Their crowns in a gnarl

I'm not just an incredibly uneven, amateurish sports sage—I am also a man. That's why, from time to time, I find myself engaged in some embarrassingly earnest basketball soul-searching, most often of the "when am I actually going to appreciate smart, veteran teams that have a prayer of winning a championship variety." Yesterday, though, as I stepped into the shower and congratulated myself on having lived through another day of triple-digit Lone Star heat, I was struck by a brand new strain of conscience: the booming question of "am I losing my NBA edge?" The parcel that held this proud fact, dear reader, was none other than the impending Miami Heat mega-roster, Finley or no Finley.

I've already begun to back pedal on some mid-summer assertions that the Suns will still be the most breathless show in town (thanks for nothing, Mr. Hollinger), and I'm about ready to concede that, post-Hughes, the Wiz will often slow to an uneventful crawl. But these are the trials of a man and his faith, and quite frankly are none of your fucking business. I wore the cross for these pirates, and I certainly have the right to have some over-emotional reactions to their off-season upheavels. Ditto for Kobe, who I've been such a tireless supporter of that I think I've earned the right not only to criticize him, but also to flagrantly contradcit myself and confuse others on the subject of him. Theological debates are spirited internal debates on the fine points of a system of belief, not shattering attempts to reconsider the nature of things from scratch, and if you want good, sound scouting on the Wizards and Suns, you've come to the wrong Wizards and Suns-obsessed blog.

But what truly tears at my fine, fine inner fabric is my complete and total inability to warm up (take the pun, stab me with it) to the new Heat roster. When it all went down, my reaction to it was surpsingly conservative—I thought it was a bad move that seemed like a surefire exercise in how not to build a contendor, much less put a near-Finalist over the top. Even when Andreo and some of the FreeDarko faithful called me on my uncharacteristic plea for sanity, order, and responsibility, I stuck to these guns I had never before fired as my own, to the point where I began to wonder if I wasn't secretly making myself the victim of an inside joke.

The thing is, I've always been a Toine supporter, largely because of his incongruous mix of versatility and single-minded retardation, basketball IQ-heavy leadership and abysmal decision-making. And White Chocolate, well, you simply can't find a more complex player in the Association, from the standpoint of racialized politics and total style overload. Poesy, too, gets the thumbs-up, for having logged some of the least meaningful triple-doubles in NBA history (during his Denver days), and just generally teased us with his ability so much that we've taken his inconclusiveness for granted. Put these three with Shaq, who can make anyone teammate credible (Damon Jones, anyone?) and Wade, who isn't nearly as much of a one-trick pony as Amare, and you've got the ideal collision of style and substance. In short, a motley crew for the ages.

Yet still I balk. Maybe it seems to easy, the idea that Toine and J-Will could find redemption through Shaq's forceful benevolence. Maybe I want to see Wade fight, work, and grow into a Kobe or LeBron-like virtuoso, rather than be pencilled in as a known quantity that's unstoppable off the dribble (that or I want to change to be proven wrong for having ever slighted him in the first place). The bottom line is that these are uneasy negotiations, where Toine and J-Will's eccentricities will be a constant threat to what the Heat have in mind. They will live in fear, and I will bite my nails as I wait and see just how much fun this team will be allowed to have, how much things will revolve around Shaq (did anyone actually enjoy watching the Lakers close out games by dumping it inside six million times?). It's also a little disturbing to me that, while the backcourt could set the world on fire several hundred times over, it's the Shaq-anchored frontline that's the Heat's key to ultimate victory. And with tension already mounting over exactly who will start at the fwd's, you've got to think these are the first signs of a battle that, even if it in the end involves a good deal of style and uncontrollable basketball joy, will live in the shadow of "the right way."

I'd rather see them die than see them fly.


At 8/24/2005 1:22 PM, Blogger Ken said...

"You don't read Catholoc theology for tough answers about the nature of the universe"

Shitty line dude

At 8/24/2005 1:40 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i'm not really sure this is the right place to be having this discussion, but what i meant is that church theology, like any organized religion's writings, is an internal discussion about doctrine. the same goes for jewish, buddhist, muslim, or hindu scholarship; there are certain terms that are a given, and it's all about working through these terms in a way that allows them to make sense relative to both the world and their intellectual traditions.

the point was, there are certina unshakeable tenants in that kind of writing, as opposed to thought that's interested in reworking foundations, not reconciling them with what's out there.

that's why there's that branch of the church that ratzinger was head of--because the thought is supposed to be questioning and questing, but also somewhat in line with the basic form of that kind of religious faith.

was only thinking about this issue in catholicism because there's been a lot of talk about that whole issue lately, what with ratzinger having, over his career, silenced so many people that were outside of the lines. but still himself having a very, very strong scholarly background.

i guess the responsible thing to do would have been say "jewish." we do it too.

also i didn't even mean to post this yet. pictures to take some of the heat off, in a second.

At 8/24/2005 1:49 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

that said, since i didn't mean to post this yet, i don't think i'm backing down if i go back and edit this so my point's a little more clear. which i will do in a second.

At 8/24/2005 1:52 PM, Blogger Ken said...

I'll buy that, but in your post it doesn't sound that deep, it sounds like a tossed off put down. Check out this book on Joseph Ratzinger written by a prominent Rabbi.


At 8/24/2005 2:20 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

it was just a sloppy first crack at the line. even if i were trying to piss someone off, i would've had to edit it--the sentence barely made sense how i'd originally put it

that link goes to a book about pius xii. i guess that's sort of relevant to ratzinger, but i wasn't thinking about that at all.

and most of all, i'm surprised that you thought freedarko would stoop to making stupid, snippy remarks like "the church thinks it knows it all!!!!"

At 8/24/2005 2:34 PM, Blogger Ken said...

Yeah I got my Pope's mixed up. They've both taken some heat.

"i'm surprised that you thought freedarko would stoop to making stupid, snippy remarks like "the church thinks it knows it all!!!!"

I know- that's why I had to say something!

At 8/24/2005 4:55 PM, Anonymous Nels said...

Back to the basketball...

If you were on the fantasy hoops tip, you would know that Damon Jones was blowing up three-point land up in Minny way before he'd even met the Big Aristotle.

And while I would also rather see the Heat fall short again, it should be wicked fun watching them do it.

Also, your point about Wade making the name for himself really hit a chord with me. I would like to see he and Lebron both lead a bunch of no-names to the Conference Finals every year. I don't think they will ever get the rep they deserve if they have "superteams" around them.

At 8/24/2005 5:10 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

here's the thing with wade and lebron-is part of the post-jordan mythos that great players HAVE to do it more or less by themselves (okay, they get one HOF sidekick)? before jordan, it was bird and magic, whose teams were full of all-stars. or the eighties sixers teams, arguably just as deadly.

it's like we now think that doing it all is the ONLY way to prove your greatness, which of course dovetails in the worst way possible with the "unsound" idea among some players that they should be allowed to do it all by themselves.

when was damon on minnesota? he was one of the 12,000 sort of useful fantasy pg's that's been on the bucks over the last few years, but that's all i remember about him, fantasy-wise, before this year.

i think i said this before--i devote a lot of time and energy to fantasy sports, but generally all i do is draft people like marquis daniels way too early and spend all season gloating over how much better i understand arenas's sky's-the-limit upside than everyone else in my league (who, by this point, should have figured it out). i am actually okay at football, but at basketball my heart always gets in the way.

At 8/24/2005 8:26 PM, Anonymous Nels said...

I suppose it is somewhat unfortunate for the players who have come after Jordan that he changed the league the way he did. It's probably mostly just in the marketing... now it's all about Marbury's Knicks or Shaq's Heat or Kobe's Lakers. That's how the league is selling itself now. Of course, I didn't start watching until the late 80's, so I don't know what their ads were like before then.

By Minnesota, I meant Milwaukee. Post All-Star break Damon had 7.5 assists per game in Milwaukee, which should be worth at least as much as the 2.7 threes a game he made this year (he had 1.2 in Milwaukee).

I also let my heart get in the way in fantasy basketball, which is why I will never pick a Laker as long as Kobe plays for them. I made the mistake of trading for him 2 years ago and then he injured his hand while doing a hand-stand on broken glass.


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