Traveling at the speed of quickness

Before I lead you into some more important matters, I have a dramatic move to make: if the Cavs aren't in the Conference Finals this season, I am now officially ready to start blaming LeBron. He's quite possibly the perfect basketball player, a combination of MJ, Magic and, I don't know, Elgin Baylor, with almost no weaknesses. And while last year I went on and on about how he wasn't quite yet unstoppable in the way Wade and Amare seemed to be, at this point he's gotten so efficient, so deadly from the outside and so victorious using jets and muscles to find his way inside, that he makes Kobe and T-Mac seem like errant gamblers.

When it was just him, the Cavs still nearly made the playoffs. Now they've got a roster that practically screams "veteran order" and "complementary pieces," meaning LeBron should be prepared to leave the heavy footprint of a powerhouse. Maybe we'd expect an average superstar to merely get his and let the others do the rest. But if LeBron is indeed the player he's told us he is, the vessel of unimaginable greatness who finds his meaning in the team game, it's on him to make this team fulfill its destiny. If a top coach gets talent, he's supposed to make moves. LeBron, bless his soul, is that much of a giant—if he can't harness these new friends and send the Cavs galloping into the meadows, he's just not doing his job.

Okay, now let me go out on a perilous and confess the unthinkable: everything wrong with this blog can be traced to a single, persistant neurosis of mine. At some point in life, I got tangled up over the announcer-isms "fast," "quick," and "explosive," sometimes used interchangably, sometimes in tandem. On an intuitive level, I know what's what, who's what, and who's who. But when I try to break it down, things crumble, my mind goes gray, and Francisco Garcia must lead the way into light.

In the abstract, it's unbreakably simple. "Fast" is straight-line, baseline-to-baseline speed; "quick" is agility, nimble, darting-move brilliance; "explosive," power and burst that clears out the air around it. All involve vast acceleration, but "quick" evokes it most often, since it has that element of unpredictability that turns a first step into an event, not just the beginning of a drive.

(Emergency: I don't think I will ever be able to watch the Mavs again. At least six months before they rise to the Hawks' level of credibility)

The problem comes when you try to observe these traits in the wild. "Fast" yields most freely; I'd say that Nash and Parker both have nothing going for them but that sprint-like whirr, not a lateral bone in their respective bodies. When they take off, mostly the defender just has to worry about keeping up with them. Iverson epitomizes "quick," stopping on a dime all crafty and keeping opponents not only one step behind but not even knowing what step they'd take. Thing is, rarely is a "quick" player not also "fast"—Melo is the only one that immediately comes to mind—and "fast, not quick" seems like a decidedly European designation. And AI, murderer that he is off the dribble, beats them with both on that first step, i.e. no one can follow it and it's blinding even if they could.

"Explosive" correlates with "strong," but isn't a "burst"—as in "burst of speed"—itself a kind of explosion? There are players who are "explosive" but not particularly "fast," most of them athletic big men, but when you get talking about strapping guards, it gets too complicated to matter. Arenas is sometimes one, sometimes all three, sometimes none, and rarely in any differentiated way; it's here that you most often hear commentators interchange them, probably at the expense of their intelligibility in other situations. Watching LeBron earlier, I heard all of them thrown around, in ways that managed to tell me nothing about him other than that he was athletic beyond anyone's wildest dreams. If we really want to figure out ways to describe a singular talent like James, or properly etch the legacies of Wade or Arenas, we need to get the language for it.

If this doesn't require this many words to figure out, or I've grossly misread things, tell me so my heart can rest. Like I said, it's the announcers that have cast this fear into my body.


At 12/23/2005 2:24 AM, Anonymous aug said...

As amazing as i believe lebron to be, i still think he's destined for failure this season. I didn't like the cavs off season moves and the style of play they have at all. I hate larry hughes with lebron. The coach even said as a compliment "it's lebron, then it's larry, lebron, then larry. they're unstoppable out there". The cavs offense isn't good. They don't really play together. The only time they score is when lebron basically plays one on one against his man and pretty much the rest of the team. Then when lebron's getting double teamed or not feeling it, he passes it to hughes or big Z and they go one on one and score. They don't really have many complimentary players. I like drew gooden and damon jones as compliments, and anderson varejo who they refuse to use. I just don't think they have the coach to get the most out of this lineup, if these players are even capable of playing together as a team the way the pistons, spurs, pacers or suns do. Even the heat last year with shaq and wade still had an offense going on. I think lebron is gonna dominate his entire career and win some rings along the way, i just don't think it's this year with this team. He may very well still will them to victory with his unbelievable talent, but it's gonna be rough.

At 12/23/2005 8:56 AM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

at least coach brown has the cavs playing defense, that's one point in his favor.

also, isn't varejao injured?

At 12/23/2005 10:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every older person I talk to says that LeBron's game is similar to Oscar Robertson's. I haven't seen any game footage to confirm this myself, but I do know that John Hollinger compared LeBron's stats to other players and his closest comps were Kobe and the Big O.

At 12/23/2005 12:28 PM, Anonymous aug said...

I like how John Hollinger pretends he invented statistics. I agree with the Big O a bit. He's still got a lot of Jordan in him. Jordan used to average 30+-7-7 for awhile in the 80s, but then he took a dip in stats for better team ball and championships. I can see lebron making the jordan-esque change. I do like how they're playing some good defense this year though. I forgot about anderson's shoulder injury. I was beyond pissed when the magic just gave him away. I don't know, it's just something about that team makeup that i just don't like. I think it's only good enough to perhaps get out of the first round and hold onto lebron which was the whole point of the off season. I don't know for sure, but they can't have much cap flexibility nowadays, especially after they resign lebron.

At 12/23/2005 1:36 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

robertson didn't have lebron's size

At 12/23/2005 1:52 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

one thing to add to the quick/fast debate: i already posted something about this on truehoop, but i think it's worth adding here that quick involves more thought and strategy than fast, and thus is not as wholly dependent on athleticism. whether someone could manage quick without any athleticism may be the great question of our era.

At 12/23/2005 5:30 PM, Anonymous the sockk said...

The Cavaliers very seldomly play defense. They do it in spurts, like last night when they went on the 15-0 run in the fourth quarter and got some stops and forced a few turnovers. It isn't consistent at all.

At 12/23/2005 7:31 PM, Anonymous layfayette contradiction said...

Robertson didn't have LeBron's size? Lebron's 6-8 240 in the new millenium: Oscar was 6-5 210 in the 60s. This grades out to pretty much the same thing, methinks. (Especially since Oscar matched up against point guards.)

The main difference is in, forgive me, LeBron's explosiveness. As somebody (maybe Kareem, actually), pointed out, Elgin Baylor didn't make the game vertical, he made it diagonal: this is something James does unspeakably well, whereas Oscar was more of a overpowering but ground-bound force.

At 1/05/2006 2:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whats the deal with the emergency where you cant watch the mavs for at least 6 months? How can any team be below the hawks in credibility(on every level) let alone the mavs, who have been doing a fine job?

so whats this emergency?? And whats this credibility gap? please elaborate.


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