Artwork by Andrew, feat. Panda Bear

Welcome to the Fantasy League: Panda Bear Talks Basketball & the Season Ahead

BY Andrew Kuo | Fri. October 4, 2013 | 12:00 AM | Culture Club
The OC family harbors some diehard basketball fans, but none more dedicated than Andrew Kuo. So when we launched our basketball-inspired adidas Originals x Opening Ceremony capsule collection this season, it was clearly Kuo o'clock. Here, Andrew shines a light into the obsessive depths of fantasy league basketball in a conversation with his friend and fellow fan Panda Bear (aka Noah Benjamin Lennox). Below they discuss everything, literally EVERYTHING, from LeBron to Lamar Odom, from the Lakers to Linsanity.

Andrew Kuo: Do you think Andrea Bargnani is as bad as most Knicks fans do?
Panda Bear: I'd say he makes a lot more than he should and he's an uncomfortable fit on the team. The Knicks have options defensively (Shumpert, World Peace, Chandler) and could get creative to try and plug up the holes that Bargnani and Stoudamire will create. But Novak and a 2016 first round pick is a lot to give up for a guy who's massively overpaid, has trouble staying healthy, and plays sieve-like defense. I'd assume Knicks fans are more upset about the trade than about Bargnani himself though.

You're a lifetime Bullets/Wizards fan. How do you feel about the chatter that the team is going back to the "Bullets" name?
It's unfair to real Bullets/Wizards lifers to call me a lifetime fan I think. The parameters of sports fandom and the hierarchy of respect within that universe are very interesting to me—but perhaps that's a conversation for another time. I can say I've become very invested in the team for the last couple of years but before that I would only check in. I remember Tom Gugliotta and the Webber years pretty well though. I got lost with the name change and so the arena's teams were things I only read about or saw on Sportscenter and maybe that was for the best. I'm very happy about the name reversal I should say. I only hope they don't go messing around with the logo (which is perfect in the way a lot of those older logos are—like the Hawks logo—why did they mess with that? It was perfect!)

Are you ready for five more years of John Wall?
The quick answer is yes. He's good and he’s determined and that's a dangerous (though curiously kind of rare) combination. He's not a great shooter but he's great at pretty much everything else. He's an underrated defender and he definitely makes others around him better (still an underrated asset). If you watched any of their games starting from about last January or so (you probably didn't) you know how much better the Bullards (better than Wizetts right?) are with John at the wheel, but I'm tempering my expectations. This upcoming season is a big one for the team I'd say. If they show improvement, a first round playoff series loss would still be a successful season as far as I'm concerned.

What's up with Lamar Odom?
Gosh, who knows... Towards the end there it didn't feel like he really wanted to play basketball anymore—which is fine of course, even though it's a shame. If I was taking a guess I'd say having cameras in his face all the time and living inside the Kardashian funhouse has messed with him, but I don't really know what’s going on. I just hope he gets healthy and starts feeling better really soon.

I think the Nets will be better than they were last year, but not as good as some people think. How about you?
In the East I think the Heat, Pacers, and Bulls will still be better than the Nets, but I think the Nets will be better than the Knicks (sorry Andrew!) and that’s probably enough I'd say. I don't trust Deron Williams or Joe Johnson to carry the team any further than the second round of the playoffs. I'm guessing Garnett will still be great on the defensive end and will still be good for 4-5 18-foot jumpers per game but I don't know that he'll have the body to play more than 18-20 minutes a game. Paul Pierce will still be good and probably better than a lot of people think. I'm guessing he'll be the go-to guy on the team even though Deron or Joe really should have that role (right?).

Would you rather play with Kobe Bryant or James Harden and why?
I'd rather play with Kobe but it's a tough choice for me. I wouldn't like to get berated by Kobe but I'd appreciate his competitiveness. I hate losing a lot more than I love winning and I feel like Kobe's on the same page there. It's tough for me to choose one over the other though because I have a lot of respect for both those guys. Plus, I'm really not down with the mini hawk/beard combo.

What happened to the Lakers last season?
I'd guess it's people not getting along and people not fitting into roles properly. I think the way teams fit together is super important—every guy has to feel good about what he's doing and what he brings to the team. When there's role harmony, the team becomes more than the sum of its parts. The Lakers last year were an example of role balance gone wrong. I'm sure they could have been great and who knows if the Rockets' situation this year will be any better. In a lot of ways I kind of feel like Orlando was the ideal place for Dwight because he was THE GUY there.

Why isn't there a lightning bolt on the Thunder uniform? Are we in the dark ages of NBA team identity design?
Yes, it's pretty dreadful out there. Hopefully the Pelicans' design is some kind of death knell for that whole wave. I'm not into the sleeves trend either. Why isn't there anything remotely suggestive of thunder in the whole OKC design? I'm not into the Nets redo either and kind of wish they'd returned to the Petrovic-era design. I guess the logic is to keep it bland and devoid of personality in the hopes of appealing to the maximum number of people. I guess?

Who has the best fashion sense in the NBA?
Allen Iverson

Can you name me your all-time top 5 favorite basketball shoes?
Air Jordan 1, Air Jordan 11, Converse Weapon, Nike Air Flight Huarache, Nike Air Flight 89

I have trouble thinking the Clippers will ever sniff a championship as long as they have Blake Griffin as a centerpiece. Am I a hater?
I agree with you, although it depends what you mean by centerpiece. Could they win with Blake as their third best player? I think they could. If DeAndre Jordan could become the defensive giant that his body is certainly capable of becoming couldn't the Clippers at least make the finals? I feel like Blake's improvement in his jump shot last year shows he's working. As long as he's adding to his game and improving I won't complain about him. But the thing that always concerns me is why he’s not a better shot blocker. You'd think that his jumping ability and his timing and coordination would make him a good shot blocker/shot disrupter but he really hasn’t had great results so far. Let's see...

Were you rooting for San Antonio or Miami in last year's Finals?
The quick answer is to say I would have been happy either way. I have a lot of respect for San Antonio and Popovich and all those guys. And Tim doing his thing at his age is really sweet, but I root for LeBron and it's hard for me to explain. I have an allegiance to the Wizards as the home team and when people ask me who I'm a fan of, I say I'm a Wizards fan. But there's a flexible cast of teams that I find myself instinctively rooting for each season. I'll watch a game sometimes just because I haven't seen the two teams participating and I'll find myself gradually tilting towards one side or the other. I like to think about all the little reasons I gravitate towards one team or another. I like to think about why people like things and why people identify with things a lot in music too.

Since the decision and the nationwide hatred of LeBron I've begun really rooting for him. I understand that “the decision” was in poor taste but it was just a mistake and I'll allow a few major doozies per lifetime to anyone. His game is still incredible to me and he does things that literally have never been done before on a basketball court. So I root for him to see more of that incredible stuff, but I also feel like I root for his triumph because he's got the biggest opponent. He's up against more than anyone else in the NBA (and perhaps in all of sport). I get a tremendous amount of satisfaction watching LeBron overcome both his own demons and us. I find it hugely inspirational. Still, I wouldn't have been sad to see San Antonio win.

Sometimes I think Rajon Rondo is depressed. Am I projecting?
Perhaps. But I think it's safe to say he's a highly emotional person and a highly sensitive basketball player.

Golden State had a mega off-season. Can they do it?
No, I don't think so. But I uttered the fateful words “Joe Flacco will never win a Super Bowl” about a year ago so I'm all mixed up. I think Golden State will be good though. I have them 6th in the West behind OKC, San Antonio, Memphis, Houston, and the Clippers (in some order). But in the playoffs some team with good perimeter defenders or a great gameplan (or both) will shut them down. I think they'll be good but I don't think they have enough dimensions just yet.

Do you think Jeremy Lin is misunderstood?
Not really. I just think Linsanity puffed him up too big in peoples' eyes. He's not a bad player. He's a good player, just not the great player Linsanity promised. He'll find his way so long as he can stave off Patrick Beverley for playing time.

Our fantasy league is getting good. Who's your fantasy sleeper for this season? (I promise I won't tell anyone.)
I like Oladipo in Orlando. I have a short history of overconfidence in young guys (John Wall, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) so it's business as usual. But I think he'll give some solid all-around numbers and I don't think he's on people's minds so much.

Do you have any strategies/tips for anyone who'll be drafting a team this upcoming season?
I don't know that I'm in any position to give fantasy advice but I think I can say a team full of medium production guys is just as good as a top-heavy team. A good 50 or 60 percent of winning happens on draft night. If you draft smart, stay active, and have a little luck you should do alright. Also it's much more fun when you have players on your fantasy team that you actually root for in the real game.