No one likes a patch

Players want rings. It's the ultimate validation of a NBA career, the hardware that separates a very, very good career from a great one, the first question they ask of you on the steps of the Hall of Fame. A championship may be the defining moment in the NBA-span of role players and shifty veterans, but, paradoxically, All-Stars are flat-out failures without them.

If Finley wants a championship, why wouldn't he go to the Spurs? The Spurs are not a charismatic dynasty; like the Pats, they're a victory machine, but of an entirely less forgivable variety. Not by fate, not by effort, and not by spirit are they guided hence each season—it's by sheer inevitability, the logic of matching them up against each and every possible opponent in the Association. They have no choice but to dominate, giving them the false pretense of humility when in fact they're driven by distance. If the Spurs just do their thing, cities will crumble around them, and it's to their advantage (competitively and image-wise) to barely take notice. All they do is win championships. As this year's Finals made clear, they don't even really go to war in the games that deliver said prizeful bounty. It just makes sense that, at the end, they're the last team standing.

Payton and Malone got dumped on two seasons ago for their last-gasp efforts to give their careers that All-Timer sheen. That was a two-man team, couched in a system that made use of efficient parts; whatever Payton and Malone could bring was supposed to be mere icing on the caking, an exercise in excess that, to some, gave them an unfair chance at 73 wins. Of course, none of this happened, and Payton and Malone actually disrupted the Lakers' formula (no, it wasn't Kobe), but that's a sad chapter in pre-season scouting that all NBA know-it-alls would probably like stricken from the record.

Like the Glove and that other guy, Finley's been a good soldier for a lesser franchise, helped nurse it back to legitimacy and shouldered many a burden as they pushed further and further into the playoffs. He's stuck around when he could have gotten more (or at least more exposure) elsewhere, and never voiced the slightest displeasure as it became clear that this was Dirk's team. Made a few All-Star teams, hovers around 20 ppg for his career, beloved by fans, coaches, and teammates. But no ring.

Finley had his choice of destination, and, as has been written far too many times already, "money is not a concern" (sidebar: do none of these people follow the NBA? do you really think that in this situation, each and every player in the Association would opt for future glory over present-day millions?). But rather than go with a team where he could be an integral part of a championship run (Phoenix), land in the middle of a top-tier team due for a revitalized offense (Detroit), or be part of one of the great basketball experiments of this century (Miami), he went with the one place where he would be absolutely dispensable: San Antonio, a team that can't help but win anyway. They could use some scoring, but acquired the mercurial Van Exel only days before; small forward is their one weak position, but Bruce Bowen, heart and soul of that wretched team, needs that spot in the starting line-up so his sorry ass can launch junk three's and hassle the other team's star guard (god forbid Manu be asked to save some energy for defense).

This is degenerating into the usual Spurs-bashing, and I honestly can't remember if Manu is as terrible a defender as I'm assuming he is (he's certainly not guarding the opposing 2, but all those steals have to come from somewhere). The point is, if Finley gets one, two championships with the Spurs, has he earned anything? Has he played an integral role in the game plan or team chemistry? With Payton and Malone, we had two All-Timers whose quest for a ring had become sentimental entitlements, for themselves and many fans. Finley, though, can elevate his standing in history with one, and if it has to be like that, I would rather at least see him actually contribute something to that most tusked of Association accomplishments.


At 9/01/2005 2:12 PM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

with all due respect to brickowski, thank you shoals for saying what we were all thinking. i have been thinking a lot about this, and here is a short list of flaws with the spurs/pats comparison:

the pats dont have a duncan. NO STARS.

the pats hold the best offense (colts) to 3 points, and drop 41 on the best defense (steelers). no way spurs could drop 100 on the pistons or hold the suns juggernaut down.


thank you, and good day.

At 9/01/2005 2:33 PM, Anonymous brickowski said...

oh, you guys.

there's a fair chance that at some point today i'll come back and attempt to show you the error of your thinking (the pats don't have stars?!?! THEY HAVE THE BEST QUARTERBACK IN THE LEAGUE...and quite frankly, that's all you need).

but right now i'm too happy to care and i'm more interested in watching my mets find a way to overcome these phillies. grieve however you need to.

At 9/01/2005 2:58 PM, Blogger Dan said...

i'm right there with you brickowski, vis a vis the mets-phils... i'm keepin' hope alive...

At 9/01/2005 3:14 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

both pats and spurs seem to deal with anything you throw at them, reacting and retooling without ever giving you much of a sense of what they stand for (pistons-we know exactly what they are, who they are, and that they have to dig in hard to get anything done). but here's the key point THC makes--the Pats have statement wins. Spurs just seem to win by default. Pats can take a team on and make that team's strengths seem like nothing; Spurs never react in a commanding way, they just take the path of least resistance toward getting the win.

i've come away from patriots games thinking "wow, that offense is no joke" or "they can shut down anyone on defense." even when the spurs put up a ton of points, or really take another team out of their game, i figure it was only because they had to, and they simply hung around until they realized exactly what they had to do to win. and, because they're deep and well-coached, then they figured out how to drive that idea into the ground.

bellichik is a coaching genius. i think pop is a terrific coach, but he's a military man who makes larry brown seems like an offensive Zorro.

At 9/01/2005 3:17 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

let me clarify: as we saw in this year's playoffs, Spurs get in a shoot-out with running teams, get into murky, hard-to-watch slugfests with defensively-geared squads. the pats will blow out the best defense and make a point of making sure the colts get nothing on the board.

At 9/01/2005 3:38 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

peep the edit: now it should be clear where I think the pats/spurs similarity begins and ends.

and, since tradition decrees that I can't get through a Spurs-fuelled diatribe without invoking their foil, the magisterial Phoenix Suns:

last season I was often moved to tears by Suns games.

those were the days.

At 9/01/2005 4:38 PM, Blogger Ken said...

I do think Kobe's being a total cock had something to do with the chemistry and team cohesiveness of that Lakers team.

At 9/01/2005 4:43 PM, Anonymous brickowski said...

This is going to be scattershot. Braden Fucking Looper has me too frustrated to be organized, and to be honest, responding to all of this seems like a chore.

I can only assume that THC realized how absurd his Yanks-Spurs comparison was and that's why he removed the post and began this discussion. The Spurs and Pats certainly have some differences, but lets be honest: they’re as close to mirror images as you’re going to find between teams in two sports that are radically different. The Spurs don’t score 100 on the Pistons. Fine. They scored 97 and 96 on them in the Finals. Big fucking difference. And all of your examples of the Pats come from last season. How about looking beyond 1 year? Their 2004 playoff run consisted of beating the Titans 17-14, the Colts 24-14, and the Panthers 32-29. What dominance! It’s silly to point to these sorts of minute differences when we’re dealing with two very different sports. With the NFL you’re getting one game not seven, and naturally this allows for skewed results. In game 3 the Spurs held the Suns to 92. Seeing as how that’s 24 less than their playoff average, one could say that was a case of the Spurs “taking away what Phoenix does best.”

I’m getting lost debating these little things. The point is that with these teams the similarities are much greater than the differences. They each have unassuming stars who always come through when it counts (yet aren’t dominate fantasy guys). They each have coaches with military backgrounds who stress defense and team above all else. Both teams have long preferred solid character guys over talented head cases. In fact, so great are the similarities between the two teams that they’ve recognized them themselves. Beginning at some point last season, the Spurs front office and the Pats front office decided to form an alliance and share information about how they win. Ferry and Pioli were boys and set up the connection, but apparently Buford and the Pats exchange text messages and emails on a daily basis. Finally, neither team is a “dynasty,” but both are EMPIRES.

BTW, on Monday THC said “Buford done done it again.” Make no mistake, it’s all Pop. Buford is just his weed carrier.

Ok, deep breath and then I’ll come back to what I really wanted to address—Shoals contention that for the Spurs victory is simply inevitable.

At 9/01/2005 4:55 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

with the pats, victory is inevitable because they're that fucking good. no bullshit about it, but best believe they always look like champions out there

spurs it's inevitable because everyone else is flawed. the colts offense and the suns offense are just not comparable. same goes for the steelers D and that of the pistons.

face it, the nba may be on its way back but still has very few keenly constructed, solid teams. the spurs were simply smart enough. the pats, by comparison, always have to beat other legit teams. pats are clearly up there with greatest teams ever, spurs still have the "modern day nba" asterik next to them.

i'll admit it, the nba still fucking sucks in a lot of ways now. the spurs have been smart enough to take advatnage of that.

At 9/01/2005 5:18 PM, Anonymous brickowski said...

I've said before that the Spurs are the hole in your swing. You are both entirely too smart and talented at writing about the L to produce this sort of shit about the Spurs. Your disdain for them is simply too great to allow you to write rationally.

“Not by fate, not by effort, and not by spirit are they guided hence each season—it's by sheer inevitability.”

What bullshit! Inevitability? You make it sound like all they do is open up 14 point leads and coast. Did you somehow block out the remarkable Horry game when we trailed the entire night and were still behind by 2 with under 10 secs? How about game 7 where the Pistons held a 9 point lead in the 3rd quarter? Do you remember the biggest win this team ever had was the Memorial Day Miracle, where we were down 18 late in the third? (jesus, the game has "Miracle" in the title) Because all that shit certainly seemed like fate to me, and they all required a great deal of “effort.” Who are you—-two dudes who have an irrational hatred for this team—-to say it wasn’t fate?

And I defy you to find a player with more heart and spirit than Ginobili (AI excluded). Manu is spirit in the flesh.

Look, I understand that this week must have been tremendously frustrating for you. The Champs got better while their competition got worse. You’re looking at the bane of your basketball existence winning several more titles in the coming years and wanted to vent. That’s cool. But do we need to continue to do this? I know where you stand and you know where I stand. Can’t you assign the Recluse or Shoefly to cover the Spurs? How about Brock? His ass never seems to post anything (nhjic).

At 9/01/2005 5:20 PM, Anonymous brickowski said...

and how can it be inevitable if we lose more than half the time? this team has yet to repeat. we've won 3 titles in 7 seasons.

At 9/01/2005 5:27 PM, Anonymous brickowski said...

wait, why is the colts offense not comparable to the suns offense? as, i think, ian pointed out a long time ago, both teams exploited rule changes to launch the most explosive offenses we've seen in either sport in a long time.

At 9/01/2005 5:56 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

even before i saw what you wrote, i looked at the comments and the words "FINAL BATTLE" flashed across the back of my eyelids.

you're right, lots of what i say about the spurs is pointlessly mean-spirited and probably false. and, at this point, not even interesting, since i say the same shit all the time. i hereby renounce my arms

BUT the real point of the post was to talk about finley's decision to go there as both the easy way out and proof of just out of control this "must have ring" crap has gotten. why can't we talk about that, which was actually a decent series of ideas, i thought.

re: the colts and the suns. the suns just brought back the eighties. that colts offense was one for the fucking ages. they made the nineties rams look like orphans; there's no precedent for how effortless they made scoring, much less an entire decade of bar-setting.

At 9/01/2005 6:36 PM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

brickowski, first of all, it's all love. but have you forgotten Shoals' mantra? THIS IS A LEAGUE OF STYLE.

The Patriots are fucking bad-ass. Remember how Peyton complained about the D-Backs holding in 2003? That whole semifinal game in 2004 was a big FUCK YOU to that whole complaint. I cant remember the exact words, but Bruschi & Co. had some serious bulletin board material around that time about that whole situation. And I'll never forget, Bruschi walking off the field just after demolishing the Colts, the sideline reporter said to him, "You guys really rattled them in the second half"...Bruschi turns to the reporter and says, "Second HALF??! We rattled them ALL DAY!"

See, this is the type of cool shit that you would never get from the Spurs. They're too "above" all that stuff. The Pats have guys like Harrison who would beat me up if I started shit with them in a bar. No one on the Spurs would do that.

Bellichek is stone cold. He has no other choice, because that is who he is. Popovich meanwhile jokes about high-scoring affairs vs. the Suns, pokes fun at Iverson's statements about never wanting to come off the bench, and says stuff like this:

"We didn't send mariachi bands or birthday cards or breakfast in bed," Popovich said. "I talked to him in Chicago and said, 'If you come with us we want it to be for the right reasons and do it the way we do it. If you don't come, you don't come.' "Finley would have gotten more money other places, and I was very blunt with him about this being a bench situation ... So he knew the lay of the land."

That "aw shucks" attitude is NOT STYLE.

(By the way, I am only comparing post-admiral Spurs and repeat-Pats, the other versions of those teams are different beasts)

And point blank, as Shoals (and I believe, ugh, Simmons) too have pointed out...the Spurs were FAR from dominant in the playoffs. Do you think the Jordan Bulls would have let guys like Damien Wilkins and Antonio Daniels BREATHE AIR?

Redux: THIS IS A BLOG OF STYLE. We're supposed to hate the Lakers, but how could you? They have MyBynumSpace, Vujacic, Kobe, KWAME BROWN, Zenmaster, Young Walton, and Slava (Sally). STYLE. I will probably devote multiple posts to them. Additionally, Carmelo--my arch nemesis--gets his own post. STYLE.

And lest ye not forget, these are the COMPLETELY subjective views of a Timberwolves fan.

I hope you stick around for the ride, Brickowski. It's gonna be a wild one.

At 9/01/2005 6:40 PM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

Final note. OVERLOOKED: The whole Finley situation makes Van Exel look even more respectable by comparison. All NVE has left is exactly what the Spurs need. Finley has a whole lot more to give, but he's going to one of the few places where it isnt required for them to win (Shoals' thesis).

NVE's ring = Mitch Richmond
Finley's ring = Drexler

At 9/01/2005 6:44 PM, Anonymous aug said...

The NFL is plagued by parity and teams and their defenses/offenses change drastically from year to year as other teams key in on how to slow them down. The nfl is more of a coach's sport for the most part, allowing for a team of solid players with a few big stars(Law, Harrison, Brady, Dillon, Seymour) like the pats to dominate.

Also, the Pats do not dominate. They play really tight till the 4th quarter when they usually get one big play that puts them over the top while playing great D the whole time. The nfl is a lot more unpredicatble than the nba due to one play being able to completely change the game. A pick-6 is arguabley the biggest game changer in the nfl and the nba doesn't have something like that. As good as the pats are, they're prone to upsets because if those one or two big plays go the other way, they're in trouble because they don't have an explosive offense. People seem to forget how they did the season after their first superbowl. They didn't even make the playoffs. But to say they don't have stars is silly. They're stacked beyond belief. They keep signing guys too.

At 9/01/2005 7:41 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

wow, this is really the showdown that's been brewing for months. and now it's getting to the heart of what makes freedarko snivel.

obviously i will second THC's reminder that THIS IS A BLOG OF STYLE. i do think, though, that endlessly detailing how little style the spurs have (however stylishly we do so) is a dead-end. it was funny as a counter-weight to the suns, but then we all woke up and now it's just like standing there swearing at the death star.

also, we really have to start learning how to separate Ginobili from the rest of the Spurs. Especially with that beef jerky hunk and Van Exel (the most undervalued FreeDarko icon ever?) headed into town; that's practically a counter-insurgence of fun!!!!!

more football: i think everything we're saying about the pats is only really, really true for post-Dillion, post-Harrison, pros but with a pro style swagger, pats. i forgot how shaky a construction they were in the past.

At 9/01/2005 8:12 PM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

Truce. Officially. More NVE-jocking coming, to counter-balance the Spurs hatred. I was gonna make this a separate post, but fuck it: Thurl Bailey is out of town this week and will return next week for his regularly scheduled appearance.

At 9/01/2005 9:45 PM, Anonymous brickowski said...

Sorry. Just got back from the gym. I intended to workout, but as usual the allure of the game kept calling my name. Two hours of 4x4 full court runs later and I'm back at the keyboard finishing up stupid internets basketball bickering when I should be studying for the LSAT. And it's still the off-season! Fannntastic!

I think there is truth to a lot of the things ya'll said. Shoals, you're right about the ring becoming too much of the thing, but I can't really fault Finley for his choice.

Winning is more fun than losing.

Plus, Finley seems like a pretty unassuming, low-key kinda dude who wouldn't fit in with the Miami circus. The local paper claims that what really swayed Finley was a conversation he had with Duncan when he unexpectedly called Timmy on his own. Who knows if that’s true. I know nothing about Finley, and that alone makes me think he’d probably get along pretty well with that shy kid from St. Croix. Also, while I’ll concede that Duncan’s game is boring to watch, who wouldn’t want to play alongside the guy? He’ll cover up any defensive mistake you make, clean the glass, and find open shooters.

And yeah, THC, Pop’s “Aw Shucks” routine is corny as hell, and certainly not stylish, but somehow it’s really effective. It absolutely is “fake self-deprecation.” Which is not to say that I think Pop is really egotistical, just that he uses it to get results like the hot smart girl who downplays her intelligence. Pop is ruthless. Never forget that this was a guy who fired Bob Hill on the day that the Admiral returned from a season long injury, and anointed himself head coach. I think it’s a product of his military intelligence training. On Monday I started to really believe we’d get Finley. Why? Because one of the Collangelos said they didn’t think Fin would come to the Suns, while Pop said he was pretty sure Finley would go to the Suns. If there’s ever this sort of conflict, believe the opposite of what Greg Popovich says.

THIS IS A BLOG OF STYLE. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t. The concept of 6th grade NBA opinions voiced as revolutionary manifesto is pure genius. As a former 6th grader who was ready every Saturday morning for the killer combination of Saved by the Bell and Inside Stuff it’s entirely too appealing. I love most of the FreeDarko favorites, but I was inducted into the Spur faithful at a young age. We don’t really get to choose our teams–a fact that the Mets remind me of annually. But I love them for that. The other day a friend was bemoaning Jose Reyes atrocious OBP, and pointed out that it’s worse than Kris Benson’s. I can’t argue with that, but I don’t care either. We’ve got triple digit heat here now, and I’m in no mood to watch Duncan Robocop the path of least resistance. I want to watch a silly, brilliant young Dominican fly around the bases with his helmet falling off.

At 9/01/2005 10:49 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

it should go without saying that reyes is totally freedarko

At 9/01/2005 11:16 PM, Anonymous brickowski said...

almost completely unrelated:

jax needs his own reality show.

At 9/01/2005 11:18 PM, Anonymous brickowski said...

obvious edit:

i ain't sayin she a golddigger...

At 9/02/2005 10:46 AM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

"6th grade NBA opinions voiced as revolutionary manifesto"

i think we have a new freedarko slogan. that's going on the t-shirt.

At 9/02/2005 12:42 PM, Anonymous brickowski said...

shoals said that a long time ago.

At 9/02/2005 12:58 PM, Blogger emynd said...

First of all, Brickowski should be a bonafied posting member of freedarko and shouldn't be relegated to the "comments section." He’s an excellent yang to the freedarko ying.

I can totally understand thinking the Spurs are boring, but I can't understand the great lengths folks on here are going to some justify their hatred for them--trying to draw imaginary lines of nuance that somehow differentiate them from the apparently more likable Patriots (who I think are much less likable because they have this aura of superiority about them—one they back up, of course, but it’s still fucking annoying). True, the Spurs are "style-less" in a "league of style," but let's not forget that "style-less-ness" is indeed a "style" itself. That may sound like a terribly obvious thing to say, but it seems at this point, it's a necessary thing to say. Likewise, if we are going to say that the NBA is a “league of style,” what you’re basically doing is removing it from the realm of “sport” and placing it closer to “art.” I have no problem following the trajectory of this movement and don’t think it’s off-base for me to call that movement “relevant” (especially considering the increasing popularity of the And 1 tour and “streetball”). But, just because it’s “relevant” doesn’t mean it’s effective in the ultimate goal of this thing we call “sport”: winning.

As you all seem quite ready to admit, the “beauty” of the Spurs "style-less-ness" is its efficacy. The Spurs don't just win because they're "supposed to" or its somehow "inevitable." There have been plenty of teams with stacks of players where a championship seemed "inevitable." Of course, we can look back now with our hindsight-is-20/20 shit and say "Oh, but they didn't have the chemistry" or “the coaching” and this and this and that, but the Spurs aren't "destined" for some sort of inevitable greatness that is stained with mediocrity because of their lack of “style.” Their “style” isn’t “lack of style.” Their style isn’t ostentatious performance. Their style is winning. Night in and night out, they perform that style. And why do they perform? Why do they win? Because they aren’t as interested in the “artistry” as they are in the more absolute, end-game trajectory of “sport.” To hate on them for that and then disguise your haterade in something more nuanced and almost ineffable is freaking annoying.

Face it. You don’t like ‘em because they still operate under the basic assumption that basketball is a sport. Shit, I don’t like ‘em for the same reason! (As a Sixers fan, I’ve said many times when faced with the possibility of trading AI: “I’d rather lose with AI, then win without him.”) But, you can’t hate on someone’s performance if they’re operating under a completely different world view and then point out every difference except that difference in world view.


At 9/02/2005 3:37 PM, Anonymous brickowski said...

While I’m totally flattered to receive a compliment from a member of the blogerati (schizo is great and the mufuckin’ shrimp speaks for itself), I have no delusions of actually becoming a master of the klondike. For one thing, I know nothing about Slovenian farm leagues. Secondly, I’m not trying to gravy-train onto an established championship caliber organization. That would be like Finley joining the Spurs.

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