Cart me to shivah

Yesterday, DLIC had initially called Odom a “busted Swiss Army knife,” which I for some reason thought rendered this post useless. Then he changed it to “your do-it-all, do-nothing guy,” which, all sunrise aside, silently opened up the wound that is the following:

It is with great trepidation that I back into this one, which takes us (with a loving sigh) back into the mangled plains of Kobe’s MVP case. The one-time Troubled Smiler has been putting on a show of historic proportions, catching forty in his sleep and, no surprisingly, rocketing back up to the top of the Association’s most admired zealots. I want to claim that he’s threatening to revolutionize what it means to be an MVP, since he’s going to single-handedly urge the Lakers into the post-season without needing, wanting, or being offered any meaningful assistance. But Iverson did walk away with it that one season, and until last year AI was the poster child for unconscionable gunning. In either case, in an epoch marked by an unquestioned marriage of New Jack and the Right Way (shaming both in the process), what Kobe’s doing hardly makes the league feel good about itself. If he ends up with lopsided numbers and the Lakers end up a low seed in the lesser of two conferences, no way that award is a feel-good story.

The thing that would distinguish Kobe’s season above AI’s 2000-2001—and make it a case study in justifiable, nearly heroic, one-man-bandsmanship—is that he’s working with nothing. Iverson had a supporting cast made of fun, teammates that one could argue he should’ve passed to who were at least able to take care of business in his fiery wake. Kobe, as Burns pointed out the other day, has got a frontcourt of Kwame Brown and Mihm, pure cast-offs who hover somewhere between bust and journeyman. The smart argument for Bryant: it may not always be emotionally satisfying or ethically withstandable what #8 is doing, but you try and think of a better way to make that team playoff-bound. And not like any of you need this pointed out, but as sheer technicality its force in inescapable: he’s got arguably the greatest coach in the Association’s marshy history signing off on the program.

(I’m thinking more and more that the MVP might end up with Billups both as a nod to team excellence and as a way of avoiding both the unsightly “win hog” and the ugly idea that Nash has history on his side. You wonder, though, if that wouldn’t instantly get enshrined as precedent, and lead to it once and for all skewing toward the unsinkably fake “best player on best team” criteria.)

Which brings us to the strange case of Mar Mar, chronic FreeDarko favorite and thorn in the side of Kobe’s reputation. One of the most insistently compelling men to ever take the court, his game truly needs no introduction within these halls of entitlement. Suffice to say that, when P-Jax hinted that Odom would play Pippen to Bryant’s MJ, not a one among us felt the world stretch or sag. Given his arsenal of talent and Jackson’s creation of Pippen as we know him, there was no reason to think that, even more so than during his one season with Riles, Odom’s calling was finally upon him.

Sadly, Jackson’s shroud over town has brought Odom even less luck than Rudy’s Run. The conventional wisdom goes something like this: inveterate shot-jacker Kobe disrupts the delicate to-and-fro flow of the triangle, freezing out the New Odom who so fervently belongs in it, and reducing him to a role player without a clear cut part to play. Anyone looking to tarnish Kobe’s accomplishments need look no further than Lamar’s gruesomely inconsistent stat lines, which show the man he could be while at the same time revealing the shackles of a lifetime. Odom, these wise-mongers say, proved in Miami that he could put it all together, and these Kobe-induced trials represent nothing less than the stunting of perfect’s gates.

Now hold your calm as I write to you the unfortunate: it’s all wrong, and Odom is Odom’s fault. The man can do anything, but his do-anything-ness is largely reactive and almost entirely on his own terms. His time with the Heat was a whopping success exactly because he was locked into a fairly specific role and asked to occasionally shock the world. As in, play power forward, but with some range, the ability to create your own shot, and the option of us running the offense through you without a loss of flow. Be a mismatch, a problem, a cipher of the scheme, but let the other team be burdened with that. This stands in sharp contrast to his Clippers days, when Odom was most notably spotted hoarding the ball at the top of the key and either plotting a drive or deciding to launch a three. Here, we saw the essence of Odom: a jumble of conflicting skills fighting with itself from moment to moment, resolving itself only long enough to beat whatever’s in front of it.

What Phil, at least in theory, is asking Odom to do is to decide in advance who he is. Garnett can do it all but has some central notion of being; Diaw, as I’ve said before, might be what Lamar would be if he could pre-plan for his five-cat immensity. He is a phantom that lives only for the spirit of that possession, a man known only by his play-by-play identity. Alas, with Odom it seems to be slightly fissured tradition or hex, as his ability to take advantage of his frightening variety is directly proportional to the amount of chaos it causes the team. He only realizes his excellence when it stretches out before him in an uncanny plateau of indecision, and thus robs himself of whatever Pippen-esque usefulness he might have in the triangle’s system. It pains me to say it, but I have to agree with Dan Patrick that Odom is going to be one of those “what could have been’s”—not clipped by circumstance or poor judgment, he just plain got put together the wrong way.


At 2/03/2006 11:03 AM, Blogger Rocco Chappelle said...

What a punchline.

I vomited out of my nose when I got to Mr. "How does it feel". That was a masterstroke, perfect exclamation.

At 2/03/2006 12:59 PM, Anonymous bliz said...

on point lately fellas

At 2/03/2006 1:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Three cheers for this website. I never gave a rat's ass about the NBA until I started reading it. Stern should pay you guys.

At 2/03/2006 1:06 PM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

Freedarko's dirty little secret is that it is in fact Odom, and not Darko, who is the true Freedarko emblem.

At 2/03/2006 1:29 PM, Blogger elandfried said...

I wonder if part of the love of Odom is because he has the Robert Parish/Otis Nixon "Looks 20 Years Older Than He Actually Is" thing going on. He just looks like he's wise beyond his years and has gone through some crazy shit in his life.

Check this out and scroll halfway down to see what I'm talking about: http://www.nbadraft.net/actorteam.asp

At 2/03/2006 1:40 PM, Blogger Rocco Chappelle said...

Odom is the only player in the league that actually depresses me as I watch him play. Watching him play is like reading an existentialist novel or watching a Bergman movie, utterly un-enjoyable but necessary for my growth. He's a walking metaphor of the downfall of mankind, the inability to grasp himself. I don't think he's capable of justifying or more importantly comprehending his own existence (as it pertains to the court, at least). He's a direct rebuttal to the atheist imperative. He is so unfathomably unspectacular that it's astonishing. I could be upset with him if he simply didn't give shit like Derrick Coleman but I think Odom genuinely wants to do well, which makes his plight even more pitiable. Has there ever been a player that has done less with as much?

At 2/03/2006 2:09 PM, Anonymous T. said...


LO, is yet another disappointment in the long long list of "next Magic" players. While a lot of the "next Jordans" have enjoyed some modicum of success (as measured in playoff wins, all-star appearances and everything else) - the next Magic players tend to be mired in mediocrity.

Now, since Magic is my all-time favorite basketball player( well, aside from Byron Scott) - I've followed almost every single 6'8" guy who thought he could play point guard. I have basketball cards and jerseys from Steve Smith, Billy Owens (the REAL truth!), Penny, Toni Kukoc . . . and the poster boy for the next Magic group of guys - LO.

It's almost as perplexing as Stromile Swift's inability to run a pick and roll - how can these guys have so much skill (at 6'8"! that's AC Green size! That's a 1980s power forward) to handle the rock, dish the prettiest assists, score the basketball . .. and yet none of them have ever lived up to the promise.

Maybe Magic set the bar too high. Maybe it's a decade long Billy Owens hangover. I don't know. But I am waiting for the next 6'8" point guard with baited breath.

At 2/03/2006 2:10 PM, Anonymous T. said...

It's perhaps a bit harsh to say that Steve Smith and Penny were mediocore in any sense of the word, but I can't think of much else to describe how disapointing that they're not out being . . .well Magic.

At 2/03/2006 2:47 PM, Blogger emynd said...

Frankly, I'm just pissed that I'm not 6' 8". My life would be much different...


At 2/03/2006 3:11 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

what about lebron? he's the next magic AND the next jordan!

At 2/03/2006 3:36 PM, Blogger El Huracan Andreo said...

Odom burned his visage into my back in one fleeting year.

If I had the choice of partying with anyone in the world, he'd probably be top pick - for both the raucous fun and constant sulking that is liable to happen.

Please come back Lamar.

At 2/03/2006 3:49 PM, Anonymous Aaron said...

I think it merits saying that Odom and LeBron were the only two players I enjoyed watching on that miserable '04 Olympic Team.

Odom was playing hard, playing smart, and having fun out there, and it looked like he was the only one.

At 2/03/2006 3:59 PM, Blogger mutoni said...

I think the only way for me to truly express the utter rage and disappointment I feel as I watch Lamar try and sabotage Laker games with his "Pippen-like" game (yeah, right) is to link to this :


Lamar is the proverbial horse that I hate with blind conviction.

At 2/03/2006 4:12 PM, Anonymous T. said...

Well, Das Bron, um, while he's really got the gift of the court vision - the responsiblity of playing the 1 was too much for him - and he doesn't do that powering out thing that Magic used to do (grab the rebound, dribble hard to half court, fire the half court bounce pass off the dribble to a cutting Kurt Rambis). He's much more likely to go full court and posterize somebudy.

I realize by including Penny in my series of unathletic 6'8" guys, I throw off my whole thing - but he was the real deal. Der Bron is playing a different game.

At 2/03/2006 5:12 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

i think if lebron trusted his teammates more, he would do shit like that. pretty early on in his rookie year, he realized he was way better than anyone else on his team. i wonder how he'd play if he were on a team with worthy, kareem, and byron scott level talents.

At 2/03/2006 6:10 PM, Anonymous the sockk said...

The most depressing thing I have ever seen LO involved in is when Lebron threw a pass to himself off of LO's outstretched arm, and got the basket. It was amazing and terrible.

At 2/05/2006 7:01 PM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

wow...it was Kareem Abdul Jabbar who originally made the swiss army knife reference to Odom.

At 2/06/2006 10:17 AM, Anonymous T. said...

Since I don't have anywhere else to talk about this (from the Newark Star-Leger)

And this is only the start of Kidd's week.

On Wednesday, if health permits, he has another rematch with Stephon Marbury, which is always enlightening. The head-to-head matchup during their tenures with the Nets and Knicks has been an 8-1 Kidd landslide (including the '04 playoff sweep), but Kidd himself has helped keep the buzz alive.

He did this by going on an ESPN chat show last Thursday, and being subjected to yet another Marbury assertion (via videotape) about who ranks at the top of the point guard pecking order. This time, Marbury remarked that if "the names were taken off the jerseys" and the two of them were on the playground, people would easily recognize who the better player is.

And this time, Kidd didn't mind responding verbally: "He has the right to his opinion. But if we were in playground situation, I think I would win -- I'm bigger, stronger, and I'm quicker."

Does Marbury realize that he's won 4 playoff games . . . and Kidd 38? (Maybe I'm just biased, because with Kidd as my teammate in pick-up basketball I'm 1-0).

At 2/06/2006 10:21 AM, Blogger emynd said...

You know, I don't even particularly care about the veracity of T's random name-dropping anecdotes. Dude has quickly become a FreeDarko legend even if he's making this shit up (which I don't think he is).


At 2/06/2006 1:03 PM, Anonymous T. said...

Don't make me out to be more than what has happened. One summer morning pickup game in Cal's RSF does not a legend make. It was over in 20 minutes anyways.

At 2/06/2006 2:51 PM, Blogger Brickowski said...

Yeah, well I shook Rasho's hand this weekend while wearing a FreeD shirt. Rasho looked curiously at the shirt before denying my request for a picture.

At 2/07/2006 11:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, well I played a big rock show at the AT&T Center (nee SBC) that was attended by Tony and Eva. And as they walked hand-in-hand through the backstage area I made eye contact and winked at her. She looked a little startled.

True story, believe it or not.


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