Brief for a reason

-I hope everyone's enjoying the playoffs. I watch what I can, but can't say I regret it. Luckily, I had the tv on when Amare hit Duncan with arguably the greatest block in NBA history (no Walton). Let's remember that, at best, the Suns were supposed to squeak into the post-season this year, not win sixty games and make the conference Finals. Seen in that light, the Block is all you could hope for--a fittingly dynamic cap on the upstart season that the gods crafted in their own two hands. The Spurs are headed to the Finals, but not without the Suns putting them on notice that the future is theirs. In their own house, where they're next to unbeatable, with the best power forward ever going up for a statement dunk that should have been effortless. . . Duncan, meet your new arch-rival. Easily the most technically impressive block I've ever seen, clinching a win that, while it means nothing now, will for years to come echo as the day the world really changed. The regular season accomplishments of the Suns may be easy to malign, but last night was a taste of what you can expect from them as this team actually matures together.

-If someone has a quality photo of the Block itself (the flash that bathed the play in light during the telecast was downright otherworldly), let me know. I've looked through most of the official photos and, while I learned that Amare's stills are more exciting than most people highlight reels, that one pivotal moment was nowhere to be found.

-Not that I want to make excuses, or spoil the split second revelation detailed above, but you can't tell me that Joe Johnson wouldn't have made an enormous difference (the difference?) in this series. Quoth the Recluse: "he's the only person on the Suns who actually looks and seems like a real basketball players, not some freak of nature."

-Enough already with the "Spurs can score and run" line, which, as I've said before, I find smug and a tad bit misleading. This story in the new ESPN mag captures yet another disturbing trend: "the Spurs are fun and have style." Sure, as with the offense thing, myself and others may have woefully underestimated this team's humanity. But, just as I'd rather watch the Suns' offense any day of the week, you can't for a second convince me that the Spurs are a cooler, more appealing collection of people than Phoenix.

-The Suns may be on the way out, but I don't think that discounts the fact that they single-handedly brought together the competitive, stylish, and silly parts of the Association for the duration of an entire regular season and playoffs. Considering the way things have been going, that's no small feat. For that alone, at the moment Amare is my favorite of the new breed.

-That and he said that Johnson had "the heart of a champion" in his post-game interview. And he sweats more than anyone but Shaq, and with him it's pure, molten heart leaking out his pores. Not the byproducts of exertion.

-I said this last week and no one responded; now, ESPN themselves have decided I'm right. Larry Brown to Cleveland's front office would be a tremendous mistake. He is the worst executive in modern NBA history not named Layden. He will strip that team bare and remake it in his own, rudimentary image. All someone will have to offer LeBron is the chance to breathe and play with some remotely fun, talented teammates, and that city can kiss its favorite son goodbye once his rookie contract is up.

-Suck on Wade all you want, I'd rather watch Kobe with Shaq.

-I hope that Miami or San Antonio enjoys their parade. I'll be in the lab preparing for FreeDarko's truly momentous draft coverage: our real element, and, along with some appropriately goofy FA decisions, where the real heart of my NBA lays for the next few months.


At 5/31/2005 2:22 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

i'm watching one of those espn shows where they recap previous championship runs, and i'd forgotten how much fun kobe was to watch. sure, it's also frustrating as hell, but he's still one of the most compelling players in the world. wade is a basketball artist, and seems like a genuinely nice guy, but he's no kobe.

also, i have to return to how absurd big shot rob's career has been. watching this recap of the lakers' last title run, in addition to last night's performance, reminded me that he has to be the "worst" player ever to hit so many huge shots. if the spurs win the title, he'll have six rings, right? i guess that means he's the baddest motherfucker.

At 5/31/2005 3:08 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

kobe may not end up with jordan's professional legacy, but i think that, hands down, he's one of the most fascinating athletes EVER. peerless talent, endlessly intriguing personality, serious dark side, a study in both every cautionary tale imaginable and the highest highs of competitive greatness. i know lots of people think of him as a foil to iverson's realness, but i think that by the time the kobe bryant story is done, it's going to be hard to see him as anything but a singular TORMENTED AND STRANGE BASKETBALL GENIUS.

kobe is not the voice of the people, he's some weird, twisted arisocratic paradox in the wrong century whose gifts happen to lay in the sport of basketball. it's like saying "that jim brown was some football player."

to bring myself back down to earth, yeah, horry's career is both ridiculous and unassailable. i still think reggie has to be seen as the better clutch player, simply because he did it more. circumstanes are so, well, circumstantial.

like when bow wow hits that shot without the magic shoes at the end of "like mike" (sorry if you haven't seen it!!). that horry's career, minus the magic shoes and the all-star appearances.

At 5/31/2005 3:16 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

in my rush to canonize The Block, I forgot to mention The Assist, which, while not as epochal, was at least as breath-taking a play. This isn't the Suns winning with flukish luck. This is their game, and if they're going to win, damnit, they're going to do it with the MVP finding a man while falling out of bounds, or their young stud going one-on-one with the league's best player and positively snatching his manhood.

Amare: "As my years progress, I'm pretty confident that I can become a better defensive player."

At 5/31/2005 4:28 PM, Blogger Ken said...

Are the Suns really going to get better? are they going to resign Joe Johnson this summer? I like the Suns players and all but I don't understand the dislike of the Spurs, is it Bruce Bowen? Tim Duncan isn't hood enough for them?

It was a solid block and all but not really as impressive as the one Tayshaun Prince had last year.

At 5/31/2005 5:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tayshaun's block last year was a straight up hustle block against someone who's too old to dunk it. It was impressive, and it showed what Tay's hustle and wingspan can do, but I repeat, Reggie Miller is aged and not someone who can throw down powerful dunks. Tay's block was some serious hustle followed by a graceful swat.

Amare's block was a man's block. He stuffed Tim Duncan, a man of enviable rim-rattling ability, at the rim. That takes all the athletic ability of Tayshaun's block plus the strength for stuffing a big, powerful player, at the rim no less. It wasn't a swat, it was a stuff, and I'll take the stuff any day.

At 6/01/2005 8:15 AM, Blogger Ken said...

Miller wasn't trying to dunk it.

Check the picture:

Anyway, Amare's dunk was impressive, but dude just crowned it the greatest of all time. The Pistons ended up winning that series after that block- can the Suns?

At 6/01/2005 9:52 AM, Blogger emynd said...

Calling that the "greatest block of all time" was certainly a bit much and will only really be even remotely true if the Suns turn into the powerhouse that Bethlehem Shoals seems confident they will be. However, that being said, that block was one of the most goose-bump inducing pieces of basketball beauty I've ever seen.

And I agree that the anti-Spurs bias is pretty strong here, but who gives a fuck? Everyone who claims that the Spurs are anything but "boring" just because Manu Ginobili is one of the most exciting players in the league to watch is overstating Ginobili's value and forgetting about the rest of the game. Manu's clearly good for two or three truly remarkable plays a game, but the rest of the game is the same-ol'-same boring-ass shit.

A Pistons-Spurs finals will be completely unwatchable to me, even if those motherfuckers are "playing the right way." In fact, it'll be unwatchable because these motherfuckers are "playing the right way." Sports are here for our entertainment after all. Contrary to old honkeys' beliefs, this shit ain't about purity or any such nonsense. It's the dialectic between humanity and super-human abilities that makes sports interesting and intriguing. The Spurs and Pistons are simply too "human" to be anything but boring.


At 6/01/2005 12:21 PM, Blogger Ken said...

I'm still a young honkey but I don't really think the Spurs are that boring. Those guys are a machine out there. They aren't the most interesting characters off the court but that's a distant second to what actually goes on the court to me.

The Pistons are a bunch of characters and they're the fiercest team in the East. I want to see these two teams face off because it looks like they're the best squads and I really don't know who'd win, though I'm leaning towards the Pistons. It won't be a run and gun Dallas-Phoenix series but every game would be intense.

Guys coming together to do something they couldn't do as an individual is a big part of the appeal of team sports. In my opinion nobody plays as a team better than the Pistons and the Spurs. There would be some super-human abilities out there too, have you forgotten the sheer freakiness of Ben Wallace.

Who would you prefer to see in the Finals?

At 6/01/2005 12:45 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i believe i said it was the "most impressive" block i've ever said. technically perfect against one of the most technically perfect players EVER. and, on a purely mano-y-mano level, seeing anyone deny duncan like that was pretty unlikely and amazing.

as for its greater significance, yeah, it's all up in the air at this point. even if the suns win tonight, this series is done. but i do think it once and for all announces amare's arrival. and perhaps (major qualifier there) the suns as a force for a long time to come. but all this is secondary to the fact that, even if it had been stepehen hunter who had done duncan like that, i would be using some superlatives.

if we're talking a combination of series significance, game-time thrills, and highlight reel perfection, how about arenas's number on hinrich in round 1?

the wallaces are very often two of my favorites in the league. you've got to give it up for chauncey. but as a team they're far too professional.

emynd nailed it: i don't want to see mere mortals finding out a way to bond together and scrape the firmament. give me the guys that make their living up there, with some role players to round things out. i want to see those mighty individuals who dare to fly close to the sun on their own because they can. insert more mythology references here, etc.

that's the fucking difference between college and the pros.


At 6/01/2005 1:00 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

okay, fine, i guess i did call it the greatest block ever for reasons both game-bound and those beyond the cloudz. i think you can still make a case for the former despite the utter excess of my trying to claim the latter.

At 6/01/2005 1:33 PM, Blogger Ken said...

It was a high-flying awesome block. I saw the words "greatest block ever" and my mental highlight reel said otherwise.

Anyway, who is this team of mighty individuals you want to see in the Finals? I am all for incredible athletes doing their thing, but who should be there instead of the Spurs and the Pistons.

And what are you going to watch instead?

At 6/01/2005 2:57 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i think one of my main points got lost in the shuffle. . .duncan has, over the last few years, been the most unstoppable player this side of shaq. amare's proven he can be that on offense, but i think this play proves that he is the league's only one-on-one answer for duncan on defense.

i think a suns/heat finals would have been fantastic.

At 6/01/2005 3:07 PM, Anonymous brickowski said...

ken, i applaud your efforts here. i read the line about "positively snatching [duncan's] manhood," (without even the courtesy of a “no homo”) and decided it was best to just walk away.

you have to understand what you're dealing with, though: BS has seen the spurs completely control a series he thought would be one for ages. he knows his beloved suns will be eliminated soon and he's grasping for anything to make himself feel better. let him. let him tell himself the future belongs to the suns even though they're gonna have like 4 max contracts after this summer and won't be able to upgrade that awesome bench (get used to jake voskuhl!), while the spurs have everyone locked up for years to come, with ginobili and parker just beginning to hit their stride, and scola on the way. let the kid dream.

besides, deep down BS knows that he NEEDS the spurs. i foolishly used to think i hated the lakers. but when they broke-up this year i felt a tinge of sadness. sure, it's always great to go to the finals, but beating a likeable, entertaining group like the suns isn't nearly as satisfying as seeing tears run down kobe's cheek (seriously, what kind of an NBA baller cries in defeat?) or seeing the smugness slapped off of phil jackson's face. As vince mcmahon has known for years, you need a quality bad guy.

At 6/01/2005 4:22 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i love that we get intelligent defenses of the spurs on here. . . too often, the media lapses into that same old "they're the spurs" tautology, and trying to argue with someone about the spurs here in texas is about as useful as engaging in a serious debate on religion with a fundamentalist christian. they just can't see there might be some point of contention, or some general problem to which theirs is only one solution.

i think i give the spurs their propers. i have repeatedly called duncan the best PF of all-time. anyone who's been reading this blog (or knew me before this thing existed) knows that i've been a ginobili guy since before he even stepped foot in the Association. With Bowen it's personal, never business. I have never once criticized Pop's coaching--I'd take him over Brown any day if I had my pick.

brickowski's perfectly right: i need the spurs to make myself even more excited about young running teams. because until one of them can actually dispense with the spurs in the playoffs, this era hasn't really changed. and if the spurs weren't there, there would be no objective way of knowing if a chance had really come. there's a reason the aba was a revolution in style, not competition--all they did was run past each other.

At 6/01/2005 4:39 PM, Blogger Ken said...

Yeah, I hear you Frank. Hate it or love it the Spurs aren't going away anytime soon. They don't work as villains to me, not yet anyway, but I think that depends on how you feel about Duncan.

There was so much I hated about the Lakers: that I had to read Phil's "Zen Management" in college, Derek Fisher's headband on his ears, the dumb look on Devean George's face, that Phil Jackson obvious mind games fucking worked.

I like Amare and the guys and I love the Suns style but I just don't see them as the team of the future. How are they going to get better without changing their approach? Their approach is what made them so likeable.

The Heat and D. Wade have been fun this year but I think Detroit is going to take that series. I know he's been injured, but time is obviously getting to Shaq. In my opinion they only have one or two more cracks at it.

Who wins between the Suns and Heat? I guess I take the Suns. Nash and Wade cancel each other out, Amare and Shaq too- more intangibles with Shaq but more numbers with Amare. I like Marion and Johnson better as difference makers than Udonis and Eddie Jones

At 6/01/2005 6:55 PM, Anonymous brickowski said...

and yeah, you're right about trying to argue with people around here about the spurs. to be honest, during these playoffs i've kind of started to hate spurs fans. they display a collective knee-jerk reaction to any national article that doesn't expressly praise the team. that's probably because there's nothing else in town to care about, but also because we've been so inundated with the "spurs are boring military robots who are bad for basketball" line of thought (which is why it's pretty unfair for you to say the new "spurs are fun and can run" line is smug and misleading. it's not like the spurs themselves are saying this, and it's only a media reaction to the "spurs = unwatchable" line that has persisted for years and is clearly outdated).

ken, i don't think the spurs are villains either, but they seem to be to many in these post-modern times where heroes need to have an edge to them. frankly, after seeing bill simmons call us villains, i started hoping we'd embrace it and actually start doing villainous BadBoy Pistons type of shit. Alas, we haven’t committed a single flagrant foul in these playoffs, and duncan continues to be his humble, self-deprecating self.

As far as Finals match-ups go, I think we’re going to get a great one no matter the outcome of the series in the East. If Detroit wins, then we get to see the last two champs going at it for the first time since, I think, Lakers-Celtics in ‘87. But Spurs-Miami would be even more fantastic. It would feature the two most dominant players in the post-Jordan era going head to head in the finals for the first time after so many battles out West. This shit would be reminiscent of Wilt going to LA in ‘69 and facing Russell in the Finals after all the Eastern Conference duels between Boston and Philly (except both Wilt and Russell were at the ends of their careers, while Shaq and Duncan are still relatively in their primes). Don’t tell me this wouldn’t be incredible. And if that’s not enough, we’ve got an undercard of Manu and Wade–this postseason’s breakout stars. This wouldn’t be epic? Don’t get me wrong, I like watching the Suns as much as the next guy, but a finals with them wouldn’t have nearly the same kind of clash of the titans heft that these other matchups would. Let them pay their dues first.

At 6/01/2005 6:57 PM, Anonymous brickowski said...

shit. the top of that last comment got cut off. it said:
wait, BS you currently live in Texas? where? why? you're clearly not a Texan.

At 6/01/2005 9:21 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i moved here for grad school. that should explain it all.

what you said about shaq/duncan being the new russell/wilt would be true. . .if they ever guarded each other.

At 6/02/2005 12:50 PM, Anonymous brickowski said...

good point. shit, how did they guard each other back then? today both would foul out trying to guard each other for the whole game. at least we'd see shaq and timmy guarding one another in the 4th.

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