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 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:
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")
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...
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.