. . .double LP, world excited

Me and the Recluse were talking today about how, with all that's been going on in the Association, we here at FreeDarko probably should have something. So as much as I'm at this point all about working to perfect the maiden voyage of FreeDrafto, and as little of the Finals as I've watched, here are a few tidbits on the only NBA news that matters.

-Is there a single NBA player with as much clout as Kobe? You can say he's unreasonably demanded it, but the Lakers were more than happy to hand it to him. And even with his stock at an all-time low, Bryant's got more influence over his franchise—and more capacity to affect people's view of the league—than any number of more agreeable, possibly more skilled, players. He's still the ultimate power broker, with Shaq's folk hero appeal as good as toothless, LeBron too concerned with not turning into Kobe, and Garnett and Iverson too real to transcend the players' side of things. Like it or not, Kobe Bryant is still the most influential athlete in America, even if most of it's mere potential at this point.

-The real winner here is Odom, arguably the most versatile man in the Association. You can say a lot of things about Phil's coaching, but he's nothing if not smart and efficient. Handing him Odom in his prime—especially on a team that, starved for talent, will have to make as much of him as is humanly possible—has to be as attractive to him as a second go-round with the incredibly gifted #8. There's been a lot of noise about Odom being utilized like the second coming of Scottie, which is hardly out of the question.

For Odom, Jackson is a god-send. Queens's finest is almost too proficient for his own good, which explains his occasionally indecisive or over-determined play. The one year he had a strong coach, he became an All-NBA caliber weapon. Jackson knows that the Lakers will only go as far as Odom can take them, since his role will determine what shape the offense takes around Kobe. Chances are, the better it looks, the more likely Kobe will be to make his game a fit for it.

-Something tells me Butler's on the way out. Besides Kobe and Odom, he's their only appealing asset; packaged with an expiring contract, he could get them some frontcourt help. Plus he's probably going to get squeezed out of starting job, unless Phil wants his point-forward also having to be their best big man. Not that Odom isn't capable of playing the undersized 4 out West; Marion proved it's possible on the right team. But given the role he's likely to be handed, and the unlikelhood of Jackson trying to remake the Lakers in the Suns' image, I just don't see it.

-Some draft talk: with the best PG's steadily rising in the mocks, the chances of the Lakers stealing Felton at #10 seem slim. But given Phil's PG history, the amount of time Kobe and Odom should handle the ball, and the Lakers' problems in the post, look for them to grab a solid starting PF.

-One final word on Kobe: you don't trade him. For all his personal shortcomings and tendency toward egomania on the court, his combination of sheer ability, basketball IQ, and desire to win are unmatched in this league. Wade may be getting close, and T-Mac, for all the strides he made in the playoffs, is still the NBA's most persistent engima. You can make the argument for Iverson, Garnett, or Duncan, or claim that LeBron's just one season away from leaving everyone else in the dust. But for the here and now, Bryant's still the most formidable specimen of classic basketball greatness out there. That he can essentially run the Lakers and remain the league's #1 story despite an operatic fall from grace is a testament to what every GM in the league still knows: get Kobe under control and he's the most dangerous player in the Association. Hopefully, the league having passed him by will allows us to learn to appreciate him all over again.

-In case you're wondering, I still haven't bothered to watch a game of the Finals all the way through. I do have to finally take THC's side on Manu-gate here, though, and officially deem the buzz out of control. For one thing, he's still essentially a scorer. And while it's fashionable to say that he'd win the scoring title as the #1 option, let's not forget that Duncan still draws a fair amount of attention from defenses, as does the defense-splitting speed of Parker. Don't get me wrong, Manu's a fantastic player and as much of a joy to behold as anyone not on the Suns. But just because Wade's been knocked out, it's not fair to assume that someone has to inherit the mantle of hype.


At 6/15/2005 11:37 PM, Blogger elandfried said...

You're totally right about Felton. Until Phil was hired back, he would've been the perfect fit, but he won't be available and he doesn't really fit the full triangle. I'll bet they get some good foreign PF like Splitter or Vasquez, and keep Chucky Atkins at the point...who is actually a Phil type of point (see Kerr, Steve, Armstrong, BJ, Fisher, Derek, etc.).

OK, here comes the bitchfest. If you haven't watched a minute of the Finals, you are simply not qualified to talk about Manu Ginobili. Yes, he threw up a stinker in Game 3, but his performance in the first two games were resplendent. It was pure magic out there. It's bad enough that you missed it, but to then comment on it like you know what's up...for shame.

At 6/15/2005 11:58 PM, Anonymous Nels said...

Struck a match to the underground, industry ignited.

At 6/16/2005 12:19 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i saw most of game 1, esp. his fourth quarter exploits. game 2 . . whatever. i've been up on manu since day one, and have seen him get into it many a time. you can't tell me that, just because i missed one game, i don't know his strengths and limitations as a player. he's not doing anything we haven't seen him do before; duncan is gimpy and the pistons can't guard guards. i'm not the least bit surprised.

there are two kinds of coming out parties: those that state the obvious on a national stage (ginobili, arenas) and those that actually reveal something about a player's game (t-mac's first round, just how much wade was able to step it up in the absence of shaq). this is most certainly the former; ginobili's doing nothing new here.

At 6/16/2005 11:01 AM, Blogger elandfried said...

...except that he's doing it when it counts the most - against one of the best defensive teams of all time. I just think that when players put up those type of performances in the NBA Finals against the defending champs, they deserve all the accolades. I don't see how what Manu is doing is any different from what Wade, T-Mac, or Amare did in the playoffs. The only difference is that Manu is in the Finals while those guys didn't make it (despite all having stars around them just like Manu has TD). So in a way, he should be getting even more kudos than those players did. Aren't we supposed to celebrate incredible athletic achievement when the stakes are at their highest? Isn't that what it's all about?

At 6/16/2005 11:58 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

ideally, yes. but the finals are overrated in the extended playoffs. players are just as exhausted as i am.

though maybe i'm not giving manu's breakout enough credit. still, it's been going on since round one.

and reports of the pistons' ability to stop an explosive two guard this yea were greatly exaggaerated.

At 6/16/2005 12:05 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

at the risk of beating a dead horse, let's not forget the effect that having to also stick parker has on teams' ability to contain manu. when both guards are likely going to beat their man and get inside fast, the kind of scheming they used against wade has to go out the window.

At 6/16/2005 1:02 PM, Anonymous brickowski said...

lest we forget, THC's opinion on Manu was that he is nothing more than a role player (the Michael Cooper/Kukoc of his generation), completely undeserving of an all-star selection, with nothing special about his style of play.

that said, i'm gonna have to agree with shoals that the manu-hype in these finals has gotten a little out of control. spurs fans i know who usually have a clue have gone off the deep end and questioned whether manu is actually better than tim right now. and don't even get me started about heads on ESPN asking if Manu is better than Kobe (even simmons went this far). fucking insanity.

but what else are people going to talk about? he was the most dominant player for the first two games of the series, and he's clearly the most marketable spur, with tremendous appeal to both american and international fans. what, you want people to talk about bowen?

speaking of bruce, shoals did you catch the piece on bowen (as narrated by Oscar award winning actor Jamie Foxx)? does the fact that his mother was a crack-head make you like him more? i mean, that's got to make him more "real," right?

At 6/16/2005 1:17 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

first off, i heard a second-hand story the other night about duncan smoking tons and tons of green at wake. in his dorm room. alone.


i think you hit it on the head a few weeks ago when you pointed out that duncan is, for all intents and purposes, a foreigner. since then, i've tried to think about him more the way i would parker, who no one would ever call out for not being hood.

that said, i also don't really care whether players are hood or not, at least not in some moral sense. FBP, anyone? and have gone out of way to point out that it's partly kobe's weird class niche that makes me like him so much. but if you asked me interests me more, a non-descript "hood" player or a squeaky-clean nobody, i'd be lying if i didn't say if it was the "real" guy. and that's just becaise, in the absence of a tremendous persoanlity, i find urban black culture more interesting than middle class white culture. is that so evil?

bowen's story for some reason really annoyed me (it was in the mag, too). like we should applaud him for having become such a good boy, despite his background. i'm not saying it's not great for him and all, and obviously his personal decisions are his business. but the article almost delighted in pointing out just how much he has managed to cut ties with that world and those people, to the point that he built an entirely new family out of "desirables."

At 6/16/2005 1:58 PM, Anonymous brickowski said...

yo, where'd you hear that about duncan? that's incredible.

i don't think i've mentioned it here before, but over the last few years i've been secretly trying to convince myself that duncan was a pothead. i think it had to do with him being from the V.I. and me needing to find something about my favorite player that i could relate to. "he's not the shy-nerd they make him out to be," i'd say, "he's just one of those dudes who gets all quiet when they're high." i had kind of given up hope recently when i read that he's an avid paintballer with a course at his house, but you've given me enough to keep the dream alive. that he does it alone in his room makes sense, since he's apparently a huge video game addict (http://www.tvguide.com/sports/thelinks/).

i think it's awesome that you stay true to your position on bowen. i really mean that. so consistant is your hate that you find fault with a kid cutting his parents out of his life after they took money from his piggybank to buy booze and hawked his TV to buy rocks. and i should admit that if bowen were on any other team in the league, i'd probably hate him too.

At 6/16/2005 2:14 PM, Blogger Ken said...

I know you're just having fun with it, but when you're discussing the background of these guys I hope you realize the ultimate silliness of calling out someone for not being "hood enough".

At 6/16/2005 3:52 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

"not hood enough" is in quotes because that's what someone could accuse me of saying. it's preemptive, since that's what someone could easily accuse me of as soon as it gets on the topic of who's "blacker" than who else, and why i give a damn in the first place.

it all boils down to who i'm inclined to be intrigued/entertained by as a public figure. it's the equivalent of saying i'd rather listen to the game than dave matthews. sure, there's some inherent fetisihization of "black culture," but being bored with "white culture" is something i'm perfectly entitled to.

At 6/16/2005 4:46 PM, Blogger Ken said...

It's in quotes becuase you posted this:

"since then, i've tried to think about him more the way i would parker, who no one would ever call out for not being hood.".

If you call out Tony Parker or Tim Duncan or Chauncey Billups or anybody for "not being hood" then I think that sucks. I didn't say anything more than that.

At 6/16/2005 5:36 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i thought the quotes were implied. i'm not calling you out for calling me out, just clarifying what is always questionable ground to tread.

and raising the question of whether it's bad that i find "blacker" players more interesting than duncan or whoever.

i wouldn't group billups with duncan and parker, based solely on the way he is on the court and in the game.

why do i sometimes think that all that happens on this blog is arguments about the spurs and questions of "authenticity" in the nba/fans' right to judge it

At 6/16/2005 10:53 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

and that duncan info came from a kid whose good friend was at wake while td was.

yes, i am watching the game, but don't plan to finish doing so.

At 6/17/2005 8:11 AM, Blogger Ken said...

Spurs and authenticity is what you've posted about lately.

If you wasnt to talk about how crazy the Cavs are for cutting Tractor Traylor when he makes 1.3 mil a year- then I'm all for that.

Actually, I'm not as I get sick when I think about next season. They better sign some heros.

At 6/17/2005 9:52 AM, Blogger Ken said...

that should say "want" not "wasn't"

At 6/17/2005 3:37 PM, Blogger elandfried said...

This seems somewhat relevant here I suppose. Just want to know everyone's reaction to this article: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=jackson/050617

Personally, I think it's one big pile of shit. Except for the shout-out to Darko of course.

At 6/17/2005 6:32 PM, Blogger El Huracan Andreo said...

I need to write something about Odom. I miss him so very very much.

He was tantalizing in his only year here. I've always had a soft spot for 3s that can do everything.

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