by Ryan Jones

I know no one cares, but my Sidekick II died this week. I can still turn it on and check the address book and sh*t, but I can’t make or receive calls or emails. So it’s dead. You people thought I was joking. This is what you get. I’ll be renaming the column shortly. Bastards.

Anyway, yeah, as Sam has been reminding me a few dozen times a day for about 6 weeks now, I haven’t posted in a while. Thankfully, Myung’s 8,000 daily responses and Appleman’s two-pronged Eurasian assault (soccer and Haiku. That makes sense, right?) seems to have kept you ungrateful fiends occupied. But, we’re finally done shipping SLAM 104 (three different collectible covers… all featuring Sebastian Telfair… on newstands in a few weeks… cop it, haters!), so in the brief gap between Halloween (a loathesome holiday, but when you’ve got a two-year-old, you have to play along) and wifey’s birthday next week, I am here for you.

Oh, and I was just joking about Bassy. It’s actually four covers. What?

Gotta admit, though, I’m a little overwhelmed by the sheer amount of content on slamonline these days. Sh*t is intimidating, so I’m not really sure what to talk about here. Two things, I guess, come to mind.

1) As Sam the Instigator prophetically posted today, I am jumping back on the Laker bandwagon — but only briefly, and only to make a point. It’s like this: I did a feature on Smush Parker last year, spent a little time with dude and came away thinking he was really cool. Ronny Turaif almost died, and now he’s playing and playing well. Lamar Odom had damn near the worst summer imaginable, and he’s back and balling out of control. Jordan Farmar’s ears make him immediately likeable. And then of course there’s my main man Andrew Bynum; I was one of the few (or maybe only) people I knew who was optimistic about his potential when the Lakers (who I was still claiming at the time) drafted him last season. Between that and his endearingly insane decision to a) dunk on and b) talk sh*t to Shaq last season, he’s my new favorite player ever. And that’s essentially who the Lakers are running with so far this year — a cool, unassuming group of guys who are pretty easy to root for. And so I’m rooting for them. At least, for a few more days, when something happens that will make it hard for me to root for them again. Whatever that might be. And if they finish 82-0, I’ll still stay off that wagon like I’m an AA lifer. Mark my words, haters. Mark my words.

2) In much less contentious news, we enjoyed an annual rite of passage here at the Slam Dome earlier this week: Media Guide Delivery Day. Every year, right around Opening Day, the NBA sends seven or eight 300-pound boxes (I’m approximating) to our office, each filled with media guides for all 30 NBA teams. At this point, I’ve been here long enough that I find myself reading substantial meaning into the media guides themselves — who’s on the cover (or who’s not), why a third-year franchise has more pages in its media guide than one of the NBA’s original teams, etc. This may make me a loser, but I kind of look forward to it.

Anyway, here’s my take on this year’s batch (or the first 15, anyway), in alphabetical order, with categories that make cross-referencing fun and easy for the whole family. Enjoy!

ATLANTA HAWKS
The Cover: Two pictures of Joe Johnson, one a Hawks action shot from last season, and one a posed shot of him in his USA Basketball jersey.
The Message: The Hawks are sort of a one-man team.
Season Motto: “The Highlight Factory.”
Translation: “We still aren’t gonna win many games, but we should at least be fun to watch. Hopefully…”
Total Pages: 304
Misc: There’s a Philips TV ad on the back, which makes sense since they own the naming rights to the arena.

BOSTON CELTICS
The Cover: A large shot of Paul Pierce in mid-dribble. Keep in mind, these were printed before Red passed, or else they would’ve undoubtedly had an Auerbach tribute on the cover.
The Message: The Celtics are absolutely a one-man team.
Season Motto: None stated.
Total Pages: 312
Misc: Length-wise, the C’s media guide is (or at least SHOULD be) the benchmark for the rest of the League. Considering that a) Boston is one of the NBA’s original franchises and b) has won more titles than any other franchise, they should undeniably have the thickest media guide. Only they don’t. Who’s got more? We’ll put an exclamation point or three next to every team that does, just so you can see what nerve some of these people have. Every time you see one of those exclamation points, you should be a little bit offended. Or in some cases, a lot.

CHICAGO BULLS
The Cover: A gritty, textured (like braille, for blind beat writers, I guess?) close-up shot of black top with a worn line of white paint and part of a ball visible. Perhaps they’ll play their games outdoors this season. If you’ve been to Chicago in February, you know this will suck immensely.
The Message: See motto below.
Season Motto: “For the Love of the Game.”
Translation: “Chicago’s kind of a bad-ass city, and now that we’ve got Ben Wallace, we’re kind of a bad-ass team. Also, no players on the cover emphasizes the fact that we’re a TEAM. Hey, it worked for the Pistons…”
Total Pages: 392!!!
Misc: Once again, the Bulls are the ONLY team in the League who insist on mailing out a spiral-bound media guide (the rest are bound like regular paperback books). This is theoretically convenient if you’re planning on using it a lot, but mostly it’s just a pain in the ass.

CHARLOTTE BOBCATS
The Cover: A montage of action shots featuring Raymond Felton most prominently in the middle and surrounded by Emeka, GWallace, Sean May and The Stache. Also, there appears to be a giant close-up photo of a microphone in the background, which makes no sense at all.
The Message: If you liked college basketball the past few years, you’re gonna love this team.
Season Motto: None stated.
Total Pages: 190
Misc: Yeah, 190. The word you’re looking for is “appropriate.” We’ll credit BETCats PR king and SLAM homie Scott Leightman for getting that right.

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
The Cover: A panoramic pregame shot from inside Quicken Loans Arena during last year’s playoffs, with the fireworks and flamethrowers going up and the crowd going nuts while the Cavs do their pregame huddle/beat-in thing that NBA teams do.
The Message: LeBron was kinda too obvious, so they decided to try this.
Season Motto: “All For One. One For All.”
Translation: “LeBron LeBron LeBron LeBron LeBron.”
Total Pages: 330!
Misc: The Cavs do a nice job of not making this thing too LBJ-centric, which is smart. We’ll credit SLAM homie Amanda Mercado & Co. for getting that right.

DALLAS MAVERICKS
The Cover: Dirk walking off the court after a playoff win last season, high-fiving delirious fans, under the line “2006 Western Conference Champions.”
The Message: They’re the defending Western Conference Champions, and you’re not.
Season Motto: None stated.
Total Pages: 360!!
Misc: There’s a picture of Dirk on the back cover, too. They definitely know who the man is in Dallas.

DENVER NUGGETS
The Cover: Kind of a montage, with square and rectangle-shaped shots of Melo, George Karl, Rocky the Mascot and then Doug Moe, Alex English and David Thompson (I think — it’s kinda hard to tell), kind of a past-and-present vibe celebrating the 40th anniversary of “basketball in Denver.”
The Message: They’ve got some cool history, and this Anthony kid’s not bad, either.
Season Motto: None stated.
Total Pages: 384!!
Misc: The dark blue/powder blue/gold color scheme is really starting to blur with the Jazz for me.

DETROIT PISTONS
The Cover: A montage of action shots: Chauncey, Tayshaun, Sheed, Rip, Dice and…Lindsey Hunter.
The Message: Ben? Ben??!?!!!? BEN!!!!!!!
Season Motto: None stated.
Total Pages: 324!
Misc: One of the more understated media guides in the League, which is cool when you’re winning rings, but just kind of forgettable when you’re not.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
The Cover: A super closeup of the new NBA ball, with The Logo front and center, all tinted in blue. Minimalist.
The Message: They’re still a little unsure of this whole Nellie thing, so they’re gonna keep it simple.
Season Motto: None stated.
Total Pages: 352!!!
Misc: Other than the words “Golden State Warriors” on the cover, this thing is completely neutral and says nothing whatsoever about the team or its players. When you haven’t made the playoffs in a few millenia, I guess that’s the move? Help me out, GSOM.

HOUSTON ROCKETS
The Cover: Cool black & white shots of T-Mac, Yao and SHANE BATTIER? with the red of their uniforms popped out, on a white backbround.
The Message: They’re expecting big f*cking things from Shane Battier, which with these guys might be nothing more than not spending half the season in street clothes.
Season Motto: “Live It.”
Translation: Um, “Live It,” I guess.
Total Pages: 312
Misc: I think the Rockets have my favorite media guide cover font. You’ll just have to trust me on that.

INDIANA PACERS
The Cover: No fewer than EIGHT photos of team president Donnie Walsh and a list of the team’s accomplishments in his 20 years with the team.
The Message: The Pacers don’t really trust their players, and we’re not sure we blame them.
Season Motto: None stated.
Total Pages: 336!
Misc: Across the top of pretty much every single page inside, they ran all the different jersey designs the Pacers have worn in their 40-year history. That Uni-Watch guy over at the worldwide follower is gonna LOVE this.

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
The Cover: A sepia-toned background with barely visible text from what I really f*cking hope is a made-up constitution or delcaration or something from the Clipper Nation, and a “Clipper Nation” stamp on the bottom left corner that reads “We the People… In Hoop We Trust.” Oh yeah, and there’s a shot of Brand, SamIAm, Cat, Maggette and Kaman together across the front.
The Message: After sucking for so long, they’re gonna get creative and make the most of their new-found success.
Season Motto: None stated, I guess, except for that Clipper Nation thing.
Total Pages: 272
Misc: I believe the Clips are the only team who refer to their media guide as an “information” guide, which isn’t incorrect, but seems a bit pretentious. Also, they’ve got an ad on the back for a Double Western Bacon Cheeseburger from Carls Jr that is giving me grade school flashbacks and making me REALLY hungry right about now.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS
The Cover: (I’m really, really want to editorialize the sh*t out of this one, but I’m not gonna. Honest…) A Laker home jersey, spotlighted dramatically, hanging in the dark. No. 24. Jim Jackson, right?
The Message: They let Kobe design the media guide cover. Please don’t think I’m joking.
Season Motto: None stated, but implied like a motherf*cker.
Total Pages: 338 (A bit more than the Celtics, yeah, but considering all those banners hanging in Staples, and how much more relevant they’ve been than Boston for the past 15 years or so, the Lakers most definitely get a pass.)
Misc: For the third year in a row, the media guide opens with a two-page written tribute to Chick Hearn from a prominent L.A. area media member. Pure class.

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
The Cover: A dark-blue background with barely visible outline of a huddle of teammates with their hands raised, with the team logo over the top.
The Message: They’re all in thi—wait, that’s a TWolves logo. What the…? Dude, they sent two Minnesota media guides and no Memphis one. In EVERY SINGLE BOX?!?
Season Motto: N/A
Total Pages: Zero, apparently.
Misc: Maybe they’re not gonna publish it til Pau gets back? Maybe they’re moving back to Vancouver? No idea. This is a first.

MIAMI HEAT
The Cover: A single shot of the team celebrating last season’s championship. The whole team’s visible, index fingers extended.
The Message: These guys may have won something recently.
Season Motto: This is tricky, because it’s technically last season’s playoff motto, I think, and it’s on the back cover instead of the front. But here it is anyway: “15 Strong. One Suit. One Shirt. One Tie.”
Translation: “Riley’s a Genius, But You Knew That.”
Total Pages: 488!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Misc: 488!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You’ve won ONE F*CKING CHAMPIONSHIP and you’ve got roughly 50 percent more pages than the CELTICS, who’ve got roughly 17 times as many banners as you. Jeez. Stay classy, South Beach.

And I’ll most likely hit you with the rest shortly.