There, I said it

FreeDarko needs to keep it movin', if nothing else so the world can see that we can think up the same shit as
Scoop and Eric Neel
days earlier, for far less money, and in a manner far less likely to make you punch through your laptop. But honestly, I'm not sure how excited I am about the playoffs at this point. Don't get me wrong—still enthralled by the Suns, who basically took five of my favorite Association-ites and asked them to play the only style of ball that can hold my interest for a full forty-eight minutes. Nice to see the Wade-mania dampened a little, since we should probably be appreciating him for what he is—a absolute stud of a shooting guard who is still growing into what should be an era-defining talent. And as dastardly as those Spurs are, as long as Ginobili's in a starring role, I can only complain so much.

Quite honestly, though, the Spurs and Pistons bore me. Kill me. They make the NBA disposable; unless they're taking on a team brimming with talent and charisma (e.g. the Suns), they are the large, efficient motor that blots out the sun (no pun intended, since that would make it a mixed metaphor, actually, a blatantly contradictory mixed metaphor). If I'm at home anyway, or out in public with a tv on, sure, I'll pay attention. But no way am I planning my night around these Eastern Conference Finals, like I did for some of the earlier serieses. I respect and appreciate how the Pistons took Wade out of his game, but without him running wild, it's just the Pistons fighting off Shaq and some finely-tuned role players. At this point, I've watched enough of this playoffs that I'm getting impatient. Perverse and backwards as this may be, I think it's in keeping with at least my personal take on FreeDarko's means and ends.

You can skewer me if you want, but I'm the kind of person who will freely admit that I like football best when a running back goes for 200 and 3 touchdowns. Not an evenly-distributed passing attack. Or a defensive trench-war. Don't even try to tell me that watching the Suns' offense going at full-throttle, Wade doing his thing, or Ginobili unchained isn't a markedly different experience than some other thing involving the Pistons or Bruce Bowen. This isn't a matter of cheap thrill, excitement, or shallowness. It's that I watch the game to be astounded and really, I worry that the Spurs and Pistons might exist largely to take that away from me.

One point of order: why do I reserve the right to isolate Ginobili from the rest of the Spurs, while Wade makes watching the Heat worthwhile? The Spurs have an identity that doesn't rely on Manu; he can play a much smaller role without compromising their offense, or affecting their chances of winning. But if Wade isn't soul controller, Miami is in trouble. They can stay close, but it's him, not Shaq, that's going to put them over the top down the stretch.

I'm not trying to convince more responsible fans of anything, but I think that, in the spirit of full disclosure, I should admit all this before I write anything more or go silent until further notice. I love this game and I refuse to keep the somewhat tawdry nature of this love a secret any longer!!!!!!!!!

P.S. Draft lottery tonight! The most crowded, middle-to-bottom-heavy draft in the history of the world, finding the stars more difficult than ever to find, mpre politics bound up in this one than ever before, Euros on the wane and high schooler's likely to be fool's gold again (okay, maybe "fool's silver") (somewhere on ESPN's draft site, there's a brief paragraph about all the former high school stars that never made it to the Association but would have been lottery picks in today's day and age). Last year's draft was deceptively solid, despite the lack of fireworks; this time around, brace yourself for several months of inconclusive hand-wringing and trade rumors. This one really won't pan out until four years later.


At 5/24/2005 3:27 PM, Anonymous brickowski said...

as much as i liked hyping this series as one that would define the style of play in the Association for years to come, i don't think that's actually the case. i had been saving this thought for a time when Suns fans or run n' gun fans needed comforting, but since Stein dropped his column today and BS already sounds depressed about the rest of playoffs (way too early for that) i might as well mention it now.

the suns ran to the best record in the L and made it to the final 4 by capitalizing on a rule change and embracing a philosophy not used in decades. along the way, they inspired other teams such as the nuggets, sonics and wizards to try similar styles. all of these teams had tremendously successful seasons and re-energized fans that had suffered through years of mediocre to awful teams. is there any chance that these squads will forego all of the gains they made just because the suns lose to the spurs in the conference finals? of course not. if anything, more teams should embrace this style next year. there's a dearth of dominant big men. shaq and duncan are the last of their kind, and if you don't have one of them (or both of the wallace boys) you might as well try to run.

if you need further evidence that the phoenix style is here to stay, look no further than their counterparts in this series. in last years playoffs the spurs averaged 89 points a game. know what they're averaging this year? 101! that's a remarkable increase in one season for a team that made no major personnel changes. it takes a lot to get a military control freak like Popovich to loosen the reins. phoenix has been that significant this year. their offense is so potent that they're actually bringing the curve up (even detroit has seen a significant increase--up to 91 from last year's 87-- but keep that 91 in mind compared to the spurs' 101. if the finals are a low scoring bore-fest it's on them, not the spurs).

At 5/24/2005 4:04 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

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At 5/24/2005 4:13 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

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At 5/24/2005 4:32 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

here's my second go at this. i should probably also check out stein's column, in case he's thought of this already.

here's the thing. .. i know that the spurs can score. the pistons are even more than capable of cracking 100 when they need to. i'm just not a fan of that no-frills, vet-geared basketball. i like young, hungry teams that run because they can't help it.

and that's exactly why your point is so well-taken. . unlike the eastern conference of a few years ago, where teams could always have a fighting chance by making a slow, seeping mess of the game, teams that want to score are too good at it. only the very best teams are capable of slowing games down when it's the best option (spurs, pistons, rockets). at the same time, those teams also have to be able to play up-tempo, for those elite running teams. the fact that there are two tiers of up-tempo teams proves how much of a trend it's become in the league. two distinct tiers, not scattered, idiosyncratic islands.

the spurs and pistons don't really run, they score. they manufacture buckets. i know i'm splitting hairs here, but it's that arch-professionalism--that ability to do whatever out of a sense of obligation, repsonsibility--that makes them so different from a team like the suns, wizards, sonics, etc. it's one of many hats they'll wear to get the job done (neel's point about the spurs and the stay puff marshmallow man is pretty funny when you forget the context it occurred it. they're everything and nothing).

i'm not saying nash isn't a master at what he does, but there's a certain freewheelingness to his approach that's sorely lacking in the spurs and pistons (except, of course, ginobili).

you may wonder why i'm leaving tony parker out of this. to me, parker is a very, very young point guard with poor decision-making and blinding speed. were he on a less competent team, i think he would be exposed. as he ages, you'll see him tone it down and become a far more economical player. he's the real wild card on the spurs, since he can score at will when he's on, but only at the expense of the team's coherence. the team is smart enough to absorb that, but i think that he'll eventually add a few assists on and lose some of that potency. that would make the spurs even better, but change their up-tempo offense.

i guess i'm saying that i don't see parker as having a nash-like ability to be both in the flow of the game and looking for his shot. it's one or the other, but he's not proficient enough to ever be better than a #3 scoring option. it's too much of a risk. he's kind of a like a troy hudson with more temptation towards evil (if you can imagine that) and more of a capacity for change towards real point-guard hood.

this is not a good basketball day for me. i hope someone can help me untangle this, because parker is a very complicated but somehow utterly bland figure.

At 5/25/2005 12:22 PM, Blogger Ian said...

In terms of record-breaking point-scoring and taking advantage of a new rule, I can't believe no one is comparing Suns-Spurs to Colts-Pats.

At 5/25/2005 12:49 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

that's sort of what i was getting at, sort of, with my balanced passing attack reference. watching the spurs put up 120 is like when the pats score 35 with 500 different receivers, 90 tight ends catching balls in the red zone, and corey dillion doing some dirty work.

difference is, pats still have a dominant enough defense (relative to the NFL's best offense) that more often than not they have been able to keep pats/colts from turning into a shootout


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