Wednesday Bullets

The prescription that makes you taller, and Carmelo.

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  • Incredible, must-listen This American Life story about large numbers of children in an unnamed upscale neighborhood being raised on human growth hormone (HGH). This is real and happening right now. Is it OK? That question feels pretty theoretical … but less so in sports. Rich kids can pay to be, on average, three inches taller. That’ll win you some games! And while HGH probably doesn’t cause long-term health issues, it might. It will be decades before anyone can be certain. This is the performance enhancing drug conundrum in a nutshell. Nagging safety concerns, and … changing who has what it takes to win. The business moves away from athletes and coaches and toward expensive, sometimes unethical doctors. (One of the ways Lance Armstrong won so many races was by finding doctor Michele Ferrari. Another way: reportedly paying Ferrari extra not to work for his rivals.) So, if HGH is more common in teens, we can either test the hell out of your local high-school athletes ... or concede that teams with rich kids might have the benefit of all that, which might include making the 5-11 kids 6-2, the non-dunkers into dunkers, that corner 3 unblockable because the release point is so high. Also possible: that there are top athletes right now who grew up getting these injections. For instance, the best footballer in the world.

  • Carmelo Anthony played his first NBA game in a year and two weeks. In 24 minutes as a Blazer, he hit a couple of 3s and generally looked like an NBA player, prompting some sunny coverage. In those same 24 minutes, he also missed 10 of his 14 shots and was the worst player on the floor by almost every advanced stat. David Thorpe is watching Carmelo closely; on Friday he’ll tell us what he sees.

  • Patrick Soon-Shiong owns a sliver of the Lakers and a company that seems to have made a solar power climate crisis breakthrough.

  • LaMelo Ball, as profiled for Bleacher Report by Mirin Fader, hates most vegetables. She adds that he “won't chew them, has to swallow them whole.” Whoa. I wonder if I can swallow ANY vegetable whole. A pea, I guess? Surely even a grape tomato is a choking hazard. LaMelo is a wizard.

  • As TrueHoop subscribers know, Ukraine, starring in impeachment hearings, is rich—and not without some NBA ties. I have a feeling there could be five or ten more layers beneath all this. Here are some signals pointing in that direction. 

  • I am finally watching Succession and dreaming that there will be a spinoff modeled on the NBA’s multi-generational billionaires like the Dolans, Busses, or both. One of the characters could be a lawyer who says threatening stuff like “you guys ought to treat my client nice,” which reportedly really happened.

  • “It’s time to acknowledge the unequal power dynamic of coaches and athletes, and address the systemic harm. It’s time to call this behavior what it is: abuse.” Great stuff from @laurenfleshman. She’s talking about women in running, but that sentence could also be from, say, one of Pat Conroy’s books about playing basketball at The Citadel.

  • Followers of the Jeffrey Epstein saga, please join me in being amazed that Ghislaine Maxwell—who has been accused of procuring underage girls for Epstein—remains free. There has been the suggestion of intelligence entanglement in this story, especially around her. And she has some NBA connections—for instance a report she was seen partying on former Blazer governor Paul Allen’s yacht.

  • Kobe Bryant is an acid-tongued straight-shooter with little tolerance for niceties. Does he really enjoy all this fawning praise?

  • How weird is this? The essential crisis of the early NBA season is that Hong Kong is this impossibly intricate political issue. It’s so electric we basically can’t discuss it at all. Meanwhile, in the profoundly divided U.S. Senate, this very same issue is a no-brainer, a home run, a clean win. Of course support the protestors! The vote was unanimous on a bill to that effect. Senator Chuck Schumer tweeted something way stronger than anything Daryl Morey ever did, calling the vote "a resounding message to the Chinese Communist Party and President Xi that the United States stands with the democratic protesters in Hong Kong." Not sure how long the NBA, LeBron, Nike, and the like can continue essentially hoping it’ll all go away before they have to take a position.

  • Underaged prostitutes on the private jet, assassins tracked through Heathrow, the mafia, a secret poison factory … the behind-the-scenes, real-world, on-the-ground nitty gritty of an oligarch fighting with Vladimir Putin

  • There are few forces more powerful than the badness of the Knicks’ offense.

  • The New York Times’ Ken Belson, Quoctrung Bui, Joe Drape, Rumsey Taylor, and Joe Ward did incredible research into the decline of high-school football. Participation is down in almost every state, an average of 10 percent nationally. I have long suspected this trend would be an incredible win for basketball, in terms of talent pool and audience. Adults tend to watch and support whatever sport they played when they were young—a generation dropping football could mean real domestic growth for hoops. But … reportedly soccer and cross country have been the big beneficiaries nationally. Basketball has been a mixed bag. And—for instance—look at the chart for Texas:

Later this week on TrueHoop: David Thorpe’s foolproof recipe to guard James Harden, and his take on Carmelo.