Just for a day
First off, I am on top of the fucking world. You spend all summer rhapsodizing about this league that, by the end, seems like it's nothing more than a product of your own flushed imagination. I'd almost assumed that being reunited with the thing itself would be a maudlin letdown, like when you spend days and nights waiting to see a girl and then remember she's hardly worth squinting at. But lo, so far 2005-2006 is for me like the most unexpected, and loudly welcomed, pangs of rediscovered love. I was up in a sports bar last night watching six games, screaming about Melvin Ely's new, comically sinister look with a friend of mine, and every detail that unfolded in front of me on the screen(s) was like a tiny world of meaning unto itself. If you think it sounds gay for me to basically say "I am in love with the 05-06 season," then you either don't know enough about hip-hop to have grasped the possibility of metaphor, or you suffer from some severe developmental trauma and need to lay off that rabbit porn.
FreeDarko is first and foremost about trends and ongoing storylines that few people seem obsessively patient (or patiently obsessive enough) to follow from week to week as if they were the standings; in that, we've probably got no business talking about the Association until at least some fuzzy shape of the season has revealed itself (lest you think I'm getting too highbrow, my friend exclaimed last night, loud as hell, that Yao's new facial hair growth looks like the top of a female crotch). But since I would be fine if the last two nights, over and over again, made up the months and months set to unfold before us, I would like to unveil my All-NBA After 1.5 Days of the '05-06 Season Team.
PG: T.J. Ford
Got the internet going nutz, and he's looking more and more like the unstoppable skill machine/leader of men/tactical genie he was rumored to be coming out of Texas. Between him, Chris Paul, and not-too-shabby-in-his-debut R-Felt, chances are the concerns about PG height and bulk are a thing of the past. If you need any further proof, just look at what's happened to some of the more memorable "big PG" picks of the last few years—I'm talking to you Reese Gaines and Marcus Banks. Nash is hands-down the best point going, but Ford's getting a much more expansive chance to play like one. Plus this neck thing is a done deal-you don't get a nagging "bad spine" the way you do a shoulder or back. You're either fucked or sailing, and he's definitely full speed ahead.
SG: Kobe Bryant
If anything has threatened to ruin this blog over the last year, it's been my needless devotion to the respective memories of Kobe and C-Webb (the two smartest players in the Association that aren't PG's, which makes it no conindence that I live and die for them). Webber appears to be doing what he does best, which is using his brain to compensate for whatever state of deterioration or impairment his body is in, but it's Kobe--BACK ON TOP--that's always been closest to my heart. When he's on, he's awe-inspiring and transcendent, when he's not he disgusts you and seems like a credibility-less joke--exactly what one of my professors wrote about my participation in a seminar last year. Him killing the Nuggets is nothing new, nor are the last-second heroics when everyone knew it was coming, but that offense looked like a room embraced by Ikea, the Lakers held together, Bynum and Kwame unveiled perhaps my favorite Twin Towers combo ever, and Kobe came off like a man among boys in the context of the New NBA (Bron, Wade, etc.). Call it Phil, call it last season's furnace blast of humble, but with that Kobe as the spearhead of that team, playoffs are hardly too much to ask.
SF: Gerald Wallace
I shouldn't even have to explain this. When Amare left us, I suggested Josh Smith could fill his shoes in explosive scandal of raw department. But I'm thinking more and more that Josh is kind of like the Jason Richardson of nasty, and that all the real pros should be getting up on the sneering, swaggering threat of hotness that is J.R. (Smith, not Richardson). No one, though, seemed like they could make up for Stoudemire's super-badness, that straight-up vengeful brilliance that intimidates like it has nothing to prove. And then, Gerald Wallace, breakout game. He's got the same deadpan, profound calm around him as Big Ben, same predator-at-rest menace in his look, but he just abused the Bulls last night. Somewhere between last spring and last night, the connection between his brain and his body finally got locked in right; every time he touched the ball, he put that entire Bulls in team their place, and not because he wanted to. It was just the natural order of things.
PF: Darius Miles
If it's a tad premature to nominate Miles for strangest NBA career ever, it's only because this loreful train is still is motion. He became one of the league's most popular players at the same time as he began to look like a bust, disappered with the death of the Clip Show Dream, and is now still somehow young enough that he's "yet to put it all together." It's like no one ever thought about what kind of player he would turn into in the ideal outcome of things; there was just something magnetically appealing about him. Once Dime christened him a future All-Star and Defensive Player of the Year, which is only a fraction of what he hit the Wolves with last night (side note: once I asked Big Baby if Miles had outmoded Garnett, since he was an even weirder , more unsettling, presence on the court). Looking like the second coming of this year's Sean Marion (who, by the way, on Tuesday finally made me see where all those stats come from), Miles set into motion possible the most unlikely scenario in the history of failed and redeemed players, scouting, and myths: high school draft pick falls short of indefinite yet inflated expectations, only to make his statement by proving to be twice the eventual pearl anyone had ever hoped for.
Brendan Haywood is a close second, if only because I saw two more
BRIEF NOTE ON DIRK NOWITZKI
I have no idea how I feel about Dirk anymore, nor do I think it particularly matters at this point in Mavs history. I found it mildly interesting when I heard someone on Austin's ESPN station venture that cross-cultural drama and misconstrual might keep him from ever being the effective leader of a Mavs team that has quietly become black as hell.
What really struck me about this, though, is that entire roster has been turned inside out without my noticing that the Mavs has absolutely nothing to do with the Nellie/Nash/Finley/Dirk scoreboard machine that, with the Kings, were both simulatenously glorified and reviled in the pre-Suns era. It was then that I hit upon something of disquieting truth and variety: the measure of the franchise player.
It's as simple as these things go. Picture the team without that player; would you still think of it as that team, as we know, identify, and admire it at this current juncture in time? Conversely, if the entire roster shifted and wiggled around them, would it still be the same team? Garnett and Iverson are no-brainers, Kidd surprisingly strong in this department, Duncan by default, Dirk for reasons I don't quite understand. The Rockets, it's a toss up between T-Mac and Yao; I'm inclined to say that it's Kobe with the Lakers, meaning that it wasn't Shaq, meaning that it's probably T-Mac with the Rockets. I am in no position to judge this, but I'd say Arenas has it. No one on the Pistons, and they want it that way. Pierce, no way. Melo, unfortunately.
Bron--not for the Cavs, yes for the entire Association.
AND ON SOME OTHER
Darko got rid of the dye job. Looking like the defiant soul of a far-off war that he should be. I really don't care about Darko, but I will say this: just looking at the way he moved on the court last night, he is definitely, most certainly, for real.