Recently some FreeDarko readers have pointed out that we haven’t devoted many words lately to actually covering this NBA season. While it may be true that our last 37 posts have focused on profiling individual players (“profiles in courage” according to Shoals), I hardly think we can be blamed for this. Have you watched the league this year? It’s pretty bleak my friends, as the Association seems to have reneged on nearly every promise it made during the off-season. Obviously the Artest saga has broken the hearts of young and old Darko-ites alike, but not even Ron can shoulder the blame for this season. Indeed, last year’s FreeD faves—Phoenix, Washington, and Seattle—have all suffered from the effects of injuries and free agency. Meanwhile, teams that were supposed to step up and fill the void—Denver, Sacramento, Golden State—have all floundered around the .500 mark. The Miami circus has yet to get off the ground and even Phil and Kobe have failed to provide any cheap laughs. Yet, no team has disappointed me as much as the Rockets.

In the wake of the Stro’/Rafer acquisitions and the Suns’ demise, the Rockets were the only team that appeared capable of threatening the Spurs. But the truth is that my hope for the Rockets had more to do with their city than their actual talent. Houston was having a breakthrough year, and it only seemed natural that the Rockets would participate. The city’s long-simmering rap scene finally exploded beyond the Texas and Louisiana borders, the Astros made their first World Series, and even Hurricane Rita knew enough not to fuck with Clutch City. Surely, this would be the year that T-Mac and Yao put it all together.

It has been said that the law is in the region and the region is in the law, but I like it best when this principle applies to sports. To some degree we all identify teams with the cities they represent, and it’s always more interesting when the makeup of a team says something about the city. Whether it’s the blue-collar play of the team from the Motor City, the glamour of the Hollywood Lakers, or the way the state of Utah seems to insist on the Jazz roster matching the complexion of the Alta snow. Houston 2005 offered such a tidy package of regionalism that it was impossible not to ponder things like, “What came first, the slow humid culture or the drank?” Or, “Is the success of TV Jewelry somehow related to a skyline of mirrored buildings?” I’m not sure about these questions, but I do know that Mike Jones is the rap equivalent of Enron, relentlessly hawking a product that never really existed in the first place. The Houston Hustle. An H-Town thang.

In this day and age the NBA and hip-hop are inextricably intertwined, so hopefully you’ll forgive me for heavy-handedly lumping together the city’s roundball team and rap scene. In all likelihood the city’s music and economics bear no real resemblance to the style of the Rockets (although Van Gundy slows more shit down than Michael Watts, and if Rafer, Stro, and T-Mac ain’t a screwed-up click I don’t know what is), but what’s important here is that the city has a strong identity. People at least have something they can attach to the Rockets. The same cannot be said for Houston’s I-10 rival, the San Antonio Spurs, and I’d like to submit that San Antonio’s lack of civic identity contributes at least as much to the Spurs=Boring perception as Tim Duncan’s game. What you know about the Alamo? What you know about the Riverwalk?

All of this leads me to a confession: even I’m bored with the Spurs. Sure, I still watch most of their games, but at this point it has more to do with duty and a desire to watch basketball than unbridled enthusiasm. Oberto is a bust and Finley can only contribute if he’s given 30 minutes a night. Ginobili has yet to get going, and it’s beginning to appear that his style is too reckless to ever keep him off the IR for long periods of time. What’s worse, they’ve become everything I said they weren’t when Shoals brought up the notion of “inevitability.” They open up 11 point leads only to squander them and hang on for the most uninspiring of wins. Sure, they’re 19-5, but if you’re going to be an elite team at least have the decency to dominate. They are now the oldest team in the league, and are capable of losing to anyone on the second game of a back-to-back, as evidenced by losses to the Hawks and Hornets. And while I’ll never be able to root against them, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a part of me hoping for something new.

I wanted so badly for the Rockets to play that role. After watching them score consecutive road wins against the Warriors and Sonics I was even prepared to herald their resurgence in this post. But now Yao is out for the foreseeable future, joining Rafer, Bob Sura, Derrick Anderson, Jon Barry and everyone else on the Rockets’ injured list, leaving T-Mac and his bad back to keep the team afloat. Oh, well, I guess the West is going to suck this year. There is an upside to this, however. Doesn’t an awful West set the stage for a certain someone to rise from the microfracture ashes?

Whatever gets you through the winter.


At 12/19/2005 3:56 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

at the risk of even further clogging the pants, is it possible that least season was an abberation that set the bar way up beyond the clouds? i feel like i'm back to my old "watch ball to see how many kobe or t-mac can drop" ways, through no fault of my own

At 12/19/2005 4:03 PM, Blogger emynd said...

I think basically the point is that this blog is a whole lot more interesting than the actual NBA is this season, huh?

Something's gotta give.


At 12/19/2005 6:08 PM, Anonymous TZ said...

On nights when the Kings are off, I only get excited if I see Detroit, Phoenix or Milwaukee are playing. It's the curse of regular season NBA hoops, really.

Things will get better in late January, I think. Some cobwebs getting shaken off, some coaches fired, some slumping small forwards traded, some playoff berths at stake. It'll get fun again.

At 12/19/2005 6:23 PM, Anonymous aug said...

The suns are infinitely more fun to watch this year than last. Amare be damned. They're a pure joy to watch this year. Such great ball movement. No one ever takes a dribble before the shot. It's great.

I don't know how you guys evaluate interesting basketball teams. The suns bugged me last year, and the wizards didn't interest me at all either. The sonics on the other hand, i loved. I don't know. I don't like overhyped run and gun teams that much. The wizards princeton offense got really boring last year.

The suns were better, but lacked the grit and chip on their shoulder that this year's team has.

The wizards are still boring to me but i like butler and wish he would start and get more minutes. I'm not that interested in record as much as what they're doing and how they're doing it.

The hawks have really turned it on as of late with some huge wins and almost wins against solid teams.

The Hornets. My god the hornets. Where is all that Katrina BS that was buzzing all around the saints this season in the nfl? They had to move as well and they're killing cats out there. They're 11-12 i think coming off a spurs victory. Chris Paul is a monster averaging around 17-7-6 with a rebound shy of a triple double last night.

I love the Bucks roster makeup and the way they play ball. TJ Ford is having a great comeback and Michael Redd is playing out of his mind shooting 50% from 3 point land.

I know you guys hate brand with no reason but the stereotype that he's a boring fundamental, no killer instinct guy which is not true at all, especially this season. The clippers are fun to watch right now. Maggette is playing great and one of my personal basketball jesus's Shaun Livingston* is back.

There are plenty of interesting things out there. I just don't think anyone here really wants to look at them. I agree that playing backseat psychologist is a lot of fun and i do it all the time with athletes, and friends alike. I think the NBA is more than just hip hop-ish overhyped athletes that are exciting in theory but not fun to watch at all(miles, qrich, jrich, jsmith, gerald wallace, and a bunch of others). Amare is one of the very few of those type of players that are actually fun to watch on a consistant basis. I'm not advocating the Duncan's of the world. I do think that Duncan is enjoyable to watch but people have been so spoiled by the and-1 phenomenon and how athletic and skilled Kobe, TMac, Wade and Bron that people think that entertaining only applies to high flyers. Watching players with high technical skill when understood(not just acknowledging that the player has it) is a very involved and fun activity. It's not just "boring" players like duncan, but all the Pistons starters are so technically sound in all areas of their games. It's like a walking basketball clinic. If i could tell the kids i coach to watch on team to learn how to play, it'd be them. And the pistons are anything but boring to watch.

Don't change the format of the site because there are plenty of normal sports sites out there. I just don't like the assumption that nba basketball is only what is in Dime and Spin magazine. Exciting nba action is out there fellas. Don't let it pass you by because it's not "hip" enough.

*Oh baby is shaun back. 6-4-10 last night. I hope he stays healthy. He's such a joy to watch out there. I couldn't love his game more. The Clippers need him too because they're not that deep if they're thinking of keeping this up the whole year and playoffs. In a couple years, Shaun and Dwight are gonna make their draft class one to remember.

At 12/19/2005 8:09 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...


i'd like to call your attention to this post that i made several weeks ago. no one had anything to say about it at the time, but i've ended up referencing it like sixteen times since that fateful morn.


we're not dime (notice the conspicious absence of any streetball material) and we're not espn (like the world needs any more fesity analysts); we're someone in between the two, and also refuse to see the two as diametrically opposed. if last season's suns were the inspiration for this blog, it's because they upheld exactly the example i'd like to see flouncing around through government: the best team in the league and also the most exhilirating, emotional, personality-rich, and aesthetically pleasing.

maybe this was an impossible dream, but if there's anything to us, it's not freeing darko--it's looking for whatever glimmers of this might still surface in this Assocation we so prosperously call home.

At 12/19/2005 10:20 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

if the devil himself offered me amare in perfect health in exchange for the utter demise of this blog, i would gladly sacrifice "bethlehm shoals" in a ritual of pure jawlessness.

At 12/20/2005 9:26 AM, Blogger c-los said...

Aug- You said Amare is fun to watch on a consistant basis but yet you enjoy watching the Suns more this year without him? Doesn't make sense to me. Last year might have been the best actual ball-playing to watch since MJ was in the league. The Suns, Sonics and Wiz were 3 very exciting teams who tried to outscore their opponents on a nightly basis.

I think TNT, TBS, and ESPN contribute negatively towards the boring image of the NBA. Yeah I know the Spurs and Heat are good but I dont want to see them all the time on Primetime. They are going to be there come Playoff time so why not show some upstart teams around the league more. More Hornets, Warriors, and Bucks games please.

At 12/20/2005 9:49 AM, Blogger emynd said...

There are plenty of interesting things out there. I just don't think anyone here really wants to look at them. I agree that playing backseat psychologist is a lot of fun and i do it all the time with athletes, and friends alike. I think the NBA is more than just hip hop-ish overhyped athletes that are exciting in theory but not fun to watch at all

I think all of this is a huge misconception about all of FreeDarko. I've tried to clear it up in a recent comments section, and of course, Shoals has gone to great-lengths to clear this up in his oft-referenced "Alone with my notes" post that it seems everyone is refusing to re-read (re-read it!), but if you think that all we like on this blog are basketball players that dunk a lot and quote Jeezy lyrics in their interviews, you're just plain wrong. It's true this blog focuses on out-spoken players with a lot of "personality," but I don't think any of us would argue that every and all player(s) that are "fundamentally sound" are necessarily "boring."

Likewise, to claim that all we do is “play backseat psychologist” is also a bit unfair. I think mostly what we attempt to do here is look at what the game means in a somewhat larger scale, whether that means examining the psychology of a certain player, or attempting to understand the cultural implications of a certain dramatic storyline. The gist is, we operate under the assumption that the NBA basketball is the micro and we try to tease it out to say something about the macro (i.e. NBA basketball as a microcosm of contemporary American sociology, culture, economics, art?, subversion?, etc). Perhaps we put a little too much faith in the usefulness of such an extrapolation, but I think that’s what makes this place the most fun.

So, when we say “this year is boring,” first of all, you have to understand that that might not be a statement that everyone agrees with here (there’s 8 or 9 of us that write for FD now… I’ve lost track myself). But, the point isn’t so much that individual players and/or games are more or less boring than they were last year. After all, in Philly alone, Allen Iverson is playing the best basketball of his life (somehow he keeps getting better and stronger even though his team has been getting worse and worse and analyst after analyst has insisted that he’s going to break-down and fall apart). But, it seems pretty obvious to me that the team dynamics that were so splendidly dramatic a year ago simply aren’t present here. Detroit is great again. The Spurs are pretty dominant. Dallas is doing its best to convince us that they aren’t going to finish the year with a pretty darn good record only to go nowhere in the play-offs like they always do. And the Miami situation that promised so much personality has fizzled. The dress-code has turned into an absolute non-story, and Lebron is playing downright amazing basketball. Only problem with all of this? It might be all well and good to watch on a purely “basketball fan” level, but that doesn’t mean this season is particularly “interesting.” I’d venture to say that so far this season, the only thing really worth talking about are the Clips and the Artest trade. And, honestly, if you want to hear about how the Clips are the real deal this year and that Elton Brand is MVP material, all you have to do is go to every other basketball site on the net (I’m pretty sure there’s an article about Brand on ESPN.com right now), which is why I think the "Brand-is-boring" post was a pretty darn entertaining counter-point to the surplus of “OMG, the Clips are gonna make the play-offs this year!” stories.

And to clarify, when I said that “this blog is more interesting than the league this year,” I didn’t mean in it in some conceited “We’re killing it!” way, but only that we haven’t been given all that much to work with as far as compelling narratives to really dig our nails into.

So (a), I think it’s extremely unfair to suggest that all we do here psychoanalyze rags-to-riches players that dunk a lot and wear baggy pants off the court and (b), a season filled with solid basketball does not an “interesting” season make.


At 12/20/2005 9:50 AM, Blogger emynd said...

Jesus christ I'm verbose.

At 12/20/2005 10:13 AM, Blogger emynd said...

Actually, I do agree that the Hornets are a pretty good story, too, and that it's weird that the Saints got all that Katrina love while the NBA team is basically just being ignored. Unfortunately, I just never see them play.


At 12/20/2005 10:40 AM, Blogger El Huracan Andreo said...

You all sound like little girls evaluating each other's sweaters. Or prep school boys spitting on each other's blazer seal. Enough.

Something to bite on. Miami Circus hasn't taken off? Wait for it. I've been telling ALL Y'ALL it's going to be wackalicious.

From today's Miami Herald:

Appearing on Channel 4, Tim Hardaway, 39, said the Heat doesn't have enough to beat Detroit and urged the team to bring back both him and retired Glen Rice, 38 -- a scenario that's highly unlikely. ''I'm being serious,'' said Hardaway, who's now a player-coach for the ABA's Florida Pit Bulls. ``You've got two players who want to come back and win a championship.''

That seemed to amuse Riley, who said, laughing, ``Great! Why don't we bring all of them in? Who else is in Miami? [Rony] Seikaly, [John] Crotty -- bring him in. I love Tim, I love Glen. Let me think about it. I mean, that's Tim.''

At 12/20/2005 10:41 AM, Blogger El Huracan Andreo said...

On another note, I think Chris Paul is everything we wanted Jason Kidd to be and isn't. He's the Splenda to Kidd's Equal.

At 12/20/2005 11:00 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

anyone serious about basketball has to be considering paul for mvp.

At 12/20/2005 12:52 PM, Anonymous aug said...

The reason i like the suns more this year is simple. I didn't like qrich at all and i love the new depth and one of my other basketball love affairs, Boris Diaw.

As far as the wiz go, it was obvious they weren't a very strong team and would collapse against good competition. They didn't have an identity and their brand of basketball(different from the sonics/suns) wasn't a fun one for me. The sonics/suns were great though. I just like this year's suns more and i'm anxious to see how Amare fits in with the new look team.

I loved Shoal's Alone With My Notes post. One of my favorite posts in the past month of his.

I wasn't knocking your writing skills or insulting anyone with the term backseat psychologist. It was just a way to say it quickly.

My whole Katrina/Hornets thing goes like this. I think because they moved to Ok City and adopted their city name and basically removed themselves from the whole situation, people just forgot about them. The saints had to deal with back and forth relocation, playing in high school practice fields, and having to play a home game in giant stadium against the giants. They still should get some attention in my opinion.

I even said I liked where the blog was headed, I just had trouble finding what makes teams exciting except flash players and hype. I don't see why the sixers are not as exciting as they were last year. Chris Webber is back and playing all star caliber ball, and they seem to be playing much better team ball. We just have different views on what makes a team/player/specific game entertaining.

The comment was probably just a expression of frustration i felt because while i loved the new posts, their style and their look deeper. I felt like i read a bunch of them a couple times before on this site since the off season change. Don't freak out. The blog is running strong and shouldn't stop soon. What makes the blog great and its greatest shortcoming is the same thing. Over the top, pretentious articles are the only reason i read this site daily. ESPN needs more stuff like this and less BJ Armstrongs being inarticulate and obvious. I think you guys took some of the things i said a lot worse than i anticipated. Nothing but love over here.

The Detroit/Memphis game and Lakers/Houston game were two of the best games i've seen in back to back nights in a couple weeks. Great television.

At 12/20/2005 2:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was going to come here and post something not only in defense of this NBA season, but also to defend my local team - especially with the recent parole of Pimp-C and the 5-1 road trip - things looked like they were coming together for the Bayou City.

Alas, the word on the street is placing Yao being out anywhere from 3 weeks to . . . the friggin' All-Star break.

Looks like Chamillionaire can put away writing his Rockets remix version of "turn it up" for at least a little while.

In the meantime, anyone have a center and/or a point guard and/or a back-up small foward they can lend us . . . just till the all-star break. We'll be good then. Honest.

As for the quarter past NBA season - no storylines have really involved me like they did last year - true - but there's a wealth of fun teams to watch - I'd echo Milwaukee and NOK as mentioned above, but also the 3 point crazy Warriors and the Suns 2.0 - who, even without young Amare - still manage to put together an exciting product. Plus - Diaw! Who knew? Certainly not me. I thought the beginning and end of French basketball was Oliver Saint-Jean to Tony Parker. Didn't realize Diaw needed his space too.


At 12/23/2005 7:23 PM, Anonymous Lafayette Contradiction said...

Over at my house, we also got a couple guys who (a) think this season is boring and (b) are waiting on Amare to come back and save the day. I solve (a) by being a Nuggets fan since 85: the team is so frustratingly incompetent and disappointing that I can't seem to get bored yet. I don't recommend this for everybody, mind you, but saddling up a perpetually mediocre horse is a great way to maintain yr focus.

As for waiting on Amare? There's a problem. Here's a list of other bigs who had the microfracture surgery:
Kenyon Martin
Chris Webber
Zach Randolph.

Seen these guys lately? I see Randolph all the time, and K-Mart when he's not hurt, which usually means home games that get nationally televised, since in such a manner does Kenyon roll. This surgery is the surgery that when you have it, you're never the same player again. (With the possible exception of Kidd, but he's not a big, so I get to ignore him for the sake of this analysis.) You're the player on one leg, never on two.

Truly, it's at least probable that the Amare moment will prove to have been unutterably brief: like Roy Batty, he's...seen...things. You people. Wouldn't believe. And his flame burned so very, very brightly. If I'm right, this'll break my heart a little; but a lot of our greatest stories are tragedies, aren't they?

At 12/28/2005 9:52 PM, Anonymous nick gullison said...

you dudes are funny .. i dont normally like my nba grad school-icized but it's fun to read nonetheless ..

but i still think there's plenty to talk about this year:

-detroit having a potentially legendary season
-larry brown's heroic turnaround of the knicks (sike .. the actual subplot is larry brown = potentially most overrated coach in the league .. and this coming from a diehard knicks fan who's actually wearing a clyde frazier thoeback right now)
-steve belkin - killjoy tightwad or ..... right all along?
-THE BUCKS (and tj ford specifically)
-hawks fans already angling for a point guard via the draft (rajon rondo) after chris paul was sitting right there for them to take
-tyson chandler has asthma
-allen iverson aging like fine wine
-endless string of ridiculous trade rumors involving the knicks .. this promises to be an interesting space so long as we've got hardaway's and davis' contracts coming off the books .... KG to new york for a lot of expiring money and some third rate prospects? anybody?
-the nike air max 1997's are about to get reissued

At 1/01/2006 4:08 AM, Blogger DWO:Darko World Order said...

When Will Darko's Time Come?
I am wondering as much as the rest of the planet is. When will Darko play? I mean 6 to 7 minutes a game isn't what I call playing time. If you aren't going to use a guy then why pick him over guys like Anthony, Bosh and Wade. How will benching Darko and letting him rot for 2 seasons do any good? Let me explain. 1) Benching guys and not giving them playing time lowers their trading value unless they are proven stars. (See the Ron Artest Situation) 2.) Benching guys lowers player confidence and self-esteem. Confidence means a lot. Look at the misfits they call the Pistons. They are made of discards from other teams. They believed enough in themselves to upset the heavily favored Lakers. 3.) It erodes their skills. The best way to improve is by repetition. By doing the same thing over and over until you improve. You can't bench a guy and expect him to improve in practice. Real games are different from practice. I am disappointed to see people label him a draft bust. He hasn't played enough to see if he is really good or not. Look at Michael Redd, Rashard Lewis and Jermaine O' Neil. Once they got their Playing Time they became All-stars.

Well, anyway Larry Brown got what he deserves. He's got talent like Quentin Richardson, Stephon Marbury, Jamal Crawford, etc. yet he is shooting for the lottery. Things have also gotten so bad that he ironically is playing rookies like Frye now. What goes around comes around.


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