Let's face it: hustle players contribute less to an NBA team than waterboys and sweat moppers do. No matter what anyone says, no matter what kind of spin they put on it, a hustle player is a team's worst contributor (unless you're the T-Wolves, in which case you have Mark Blount).

In this Pregame Wrapup we'll look at some of the universal qualities hustle players have, answer some reader mail, and make fun of Jason Whitlock. You probably don't know who that is, do you? Well, keep reading to learn something, like why your voice is cracking and girls are starting to look pretty!

Does he have "great heart"?

HUSTLE In my younger days I spent a lot of time on the playground pretending to be one of Captain Planet’s Planeteers. My friends and I would draw magic rings on our fingers and assign roles: the fat kid would be Earth, the mean kid would be Fire, the fast kid would be Wind, and the amorphous blob of fluid kid would be Water. I know a lot of people are against the whole “building schools next to nuclear reactors” thing, but if it weren’t for Billy and the rusty wheelbarrow we hauled him around in I really think my imagination would have suffered. I remember the time Ricky Sparrow stuck a Krazy Straw where Billy’s leg would have been and took a few gulps – man, we laughed when that dead, milky eye sprouted out of his belly button. But that’s neither here nor there, really. This article is about basketball.

If you’re like me you spent a lot of time arguing with your friends about who got to play “Heart”. You’d spend hours fighting over who got to play the spry, long-haired pretty boy with the big pink valentine on his finger. Sometimes you got lucky and found a kid who volunteered to play the role. After conferring with your friends and deciding to kick his testicles up into his stomach once you got done playing, you welcomed him with a smile. Then you’d take turns pummeling the kid’s balls into cojone soup and call it a day.

Well, reader, you might be stunned to hear that same kid became an NBA executive. Today, even as you read this, he is paying someone more than you’ll make in your life to do just what he used to – namely, looking as gay as he can for a few hours before someone up and kicks him in the tweeter. Why? Because that player’s got heart, buddy, and if you’re an NBA executive you know two things:

  1. You’d better have a lot of cash if you don’t want to go through life with the nickname “Nike Nuts”, and
  2. Heart wins basketball games.

If you’re smart (and you are reading a Web site called “Something Awful”, after all) you might realize the problem here. “Heart” is not a quantifiable figure. Nobody drafts a kid because he put up 20 heart a game in his rookie college season, and the only people you could literally apply to the phrase “he has big heart” are Len Bias and Jason Collier. Call me crazy, but I don’t think either of those guys will be doing much ballin’ unless a phat mad scientist goes off the heezy with a miz-agical rizzerection potion.

That doesn’t stop the hustle player, though. Sure, those other people with their jumpshots and ability to touch a basketball without falling into convulsions might be putting numbers up there, but can you put a number on “heart”? No. Don’t listen to those stupid statisticians out there, sayin’ “it don’t count if you can’t put a number on it, beeyatch”, executives know getting out on the floor and shaking like an epileptic at a laser light show is every bit as important as scoring or rebounding.

So what do they mean when they say a player “has heart”? Thinking figuratively (and capitalizing the “H”), we could assume the athlete in question is constantly trailed by fat lesbians, but since Green Bay doesn’t have a pro basketball club yet I think that might be a bit out there. For the purposes of this update we’ll assume “heart” simply means “caring a lot about one’s job”. While I personally don’t think it would be hard to motivate a millionaire whose job revolves around of throwing an orange ball at a tiny hoop, heart is a big deal in pro basketball. Coaches love it, and they pay top dollar for it in the face of other, more overrated skills, including “being able to play basketball” and “being able to to win at basketball (the sport you want your team to play, unless your team is a baseball team, in which case you might want to consider playing basketball anyway if your team is the Cubs)”.

So, the next time you’re watching your local team and you see a guy muggin’ real hard when he’s d’ing a muthafucka up or waving that towel extra hard from the bench, rest assured you have a class-A hustle player with a lot of heart. Then start buying all your stuff online, since your state taxes are partially paying for that towel he’s waving and it won’t be a justifiable expense until someone’s using it to wipe the remains of his testes off his shorts.

Does his entire court repertoire consist of “intangibles”?

HUSTLE Intangibles are the hustle player’s best friend. They are his lifeline, his justification for being on the court. You take away a hustle player’s intangibles, what do you get? That’s right: Jared Jeffries. A coach will tell you intangibles are the small things a player does, the glue that holds together quantifiable talents like scoring or dishing assists. A sane person, on the other hand, knows the truth: if you ever hear a TV announcer praise a player for his “intangibles” it’s because he is only capable of doing two main things: hurting himself and shooting three-pointers.

Hustle players love the three pointer. They will spend games – hell, entire seasons – behind the arc, jacking threes up in hopes that somehow, somewhere, one of them will finally go in the hoop. Sportscasters, the intelligent, upstanding sacks of ignorant shit that they are, love this too. It doesn’t matter if the ball goes in or not. That’s not the point. The hustle player has intangibles. He cares about the game and he loves the long ball, even if the shot inevitably ends up in the concession stand and there’s a big ruckus because some transplant from the abused woman shelter got molten nacho cheese all over her favorite Adidass blouse (you know, the one with four stripes).

For instance: Jeff Foster, a man who’d shoot 30 percent if he was throwing ping-pong balls at the ocean, has probably been called a “deadeye shooter” at some point. Why? Not because he can hit a three, mind, you, but because he took one early in his career and a sportscaster (whose “pregame research” included flash cards that said things like “Car”, “Bird”, and “Associate’s Degree”) saw it. He got on the phone with his retarded coven and boom, Jeffy-boy was the next Peja. I mean, he’s tall, white, and he kind of looks like Annie Lennox. We all know Annie’s European, so by proxy Foster has to have some skills behind the arc!

Although they may not be able to hit a three hustle players are incredibly adept at the other half of their “game”, namely hurting themselves. Instead of, you know, contributing something valuable to the team, a hustle player is perfectly content to flail around the court like an angry retard, trying to bend their bones in new and exciting angles. Doctors might not be good at geometry, but they also know -10 degree angles don’t exist outside of a hustle player’s skeletal system. That $100,000 medicine degree really lends an air of authority to the phrase “I didn’t know you could break that.”

To be fair, hustle players don’t intentionally harm themselves. Only lazy, unscrupulous characters (Jamaal Tinsley) with no drive for the game (Jamaal Tinsley) and even less interest in earning an honest paycheck (Jamaal Tinsley) would Jamaal Tinsley that. They are simply consumed by their love of the game. Where most players would let that rebound go out of bounds, the hustle player has to have it. Who cares if his team is up by 25 points and there are two minutes left in the game? He might not be able to turn his head to the left without passing out, and he might see giant, flashing black boxes every time he bends his arm a certain way, but he’s diving after that rebound. Face-first. Into the announcer’s table. And after that they’re going to put him on a stretcher and declare him dead until he jumps out of the body tray at the morgue and runs that fucking rebound all the way back to the stadium.

A third (and increasingly common) move in the hustle player’s routine is to draw a charge. Really, there’s no better way to judge a player’s sanity than by looking at the charges he draws. For you non basketball fans, drawing a charge is a two-step process, which I will outline here:

  1. Find 300-pound man who is holding the ball and running at terminal velocity towards the rim
  2. Step in front of him.

I’m no pro baller but I have to wonder how much common sense it takes not to dive in front of a man who would win a head-on collision with a Durango. Granted, the ref’s whistle can be a sweet sound, but even that can be hard to hear when every bone in your body is screaming bloody murder. You don’t think bones can scream? Obviously you’ve never been run over by a dude whose shoe size is longer than your Social Security number. I guess having a Nike “Swoosh” imprinted on your forehead would be kind of neat, if anything to let the girls at the club know you were an NBA player and you still managed to be a complete failure. That, and I bet some kind soul would give you a free gun or at least a length of sturdy rope.

Is he grossly overpaid?

HELLO LEBRON CALL ME ANDRES THE HUSTLE PARROT As I said above, executives will pay premium money for a hustle player. Nobody really knows why they do this. Logic says an owner would hire a GM who knows about basketball and skills pertaining to basketball, as opposed to the “try your best and try it hard” mantra every overworked Wendy’s manager preaches when he’s not finding creative new ways to say “yup, still managing a fast food chain” to his mother.

Then again, I could be giving the average team exec too much credit when I say he’s capable of running a Burger King or McDonald’s. Why? Think about it: Nearly every fast food chain has some sort of “hire a retard” program. As a veteran of the fast food industry I can honestly say those retards might not be able to work worth a fuck, but they sure are enthusiastic about sucking.

What happens when some NBA big shot comes in, then? Sure, the dude running the grill might flip burgers faster than anyone on the shift, but if he doesn’t have enough enthusiasm it doesn’t matter. Customers can taste that shit. They know when a smiling face made their McTasty. Soon the restaurant would be positively buzzing with retards, and he’d be paying them all 30 dollars an hour to pick their noses and jerk off in the cooler in back and shit. Shortly after that the restaurant would be in shambles because of this “heart over skill” mentality, and then the retards, bitching about back pain from their fat wallets, would disperse when things shut. Where would they go? You know it, people: back to greeting people at Wal-Mart. I know this sounds horribly un-PC, but would you rather risk interaction with a lumpy-headed mouthbreather every time you went in to buy razors or just pretend they don’t exist at a fast food restaurant? Yeah, I thought so.

Dumb analogies aside I’m pretty sure those same executives have never heard of the Internet. If they did, surely to christ they’d heed to the huge gasp they heard coming from their computers every time they signed some gawky white kid to a $45 million deal because of his “heart”. I know a big part of a high-level job is ignoring criticism, but when people on a Web site are finding your address so they can kill you after you make a bad deal, chances are you fucked something up pretty good. I mean, a lot of these sports message board people might be slightly off-kilter (read: totally fucking insane), but if they do have one quality it’s this: they think about basketball all the time. For all the “I think the T-Wolves might come off Kevin Garnett for an ‘89 Geo Metro if we asked them real nice” posts, they know a decent deal when they see it.

But I’m going off on tangents here. The fact remains that if someone matches the criteria I make in this article and he’s still making more than $5.50 an hour in any capacity in the NBA, he is a hustle player and his bosses are idiots. He can only hope his hustle fends off the angry fans descending upon the team venue, because a lot of those people are really fucking fragile and it’s not that hard to get a bag of fertilizer and a Radio Shack fuse kit.

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