout check — and his Pontiac Firebird is totaled in a hit-and-run. Adding insult to collision, Johnny’s car is towed to one of Daniel’s dealerships, where he endures a one-sided reminiscence of their championship match.

Flashbacks | Three. The series opens with the Lawrence-LaRusso championship match from The Karate Kid, using some previously unseen footage, particularly of the crane kick, from Johnny’s POV. When Johnny watches Iron Eagle and Louis Gossett Jr. narrates — “It’s a power you have inside you, down there where you keep your guts.” — he remembers his kick-ass high school glory days. But when he drives through the valley under the influence, Johnny can’t shake the memories of his championship loss and his fight with sensei Kreese at the beginning of The Karate Kid Part II.

The redemption of Johnny Lawrence | Johnny defends Miguel Diaz — the new kid in school, this generation’s Daniel — when he is being bullied by four high school assholes and later becomes his sensei. The ex-degenerate turns hero, the student now a teacher.

Soundtrack | 1. “Nothin’ but a Good Time” by Poison, as Johnny drives to work

2. “Head Games” by Foreigner, as Johnny drives drunk

3. “Sirius” by The Alan Parsons Project, over the closing montage of Johnny re-opening Cobra Kai

Politically Incorrect with Johnny Lawrence | When Miguel tells Johnny he has just moved into his apartment complex, he says, “great, more immigrants” and calls him “Menudo.”

Cobra Kai philosophy | “I’m going to teach you the style of karate that was taught to me, a method of fighting your pussy generation desperately needs. I’m not just going to teach you how to conquer your fears. I’m going to teach you how to awaken the snake within you and once you do that, you’ll be the one who is feared. You’ll build strength. You’ll learn discipline. And when the time is right, you’ll strike back.” — Johnny Lawrence




Best line | “It was an illegal kick.” — Johnny to Daniel, on his crane kick in their championship match

Best moment | When Miguel asks Johnny if he is going to be his karate teacher, Johnny says: “No … I’m going to be your sensei.” Cue the Alan Parsons Project and re-opening Cobra Kai dojo montage …

Coors counter | Five — Johnny finishes one when he wakes up before work, and there are four empties on the table as he watches Iron Eagle. He also mixes Jim Beam with RC Cola.

Cobra Kai business score | 1/10. Johnny re-opens the Cobra Kai karate dojo at the end of the episode.

Daniel LaRusso threat level | 0/10. Daniel is happy to see Johnny at the car dealership.

Scorecard | Johnny Lawrence 1, high school bullies 0

Analysis | Among my favorite television pilots of all time. It’s all exposition and backstory, but none of it feels like exposition and backstory. Telling the story from the supposed villain’s point of view is an ingenious approach to a sequel / reboot.
— Kevin Brewer

May 5, 2018

Tina Fey’s Saturday Night Live All-Star team

On this month’s episode of My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman (Netflix), Tina Fey selected her Saturday Night Live All-Star team.

DAVE | If you were going to start your own group right now, with the people who have made names for themselves at Saturday Night Live, and you had to pick eight people, who would they be?

TINA | Oh, like an All-Star band to do a sketch show with … wow, let’s see … eight of them I get … living, dead, anybody …

Fey — the head writer on SNL for seven seasons and a cast member for six in the 2000s — picked:

MAYA RUDOLPH | 2000-07

Tina | She can do anything.

BILL MURRAY | 1977-80

Tina | I don’t know Bill Murray. Sometimes I’ve tried to meet Bill Murray, and I just get scared. I feel like he looks at me, and he can just smell how uncool I am.

AMY POEHLER | 2002-08

GILDA RADNER | 1975-80

JAN HOOKS | 1986-91

Tina | I guess we need a couple more dudes. …

WILL FERRELL | 1995-2002

PHIL HARTMAN | 1986-94

EDDIE MURPHY | 1980-84

May 2, 2018

Don Nelson’s All-Star team

Don Nelson is enjoying retirement. In Maui, Hawaii. Playing poker with Willie Nelson and Woody Harrelson. Smoking marijuana.

In an interview with the New York Times on Monday, the NBA’s all-time wins leader talks about finding out that he fathered a child on a road trip with the Celtics, visiting soldiers during the Vietnam war and growing his own marijuana. It’s called Nellie Kush.

In honor of Nelson, basketball’s mad scientist, the inventor of small ball, the master of the mismatch, this is his All-Star team:

STARTERS | Two players from the 1980s Bucks, two international players from the 2000s Mavericks and Chris Mullin. No center, just lots of mismatches created by Dirk Nowitzki.

Forward | Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks. 25.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 49.3 2-point shooting, 37.9 3-point shooting, 88.1 free throw shooting, 25.6 PER, 16.1 win shares. [2002-03]

Forward | Marques Johnson, Bucks. 25.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 55.0 2-point shooting, 76.0 free throw shooting, 23.9 PER, 12.2 win shares. [1978-79]

Forward | Chris Mullin, Warriors. 25.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 56.0 2-point shooting, 88.4 free throw shooting, 2.1 steals, 21.4 PER, 12.2 win shares. [1990-91]

Guard | Sidney Moncrief, Bucks. 22.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 52.8 2-point shooting, 82.6 free throw shooting, 22.6 PER, 13.2 win shares. [1982-83]

Guard | Steve Nash, Mavericks. 17.7 points, 2.9 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 48.2 2-point shooting, 41.3 3-point shooting, 90.9 free throw shooting, 22.6 PER, 11.6 win shares. [2002-03]

BENCH | Six perimeter players and the 7-foot-6 Shawn Bradley. Tim Hardaway and Mitch Richmond were two-thirds of the TMC Warriors, while Baron Davis drove the “We Believe” Warriors. Paul Pressey is usually credited as the league’s first point forward.

Guard | Michael Finley, Mavericks. 22.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 46.7 2-point shooting, 40.1 3-point shooting, 82.0 free throw shooting, 19.2 PER, 8.3 win shares. [1999-00]

Guard | Tim Hardaway, Warriors. 22.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, 9.7 assists, 49.4 2-point shooting, 38.5 3-point shooting, 80.3 free throw shooting, 2.6 steals, 20.9 PER, 9.9 win shares. [1990-91]

Point forward | Paul Pressey, Bucks. 14.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 7.8 assists, 50.4 2-point shooting, 80.6 free throw shooting, 2.1 steals, 18.6 PER, 9.8 win shares. [1985-86]

Forward | Terry Cummings, Bucks. 23.6 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 49.6 2-point shooting, 74.1 free throw shooting, 22.1 PER, 10.7 win shares. [1984-85]

Guard | Baron Davis, Warriors. 20.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 8.1 assists, 48.9 2-point shooting, 30.4 3-point shooting, 74.5 free throw shooting, 2.1 steals, 21.0 PER, 6.4 win shares. [2006-07]

Guard | Mitch Richmond, Warriors. 23.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 50.6 2-point shooting, 84.7 free throw shooting, 17.8 PER, 7.1 win shares. [1990-91]

Center | Shawn Bradley, Mavericks. 8.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 48.0 2-point shooting, 74.8 free throw shooting, 19.6 PER, 4.2 win shares. [1998-99]

April 25, 2018

Assume the position: 2018 NBA awards

Injuries and position-less basketball informed my All-NBA selections. Jimmy Butler, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, Rudy Gobert and DeMarcus Cousins all missed at least 20 games (one-fourth of the season). Butler, Ben Simmons, DeMar DeRozan and Paul George played forward and guard. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokic continued to make up their own positions.

The Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder and Minnesota Timberwolves each earned two All-NBA spots, and the upstart, process-turned-results Philadelphia 76ers picked up two awards.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER | James Harden, Rockets. 30.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 8.8 assists, 53.1 2-point shooting, 36.7 3-point shooting, 85.8 free throw shooting, 29.8 PER, 6.3 RPM. Age [28] He led the league in PER, win shares, scoring, 3-pointers and free throws and finished third in assists for the league’s best team.

2. Anthony Davis, Pelicans
3. LeBron James, Cavaliers
4. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks
5. Russell Westbrook, Thunder

TEAMMATE OF THE YEAR | Jimmy Butler, Timberwolves. 22.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 50.9 2-point shooting, 35.0 3-point shooting, 85.4 free throw shooting, 2.0 steals, 23.7 PER, 6.1 RPM. Age [28] Butler played just 59 games, but he was indispensable. The Timberwolves were 37-22 with him, 10-13 without him. He returned from a right knee injury with three games left and dragged Minnesota to its first playoff berth in 14 seasons.

2. J.J. Redick, 76ers
3. Al Horford, Celtics

COACH OF THE YEAR | Brett Brown, 76ers. 52-30.

2. Mike D’Antoni, Rockets
3. Dwane Casey, Raptors

Honorable mention | Alvin Gentry (Pelicans), Brad Stevens (Celtics), Mike Malone (Nuggets), Nate McMillan (Pacers) and Terry Stotts (Trail Blazers)

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR | Ben Simmons, 76ers. 15.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, 8.2 assists, 55.1 2-point shooting, 56.0 free throw shooting, 20.0 PER, 3.4 RPM. Age [21] A basketball polymath — a 6-foot-10 point guard on offense and a forward on defense, where he was eighth in steals and first in deflections.

2. Donovan Mitchell, Jazz
3. Jayson Tatum, Celtics

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR | Anthony Davis, Pelicans. 2.6 blocks, 3.6 Defensive RPM. Age [24] Rudy Gobert made a furious run, but he missed 26 games.

2. Robert Covington, 76ers
3. Rudy Gobert, Jazz

All-Defensive first team | Davis, Covington, Ben Simmons (76ers), Kyle Anderson (Spurs), Victor Oladipo (Pacers)

All-Defensive second team | Gobert, Al Horford (Celtics), Draymond Green (Warriors), Dejounte Murray (Spurs), Ricky Rubio (Jazz)

SIXTH MAN AWARD | Lou Williams, Clippers. 22.6 points, 2.5 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 48.4 2-point shooting, 35.9 3-point shooting, 88.0 free throw shooting, 20.2 PER, 0.7 RPM. Age [31] Not just a role player, he was the best player on a winning team.

Bench | Williams, Eric Gordon (Rockets), Will Barton (Nuggets), Kelly Olynyk (Heat), Larry Nance Jr. (Lakers-Cavaliers), Nikola Mirotic (Bulls-Pelicans) and Fred VanVleet (Raptors)

ALL-NBA FIRST TEAM | Anthony Davis moved from forward to center when DeMarcus Cousins ruptured a left torn Achilles in late January. At 33, LeBron James played 82 games for the first time, leading the league in minutes, and set career-highs in rebounds and assists for the second straight season. James’s Harden’s 60-point triple-double almost broke the boxscore. Giannis Antetokounmpo played every position on offense, power forward on defense. Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double again.

Point forward | LeBron James, Cavaliers. 27.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 9.1 assists, 60.3 2-point shooting, 36.7 3-point shooting, 73.1 free throw shooting, 28.6 PER, 4.4 RPM. Age [33]

Forward | Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks. 26.9 points, 10.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 55.4 2-point shooting, 76.0 free throw shooting, 27.3 PER, 5.0 RPM. Age [23]

Center | Anthony Davis, Pelicans. 28.1 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 55.8 2-point shooting, 82.8 free throw shooting, 2.6 blocks, 28.9 PER, 5.1 RPM. Age [24]

Guard | James Harden, Rockets. 30.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 8.8 assists, 53.1 2-point shooting, 36.7 3-point shooting, 85.8 free throw shooting, 29.8 PER, 6.4 RPM. Age [28]

Guard | Russell Westbrook, Thunder. 25.4 points, 10.1 rebounds, 10.3 assists, 48.5 2-point shooting, 29.8 3-point shooting, 73.7 free throw shooting, 24.7 PER, 4.8 RPM. Age [29]

ALL-NBA SECOND TEAM | Kevin Durant is the league’s whiny heel, with seven ejections and a fake Twitter account. Ben Simmons can’t shoot with any range, but it doesn’t matter. He’s an elite decision maker and defensive player. Victor Oladipo, on his third team in three seasons, is the league’s best personnel story. Damian Lillard nearly made the first team, because he takes better shots than Westbrook. Karl-Anthony Towns still hasn’t missed a game.

Forward | Kevin Durant, Warriors. 26.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 56.5 2-point shooting, 41.9 3-point shooting, 88.9 free throw shooting, 26.0 PER, 3.0 RPM. Age [29]

Point forward | Ben Simmons, 76ers. 15.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, 8.2 assists, 55.1 2-point shooting, 56.0 free throw shooting, 20.0 PER, 3.4 RPM. Age [21]

Center | Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves. 21.3 points, 12.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 58.5 2-point shooting, 42.1 3-point shooting, 85.8 free throw shooting, 24.9 PER, 3.8 RPM. Age [22]

Guard | Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers. 26.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 50.1 8 2-point shooting, 36.1 3-point shooting, 91.6 free throw shooting, 25.2 PER, 5.2 RPM. Age [27]

Guard | Victor Oladipo, Pacers. 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 52.8 2-point shooting, 37.1 3-point shooting, 79.9 free throw shooting, 2.4 steals, 23.1 PER, 5.5 RPM. Age [25]

ALL-NBA THIRD TEAM | Paul George and DeMar DeRozan split time between forward and guard, so I slotted them at the former, where there is less competition. Jimmy Butler defended guards on about 60 percent of his possessions. Chris Paul played just 58 games, but he was first in Real Plus-Minus. The Rockets were 50-8 with him, 15-9 without him. Point center Nikola Jokic, 22, might be the best passing big man of all time.

Forward | Paul George, Thunder. 21.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 45.4 2-point shooting, 40.1 3-point shooting, 82.0 free throw shooting, 2.0 steals, 18.7 PER, 2.9 RPM. Age [27]

Forward | DeMar DeRozan, Raptors. 23.0 points, 3.9 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 49.3 2-point shooting, 31.2 3-point shooting, 82.5 free throw shooting, 21.0 PER, 2.3 RPM. Age [28]

Point center | Nikola Jokic, Nuggets. 18.5 points, 10.7 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 53.8 2-point shooting, 39.6 3-point shooting, 85.0 free throw shooting, 24.4 PER, 6.0 RPM. Age [22]

Guard | Jimmy Butler, Timberwolves. 22.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 50.9 2-point shooting, 35.0 3-point shooting, 85.4 free throw shooting, 2.0 steals, 23.7 PER, 6.1 RPM. Age [28]

Guard | Chris Paul, Rockets. 18.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, 7.9 assists, 53.2 2-point shooting, 38.0 3-point shooting, 91.9 free throw shooting, 24.4 PER, 6.9 RPM. Age [32]

HONORABLE MENTION | Stephen Curry played 51 games, about 15 away from making the first team. He might have had his best shooting season, with a career-high .675 true shooting percentage, 59.5 percent on 2-pointers, 42.3 percent on 3-pointers and 92.1 percent from the line. Kyle Lowry is still better than DeMar DeRozan. Jrue Holiday is one the game’s best two-way players. Kemba Walker was great in a losing effort. Joel Embiid and LaMarcus Aldridge were tough omissions.

April 21, 2018

LeBron James All-Star team

Brian Windhorst wrote about LeBron James’ current supporting cast after Game 2 of the Cavaliers-Pacers series. Here is the LeBron James All-Star team, the best teammates of his 15-season career:

STARTERS | LeBron, plus two teammates from his Heat championship teams and two from his Cavaliers championship team. Three titles and seven consecutive NBA finals appearances.

Point forward | LeBron James, Cavaliers-Heat. 27.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, 9.1 assists, 54.7 2-point shooting, 34.4 3-point shooting, 73.9 free throw shooting, 1.6 steals, 27.7 PER, 219 win shares, 14 All-Star selections, 13 All-NBA selections. [2004-18]

Guard | Dwyane Wade, Heat-Cavaliers. 22.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 53.5 2-point shooting, 75.1 free throw shooting, 1.6 steals, 24.5 PER, 37 win shares, four All-Star selections, three All-NBA selections. [2011-14, 2018]

Forward | Chris Bosh, Heat. 17.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 52.9 2-point shooting, 81.3 free throw shooting, 1.0 blocks, 19.4 PER, 34 win shares, four All-Star selections. [2011-14]

Guard | Kyrie Irving, Cavaliers. 22.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 49.9 2-point shooting, 38.7 3-point shooting, 88.3 free throw shooting, 1.3 steals, 21.7 PER, 24 win shares, two All-Star selections, one All-NBA selection. [2015-17]

Forward | Kevin Love, Cavaliers. 17.1 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 47.7 2-point shooting, 37.7 3-point shooting, 84.2 free throw shooting, 20.1 PER, 30 win shares, two All-Star selections. [2015-18]

BENCH | Mostly post players, but Mo Williams, Ray Allen and Shane Battier give this group enough versatility. LeBron played eight seasons each with Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao.

Center | Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Cavaliers-Heat. 12.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 48.2 2-point shooting, 79.3 free throw shooting, 1.5 blocks, one All-Star selection, 18.4 PER, 48 win shares. [2004-11]

Guard | Mo Williams, Cavaliers. 16.9 points, 3.2 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 47.2 2-point shooting, 43.2 3-point shooting, 90.4 free throw shooting, 16.7 PER, 18 win shares, one All-Star selection. [2009-10, 2016]

Center | Anderson Varejao, Cavaliers. 7.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 52.3 2-point shooting, 60.0 free throw shooting, 14.7 PER, 33 win shares. [2005-10, 2015-16]

Forward | Tristan Thompson, Cavaliers. 7.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 57.6 2-point shooting, 58.4 free throw shooting, 15.3 PER, 25 win shares. [2015-18]

Forward | Drew Gooden, Cavaliers. 11.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 48.7 2-point shooting, 74.0 free throw shooting, 17.0 PER, 24 win shares. [2006-08]

Guard | Ray Allen, Heat. 10.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 50.1 2-point shooting, 39.8 3-point shooting, 89.4 free throw shooting, 13.8 PER, 9 win shares. [2013-14]

Forward | Shane Battier, Heat. 5.1 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 45.0 2-point shooting, 38.2 3-point shooting, 71.4 free throw shooting, 9.8 PER, 10 win shares. [2012-14]