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Forming a f***ing wall with Josh Smith's bricks

With apologies to all real bricklayers out there, I'm going to tackle a little DIY project around my house (the Palace of Auburn Hills).

modified from Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Pistons have won 11 of 13 games since releasing Josh Smith and have found a rallying cry of sorts thanks to Stan Van Gundy's off-the-cuff declaration to "form a f***ing wall" to seal a last-second win against the San Antonio Spurs.

We've already talked about why the rallying cry is such a perfect fit in Detroit, went over how the Pistons attempted to execute it, and why doing so is such a good defensive strategy.

But, you know, metaphors are nice and all; but what if I really f***ing wanted to build a *f***ing wall?

Well, to build a wall you need bricks, and thanks to Josh Smith, Detroit has an ample supply.

During his (mercifully) brief tenure in Detroit this became one of the most common images in the Detroit Bad Boy's comment section:

Photo courtesy of RLD10.

And there was no greater image capturing his offensive struggles than this:

All told, Smith missed 954 of his field goal attempts and 200 of his free throw attempts while in a Detroit uniform. That's what we have to work with. I now have 1,154 bricks to make the best f***ing wall $54 million can f***ing buy.


But I'll need the rest of my supplies. In my voluminous research, I learned that there are a few ingredients to a quality brick wall. First, you need your materials -- bricks (check), and mortar. Next, you need just these essential tools -- your trowel, your level, a tape measure, a brick bolster and a club hammer.

But because we preach safety here at Detroit Bad Boys (it is a family f****ing website, after all), we are also going to grab goggles and gloves.

Because of the size of the wall and my lack of experience, we're going to forgo the traditional scratch-made 3-to-1 sand to concrete mix for the mortar and cheat a little with Quikrete Mortar Mix. Thanks to a handy online calculator, I know that for my 1,154 bricks, I'll need roughly 32 80-pound bags. We're going to round that up slightly to 35 just in case I screw something up.

When purchasing our bricks, we are going big time. Josh Smith was such a giant f****ing disappointment in Detroit, we are splurging on the 9 5/8-inch Kingsize bricks as shown on Sioux City Brick's useful brick table.  Also, it's length combined with your standard 3/8-inch mortar joint means I get a nice round number (10 inches) as I begin to lay out my wall. This is important for the mathematically challenged.

The Quikrete Mortar Mix runs about $3.65 per 80-pound bag so it's only $127.75 for my 35 bags of mortar. Because this is such an important project, I am splurging on a quality level. The BonTool Co. 24-inch brass rail level has multiple vials that promise 100 percent accuracy, is made of solid mahogany and has hand grooves. You better believe I'm spending $75.30 on that.

For my trowel, I am going for the traditional smaller Philadelphia style, with a sharp-angled heel. The BonTools Co. 12-inch, stainless steel Philadelphia trowel with a nice wood handle adds another $42.95 to the ledger.  Add a simple $10 25-foot tape measure, a quality $15 brick bolster, an equally good club hammer, a $5 pair of bricklayer gloves and we are in business.


I have my supplies but now I need to plan out the design of my wall. First, I need to understand Stan Van Gundy's strategic goal when he implored the team to "form a f***ing wall." With only 0.1 seconds left, there was no possibility for the Spurs to catch and shoot the ball. The only option was a tip-in of some kind. Therefore, he wanted his team to seal off the basket as best as possible. My wall must accomplish the same.

Understanding the philosophy, I needed to learn how best to put that plan into action knowing my supplies. First, I needed to make sure I knew the dimensions I'll be dealing with.

Photo courtesy of

The court is 50-feet wide, but the wider I make my wall, the lower it becomes. I will want to be sure it cuts off any easy path to the basket so making sure I cover the paint (16 feet wide), and because I want to eliminate any possible quick cutting to the hoop, I will extend beyond the paint by two feet on each side.

Knowing that each brick is 2 5/8-inch high, plus an anticipated 3/8-inch for the joint. That means my wall will have both an ideal width and ideal height to make Van Gundy happy.

Building the f****ing wall

The key to a quality wall is patience. First, I must make sure that my Quikrete mortar has the right mix of fluidity and tackiness and plenty of water to wet my bricks to ensure nice cohesion. Once I am ready I will just put some mortar on one end of the wall and place my first brick.

Tapping the brick snugly into place with the end of my trowel and then checking with my level to ensure both that the top of my brick is level with the ground and the side so that I can ensure that I'm beginning to build out in a straight line. Each adjustment requires just a small tap of the trowel and constant measurement is necessary. Once I have a few bricks in place on one end, I will go to the other end of the wall and repeat the process. Each nudge will push out a little of the excess mortar so I must scrape all edges with my trowel. You can use this mortar to place between bricks or put it out in front of you, knowing where your next bricks will go.

Along the way it is a constant effort to place the brick, scrape away the mortar, check the level, apply mortar and repeat. Place. Scrape. Level. Tap. Scrape. Level. Mortar. Repeat. And repeat. Again. And Again.

Once I'm ready for another level of bricks, I want to offset the bricks by half. To prevent jagged edges on both ends it will require that I cut my bricks in half. First, you want to take some excess dry Quikrete or sand if available and put a generous mound down on the ground for some cushion. Then, it is as simple as measuring out the halfway point of the brick (eyeballing it as you get more comfortable), and scoring the brick on each of the four surface areas at the halfway point. Once the brick is scored, I place the bolster along my scored line and strike the end of the bolster with my club hammer.

If the brick doesn't break in half immediately, I'll simply rotate to a new scored face and repeat. Eventually, I'll get the relatively clean break I'm looking for. But for the most aesthetically pleasing wall, I have to remember to always ensure that my broken edge is facing mortar-side in and the clean-cut original edge is facing outward.

Final f****ing product

My brick wall is complete. It measures 20-feet by 11.5-feet high. This is more than enough length to seal off a path to the basket and is tall enough to make any heave at the hoop impossible. Here is a pre-visualization of the final product.

Sadly, there were no cross-court angles of Ginobili's final attempt so we'll go to the Pistons archives from the dark days to show you what our new wall will look like once it's in place.

Before the wall


After the wall