2.09.2006

Each Day Is A Lifetime

Fans of shite teams, ours has been a year of misery...


...and for two primary reasons:

I. The upcoming offseason draft/free agency crop is a joke. In fact, I'm not even gonna go into detail about the FA situation. All you need to know is that Ben Wallace will remain a Piston, and Caron Butler and Jason Terry are booby prizes. Save your Mid-level Exceptions and spend it on an extra supply of tights and headbands. Purchase a private plane for the team. The FA class of '06 will kill the league for years to come. Disappointingly, the draft offers little in the way of relief, and much in the way of false hope....

II. There is a complete imbalance of power in the NBA that is threatening to kill us all. While largely due to the Heat's offseason stupidity, the Mavs' ability to spend, the Pistons' good fortune of health, and the Spurs' collecting of amnesty casualties, I will suggest that there is a larger force behind all of this...

Now that I've dropped my thesis, I'm gonna take you on a tangent like no other. Come follow we.

Point I

Point I is definitively not about Larry Bird or Adam Morrison/JJ Reddick, as has been the talk of our nation for some weeks now. I should note, however, that the initial draft of this post contained a semi-rad intro, in which the planet's greatest scientists gathered in the center of the earth to chromosomally meld the physical bodies of Morrison and Reddick. What emerged, disappointingly, was Luke Jackson. Due to my realization that I would be covering well-worn territory, not to mention the fact that I myself was getting a little lost within the metaphor, this section has been omitted. But feel free to email me if you would like to see it. Or maybe if I'm feeling sufficiently nerdy and self-important, I'll post it in the comments section.

Additionally, Part I is not about is the psycho-simplistic-jargon-driven discussion of white/black stereotypes within the NBA, but rather a question that arose contiguous to the appearance of the Klosterman/Gladwell article, which is: Where did these stereotypes come from? And more specifically, WHY--if white players are stereotyped as effort-giving, team-first, scrappy, and fundamentally sound--ARE WHITE PLAYERS BAD DEFENDERS? Throw your Paterno-supported/Social Darwinist theories out the window. Artest is built way too clunkily to shut down swingmen like he does (he should be playing Center for the Bulls right now), and Troy Murphy is a physical specimen. If you have made it to the NBA, you should be able to defend, bottom line. And white guys fall painfully short. Doesn't this make the existence of the whole hardworker-stereotype a little weird? Or is it not weird, because it probably started with guys like Havlicek and Dave Debusschere who actually were good defenders, meaning that this brand of solid white defenders has simply died out.

(No straw man). Tough-defense is most CERTAINLY incorporated into this stereotype. Maybe not "tough defense" in the traditional sense, but tough like that Kurt Rambis lookalike, Billy Joe Cuthbert, in the NBA '06 commercials. Defense is supposed to be the part of the game that takes effort and selflessness. Sacrificing your "numbers" for things that won't show up in the boxscore. White players' are often talked about as team-first in this regard (anyone who watched the playoffs in the last three years will note that Scalabrine, Hoiberg, Jon Barry, Jeff Foster all received this type of praise). And this was the rhetoric that the militant virgin/Goebbels stunt double who painfully ran the defense sessions at Clem Haskins' basketball camp drilled into me at an early age.


Now let's turn our attention to the exceptions to my argument in looking at the dearth of white players on the all-defensive teams by decade:

1980s
Kevin McHale
Mark Eaton
Bill Hanzlik
Larry Bird (of whom Barkley once said, "We always thought it was an insult when they put (Bird) on one of us, because he was the worst defender ever")

1990s
Dan Majerle
John Stockton

2000s
Andrei Kirilenko

What a testament to Jerry Sloan (also a former all-defensive team member), to have coached THE ONLY white defenders who mattered in the past 30-some years. Stockton (1st in steals all time) and Eaton (5th in blocks) are pure anomalies. Kirilenko, of course, is a Euro and does not necessarily qualify as white. McHale, Hanzlik, Majerle, Bird...solid, but not special.

Now currently in the NBA, besides AK47, there are NO impact white defenders. Nobody who is deemed anywhere close to shut-down. The only white guys I can even wrack my brain to call decent defenders would be Mark Madsen--built like a bull ox, much more of a hassler than a defender, basically just bodies people and pushes them out of the lane, Chris Andersen--more of an energy/shot-blocking Eddie Griffin type, probably spent the last four months eating greenies and crack for breakfast anyways, and Kirk Hinrich--should probably mention that a lot of people think of this guy as a BAD defender, plus the Bulls have completely taken a step back on defense, slipping to 18th out of 30 teams in points allowed, which has Chicago feeling a little


Other sports have given us Maddux, Edmonds, Brooks Robinson, Yazstremski, and Mattingly just to name a few. Urlacher, Zach Thomas, Howie Long, and all who followed in the Dick Butkus tradition. This should not be an impossible feat for roundball to achieve.

And so I really just wanted to get us back to Morrison and JJ. For argument's sake, let's just say that these are "the guys" in the draft (even *I* can't deny the army of straw men I'm constructing at this point, but hear me out). LaMarcus Aldridge and Tyrus Thomas are still a few years away, and Rudy Gay will be held out of the league for three years as Stern imposes a temporary ban on infuriatingly potential-soaked 6-8 players. That guy from Italy Andrea Bargnani or whatever has a girl's name and gives Chad Ford a hard-on. So, you know, STAY AWAY...

It's JJ and Morrison.

And from what I've seen, I can't even call them poor defenders at the college level. Both are deceptively quick...maybe not lateral movement-wise, but they get the job done. Neither are stoppers, but neither are dummies. And this mere competence at the other end of the court is enough to make pro scouts disregard what has happened to so many others who get their first taste of Association hardwood, only to soon find themselves night-in and night-out caught in a footrace with Gilbert, chasing Rip Hamilton around screens and over Tayshaun elbows, and begging Kobe for more punishment...


Point II

We here at Freedarko are nothing if not Freedundant. Plenty of electronic ink has been spent extolling the virtues of Amare Stoudemire, cunning manchild, and signifier of the human body's limitless potential. I am here to tell you that his absence this season has proved him to be even more important than what we once thought. In fact, it is HE--and not Artest--who has held this season hostage.

Behind the scenes, we often worry if Freedarko is really just a blog of 2004-05, unable to accept progress (OR IS IT REGRESS), still clinging at all-star bids for Arenas, turning a blind eye to the actual improvement of much bejoked Euros such as Biedrins and Diaw. Whereas the Pistons' slow, methodical dismantling of the Lakers in the 2004 Finals caused even Stern to admit that the league's entertainment level had reached an all-time low, 04-05 gave us a glimpse of the future: Call him Amare, although he is known by many names:


Amare is a necessary force in this Association we hold so dearly. With his block of Tim Duncan in last year's WCF, he spoke to us all, saying, I have shown you the face of basketball for seasons to come. Envision a league in which 6-10 centers roam freely, running up and down the court with boundless energy and exuberance. Just as entire teams during the late 1990s were constructed to counter Shaq--in fact Dale Davis and Ervin Johnson can thank Shaq for the fact they are still playing--so could have been (and still can be) Amare's impact.

Without Amare, we are stuck with an old regime. Popovich's humorless brilliance. A Shaq-fronted team with misconceptions of being able to turn it on whenever they want. The Mavericks again compiling a brilliant regular season record, only to crush their benefactor's spirits come playoff time. And The Pistons, still star-powerless, and still well-oiled. The Grizzlies are playing their 10-man-game. Lebron is doing his first-half keep-em-in-the-hunt thing. Even J-Kidd is doing his best to lead into the trenches a new Big 3 in Hova's House. THIS IS A LEAGUE OF CONFIDENCE, and the teams that are winning keep winning, and will continue to do so, until we are faced with yet another Spurs-Pistons showdown come June.

Amare is a necessary force, because the Old Regime crumbles at the sight of him. They are forced to confront him, to answer him.


Even when the words "Stoudemire" and "March" are mentioned in the same sentence, Avery Johnson looks over his shoulder. Nazr Mohammed clenches his teeth. McDyess' ears perk up, because he knows what he has seen during his time spent in Phoenix. This confidence, this fuel on which a team can run for an entire year begins to leak. It becomes anyone's game. And it all plays right into STAT's masterplan...

...

"I always been nice but first brothers slept, Now I come back twice like Christ to resurrect the West"
...

We ask him to complete quite a task at such a young age. To disrupt the Mavs-Spurs-Pistons triumverate and restore balance to the Association. His comrades (Nash, Marion, et al.) are extremely capable, and perhaps even more willing than last year to finish what they started.

And yet Amare's decision must be made with extreme caution and practicality, for if he falters he risks a fate even worse than the tragic hero, Webber. He holds the promise of more glorious days for our children's children to gaze upon. Even I cannot put blind faith into Oden and Mayo. It is STAT, and STAT alone. And so we give him our trust, hoping that does not fail us.

"Technology is something," Stoudemire once said. "They're taking pictures of every angle of my head, then they use the computers to mash the pictures together. That's me, that's my head in the game...It's crazy."

Is it so crazy?



You are the technology. And you are something.

30 Comments:

At 2/10/2006 11:50 AM, Blogger S-Love said...

Great to see the Gravediggaz represented. R.I.P. the Grym Reaper.

Is Bird as bad as Barkley says? Maybe we should talk about overrated defenders rather than search for good white ones. Doug Moe supposedly could shut people down, even after his knee injury.

Absolutely right about Stoudamire. All the Artest haters should consider Phoenix as an example of what to do when a star is off the roster--viz., not suck. On the other hand, if Amare were suspended, perhaps the Suns would be less inspired.

Popovich's boring approach is nicely countered with the passion of Ginobili.

 
At 2/10/2006 12:25 PM, Anonymous T. said...

As someone connected with the Rockets, we have "Flyin'" Ryan Bowen is really is the stereotypical scrappy white guy. And he's actually a decent defender - quick enough to stay with most 3s, big enough to bother some 4's - he even gave Dirk a lot of trouble in last year's playoff 1st round loss.

However - and I think this may or may not have anything to do with the dearth of white defenders; but it certainly plays into the examination of racial relations as played out here daily on FreeDarko - just last game, Kobe was cruising along with a few jumpers, but not really dominating David Wesley - who is excellent, but loses 4 inches to KB8.

Second quarter rolls around, DWes gets a breather - and as soon as Kobe saw he had goofy, gangly, Ryan Bowen on him - he started dropping jumpers on his head.

And like I said, Bowen's a decent-to-good defender.

Remember Larry Bird's quote about having a white guy defend him was an insult? I'm 100% Kobe saw RyBo in front of him, he was insulted that JVG would send out Bowen to try and lock him down.

I think the other reason is that Craig Ehlo was burned enough times by Jordan to scare white kids away from playing defense.

 
At 2/10/2006 12:43 PM, Blogger Neil Scientist said...

I would suggest that it's the fan's stereotype that white guys (American) are supposed to be scrappy, undersized energy Rudy's, but that official talent evaluators make a different mistake. They assume that white guys have precisely one technical skill, that they have advanced rungs based on their precision honing of whatever this skill is. Usually, it's outside shooting or interior defense, but it could theoretically be perimeter defense. But the assumption is that they cannot be the all-around specimen, because they are white (Americans), and therefore they learned to play the game by closely and ably following directions from a rural high school coach, or a sound instructional video.

 
At 2/10/2006 1:17 PM, Anonymous Aaron said...

I think I was okay with Amare being called 'manchild' for a certain amount of time... He was 19 and freakishly tall and athletic, but with no clue what to do with it.

He's now 23 and a dominant force in the NBA when he's playing. Drop the manchild business already.

 
At 2/10/2006 1:30 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

strange as it may seem, i have almost no feelings on white player stereotypes. and as crass as this sounds, these perceptions won't change until there's another white player who proves he can be a first-tier, all-around NBA stud. the euro stuff is too mystical. and he can't be a point guard.

people looking for a great white hope who dominates with classical righteousness and/or hustle (following the example of the misinformed legend of larry) totally take the wrong approach--this pale messanger will have to be able to deafeningly hold his own on the modern Association's terms. until then, at best white talents will always be seen as (blessedly) limited, even if, in some cases, sharper observers of the game know otherwise.

then, and only then, will other white players earn the freedom to, paradoxically, play a limited game without being accused of doing so. in the same way that i think tim duncan has done a lot to change some really horrible attitudes about black people's on-court tendencies.

 
At 2/10/2006 1:52 PM, Blogger elandfried said...

Having watched every Celtics game in the mid to late '80s, I can definitely say that Kevin McHale was not just a "solid" defender, he was by far the best low post defender this side of Olajuwon. Surprisingly agile and strong, he shut down many opposing PFs and perfected the "pull the rug" move where he would simply step back when an offensive player was leaning on him heavily so that the player would fall back and travel. I ask that you never underestimate Kevin McHale's abilities again.

If you want another example of a team that is keeping it together despite injury, check out what the Pacers are doing right now. No Artest, no O'Neal, no Croshere, not Tinsley. Last 3 games: 26 point blowout of the Lakers, beat the Pistons (that rivalry is almost like UNC-Duke at this point - doesn't matter who is on the team, it's gonna be a close game), and then a 32-point pasting of the Blazers. Fuck Larry Brown, Rick Carlisle is the true genius.

 
At 2/10/2006 1:55 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

one more time, why did granger fall to them?

 
At 2/10/2006 2:31 PM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

because granger is 6-8.

(i should note that i didnt start watching basketball till 1990, and so i never actually saw mchale play--much less debusschere or havlicek).

now, here's something crazy to think about. flip inherited brown's defense, which inherited carlisle's everything. no wonder the pistons are the best team ever.

 
At 2/10/2006 2:57 PM, Anonymous T. said...

Charles Barkley always says that Kevin McHale was the best defensive player he ever had to face.

 
At 2/10/2006 3:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Caron Butler... a 'booby prize'?

First, he's signed for 5 years already. First thing Grunfeld did after dumping Kwame on the ignorant Mitch Kupchak.

Second, did you note Caron dropping 34, 15, 4, and 3 steals on GS the other night? Or his 17.7/6.1/2.7/1.7spg as a starter? Larry Whoes?

Don't sleep on Caron.

 
At 2/10/2006 3:21 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

this goes back to yesterday's whole "there are stars and then there are STARS." butler is a nice player with some strengths and a couple weaknesses, but he's not a game-changer like hughes was in DC. sure, he has good numbers, great ones here and there, but no one's scared of him come quarter number four.

 
At 2/10/2006 3:23 PM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

fine. change it to al harrington. would you pay $9 mil a year for either of them? i guess grunfeld did.

 
At 2/10/2006 4:35 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

as much as the nba is a league of race, football--ostensibly one of mankind's great uniters--is even more awash in heartfelt stereotypes. has the white man just given up on ever staking a claim on the position of running back or wideout? (alstott and matt jones are hardly realistic, accessible models for an aspiring skill positioneer the way that little things guy, hustle guy, and marksman are for in basketball). at least in basketball, he's making a push to reclaim what once was exclusively his, albeit a misguided one.

 
At 2/10/2006 4:42 PM, Anonymous Art Vandelay said...

There are plenty of servicable white WRs in the NFL (although, admittedly, none are superstars). An all-pro white defensive back would indeed be an anomaly...and I'll punch anyone who even thinks about mentioning Jason Sehorn's overrated ass.

 
At 2/10/2006 4:58 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

no white receivers are good enough to save the game. and you'd think that, if there were going to be a media-driven race war anywhere in the nfl, it would be at that position.

 
At 2/10/2006 5:57 PM, Blogger Rocco Chappelle said...

Is it still hip to disparage Malcolm Gladwell?

Anyway, here's a piece he wrote about race and athletic ability a while ago

To update the lyrics of Evidence (of Dialated Peoples fame) "... more rare than white runningbacks"

 
At 2/10/2006 6:04 PM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

regarding gladwell...that page2 joint was the first thing of his i've ever read. it just seems like he was using psych jargon really unnecessarily, to explain something far more simple than what he made it out to be...

am checking out the race/ability piece now...

klosterman on the other hand, i've always hated. pre-simmons convo, pre page-2, pre-everything. and this article, especially the dylan/bird parallel sealed the deal.

i feel petty, because i'm giving FD it's bad rep as page2 playa-hataz, but what can you do...

 
At 2/10/2006 6:35 PM, Anonymous dejan bodiroga said...

let me quickly point out that david lee is the next chapter in scrappy, selfless, hard-working white do-it-all players. the jury is still out on his defense - he's a crafty steals and blocks kind of guy, but he's sort of caught somewhere between the power and small forward positions, so he has a hard time staying with the more physical 4's and the quicker 3's, and his on-ball defense isn't quite what it should be. although his 23/15 performance opposite shawn marion in the knicks' lone high point this season gave us some reason to think that he can actually hang. larry brown compared him to bobby jones (another quintessential scrappy white dude), and based on the limited footage of jones that i've seen, it's about as apt a comparison as any. i don't know that he'll ever start, but he figures to at least be a guy who will give you 18-22 minutes a game of pure, unadulterated white hustle. it's awesome.

(and it's really - and i mean REALLY - out of character for isiah to go with a guy like this in the draft. as a front office man isiah has drifted towards youth, length, athleticism, potential, etc., and generally gotten himself away from the ingredients that made the bad boy pistons so damn difficult to contend with. it was refreshing to see him step up and draft a guy like lee in the first round instead of one of those typically overhyped "youth and potential" guys like andray blatche or amir johnson. and we over here in new york were just starting to wonder if isiah wasn't just a little bit racist .....)

 
At 2/10/2006 8:22 PM, Blogger Ian said...

I've found that any time one of the following pops up, you need to compare him to only people who fit in the same subset: black QB's, white WR's, white ballers, Euro ballers. There could be a 6'6" guy from Lithuania named Mikael Jordanov who posts 30-6-6 every game with a baldy and he'd still draw comparisons to Sarunas Marciulonis.

Oh, and to pimp my take on the Bird/Dylan thing...

 
At 2/10/2006 8:41 PM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

Ian, Shoals just told me about this today. You absolutely killed it.

 
At 2/11/2006 2:42 PM, Blogger June Monsoon said...

This post is a prime example of why I hope this site never goes away. Thanks.

Also, whats the deal with Thunder Dan? the player I watched during the Barkley era did not look like he'd ever been on an All-Defense team. All I remember him doing was launching 3s from 25 ft. Anyone witness his prime first hand?

 
At 2/11/2006 5:14 PM, Anonymous T. said...

Ah yes - Thunder Dan - fresh out of Directional Michigan (Central? Eastern?) The funny thing about the later Dan was that one of the big reasons that outside of a hurt Hersey Hawkins no one on the 1988 Olympic Team could shoot a lick.

I don't remember the early Dan much - but I do remember him absolutely coming down the lane on a secondary fast break and just CRUSHING one on Mychael Thompson when I was a freshman in high school.*

*Like Grant Hill on 'Zo.

Nick Anderson with more hops? A more brusing Chris Mills? A big power guard - maybe DMase with about 5 inches less ups? It's so hard to seperate late Dan Marjele from early Dan Marjele in my mind.

 
At 2/11/2006 10:00 PM, Anonymous kenny ken said...

Hmmm, Mid career Dan was aiight at D, not special. For an apt comparison, though, how about Big Dog Robinson without potential and with a heart? And white guys can so defend, what about grant hill?

 
At 2/13/2006 11:38 AM, Blogger c-los said...

@ Beth Shoals,

You're very off on one Larry Hughes. While no one appreciates Larry's game more than me, I can admit that he is an over-rated player. He is not the defender people make him out to be. He, like Iverson are great at playing passing lanes and getting steals which alot of people equate to being good on defense. When it mattered he got torched regularly by Wade and forced Eddie Jordan to play Jared Jeffries on the opposing teams best swing player. Larry was also on a contract year so he played out of his mind. Truth be told he is a very fragile player who seems to always injure his hands. Ive never seen a player who injures that part of the body more than LH. Him and Caron are pretty much the same player. Caron gets steals and has a good midrange J. They are about the same athletically with Caron being a little stronger. The only difference besides Caron being able to stay healthier is that Caron makes less money than Larry. Being a Wiz fan it was great to see their run last year but Larry wasnt/isnt deserving of a max deal so I was cool in seeing him walk.

 
At 2/13/2006 2:22 PM, Anonymous Branko Ivanovic said...

Is Doug Christie white defender?

 
At 2/13/2006 3:16 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i know that hughes's defense is a mirage, but his offensive game--when he puts it all together, as he did with arenas--is, as DLIC once called it, "a poor man's kobe." i agree, though, that he's not nearly a max player and that the wizards did a decent job of replacing him by acquiring butler. just pointing out that butler will never have any spells of transcendence like hughes did in 04-05.

 
At 2/13/2006 4:59 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

correction: the recluse said that about hughes.

 
At 2/14/2006 9:13 AM, Blogger c-los said...

@ Beth,

Very True. When his mid-range J was falling he was a pleasure to watch. While I love to see Amare and Dwight Howard rip on people, there is nothing prettier than to see guards take over the game. I guess the deal worked out for both teams but I still think Ray Allen would have been a much better fit on Cleveland

 
At 2/14/2006 11:31 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i think i've said this before, but fuck it: ray allen is the only superstar 2 that could play second fiddle and stay classy AND hyper-productive.

 
At 2/14/2006 8:01 PM, Anonymous Mr. Six said...

Five-Years-into-the-Future-Me called on the 4D phone to suggest that I add Luke Walton's name to the discussion. He wouldn't say why.

 

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