4.23.2006

The creature is in the details



I'll be honest: I'd assumed, as had most of the land, that Game 1 of this round's marquee series would be a star-driven barrage: Nash conjuring up another effortless offensive tone poem, Kobe making everyone uncomfortable by, um, forcing his will on the game by drilling, penetrating, and splitting his way to an ultimately futile 40 or 50 (worst possible NBA figure to catch a rape charge). Two of the three front-runners for the Mo-Pod, each in their own way spinning individual brilliance into the foundation for post-season legitimacy. Instead, I got clear-cut proof that either this is the most endlessly tricky match-up of Round 1, or Suns/Lakers is at heart a coaching chess match.

I had a long list of quizzical observations on the game ready to go, but then KAREEM'S JACKET descended from beyond this earth and ground them all to a pulp. Suffice to say that, if this had indeed been a player's game—which we'd all assumed it would be—it would've been more fluid, less jagged, and much less of cerebral puzzle for the viewer. We all know that the Nash can manufacture points at will, and Kobe insist upon about as many per night as he sees fit to. I would also like to take this chance to point out how telling it is that the Suns are never accused of being soft, as the Kings and Mavs before them so often were; they aren't even judged as a team effort, or a collective spirit, since it's so clearly Nash juggling mostly interchangable pieces to achieve the desired result. Granted, Marion and Diaw are among the most valuable players we have in this league, but it's Nash's pinball table and they're just living in it.

Fast forward to what just was: D'Antoni/Jackson, plain and simple. That Lakers team had found its organic, Kobe-centric logic by the end of the regular season, and that's no doubt a joint effort of Bryant's maturity and Jackson's passive aggressive management skills. This one, though, was so game-planned to death that it seemed ripped from the pages of Larry Brown's wine-stained family haggadah ("Let the Right Way Go!"). Targeting the Suns's weaknesses, deciding who and what could be allied to run amuck, obsessively situating Kwame and Odom while making sure that Smush flexed like the "X Factor" Jackson apparently identified him as to the media. Even Kobe's quiet, quiet performance seemed part of a master strategy; I would not put it past Phil's genius and Kobe's demonic—no, not "devilish"—opera of self to get together and purposefully freeze him, and victory, out of game one to throw the planet off keel and leave a roaring void of doubt in the mind of Phoenix. Proof that this was so far out of the hands of the players: Odom and Kwame, who probably have some of the worst touch in the Association right around the basket, were repeatedly put in that position that's neither shooting nor laying it in (where, significantly, Zach Randolph and Eddy Curry thrive). It was at times painful to watch, but Phil seemed to think it important to prove that they could.



When it became clear that Phil had some wise thoughts on how to disrupt Nash's all-mighty puppet show, D'Antoni stepped in and not only met him head-on. In the process of doing that which was necessary, he made it clear just how much the Suns themselves are a coaching masterstroke. We all know about the Diaw switch, and the stockpiling of edgy, new era three-point specialists. But the juggling of line-ups, the utility belt with which Nash descends upon the offensive end, has been an elaborate system of red herrings, jabs, parrys, feints, end-arounds, and all other sorts of heady language that could apply just as easily to super-aggressive coaching or high IQ basketball playing. Even Nash sometimes seemed putty in D'Antoni's hands; against the Spurs, getting him to committ to scoring proved to be a way of gumming up the system. But with brilliant coaching shuffling the cards to dictate where and when Nash would be compelled to flip the switch, it ended being a predictable way of destablizing the system of mismatches and pre-determined causes that Phil had opted to stake his victory on.

I am still not entirely sure if this was as exciting to watch as this prose would make it sound, but I can safely say that I've never before interested in seeing how coaching would override letting players play. And while I don't think we have to worry that D'Antonio or Jackson are threats to Brown or Jerry Sloan's seats on the Supreme Council, it did make a case for how hard it is to have an MVP-type season without an equally resourceful coach putting in serious work, even if it's only blatantly obvious on these most exceptional of occasions. I'd still like to see Kobe make this into a battle of performance, rather than execution. If only because I'd like to see Nash show that he, and these Suns, can sweat, grunt, and make dramatic, micro-adjustments of effort that would align them with last season's team—and make me believe that they two are a team of players.

33 Comments:

At 4/23/2006 7:15 PM, Blogger there is no you or me without Suomi said...

If the premise is true (Nash and D'Antoni=Suns), it certainly makes Amare-for-Garnett seem a lot more plausible.

word verification: rbapuflv
now playing: fishscale track #4

 
At 4/23/2006 7:48 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

looks like there's something fucked up with the comments displaying. oh wait. . .this gives me an excuse to make a poignant observation about nba playoff telecast commercials.

THEY ALL SEEM HELL-BENT ON SELLING CARS TO VARIOUS AFRICAN-AMERICAN DEMOGRAPHICS. or maybe black people in a car commercial makes it a more attractive option for all america because, you know, they invented rims and paint. why that's suddenly of interest to the greater network public, or why it carries over into obviously buppified stereotypes, is beyond me.

 
At 4/23/2006 7:52 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

oh and hate saying this, but garnett might work better on this current version of things than amare. i can't see the suns moving amare, though. . .he's one of the most popular players in the league, mad young, and still developing. that team's window ain't closing, and this swap would only make sense if it were.

plus, this all depends on believing that this team's style is a viable contendor, since garnett would basicially just make it even more of what it already is. whereas if you see that having an absolutely unstoppable low post scorer who commands a triple team every team he touches the ball might be the extra dimension it's lacking. . .

 
At 4/23/2006 9:32 PM, Blogger mutoni said...

I enjoyed the chess match between the two coaches, and I would give the edge to Jackson because it's not easy to stop Phoenix's running game (which, he managed to slow to a halt). D'Antoni simply has better athletes and basketball players. Nash sat for a looooooooong time. No way Jackson could afford that for Bryant or Odom.

That game gave me hope as a Laker fan. If Tim Thomas had not decided to pretend he was back on those Bucks teams, LA would have likely stolen game 1 and made everyone sit up a little straighter. Not to mention that hellacious non-call on the aformentioned Thomas as he raked Kobe across the face (producing a visible welt) on a drive to the cup with the game hanging in the balance.

I'm very much looking forward to game 2. Bryant will be making those little gimmes that he missed today. I fully expect to go back to Staples with this puppy even. Only then, will the real fun begin.

 
At 4/23/2006 10:23 PM, Anonymous White People Don't Know said...

I can't say i believe the amare-garnett hypothetical trade either (though i'm sure minny would do it). Isn't amare just garnett minus seven years? if anything, amare is already better than garnett on the pick and roll, which is nash's whole thing. it would be like the knicks trading francis for baron davis—you could squint your eyes and not notice. That might be the biggest trade in history that makes the least difference to anyone.

 
At 4/23/2006 10:53 PM, Blogger GentleWhoadie9000 said...

I could think of worse NBA figures to catch a rape charge. I know you think I'm gonna say MJ, or A.C. Green, but that would be too predictable. I say Magic. Or may Kurt Rambis, just because it would make it hard for me to sleep at night if he got out of jail.

 
At 4/23/2006 11:11 PM, Anonymous Tinns said...

Yes, Magic would be the worst.

 
At 4/23/2006 11:11 PM, Blogger Xanadu said...

I'm with you guys that this game was all about which coach managed to use his pieces the best, but if that is to be the MO of the series then the Lakers are dead. In this hyper-rational maximisation of equations of skill-sets and athleticism, the Suns will come out on top every time. (And it's not like I can imagine the non-Kobe/Cook Lakers playing any better than they did today.) Smush is no X-factor; mere algebraic reconfiguring of the Lakers won't make a difference here. The only way for Lakers>Suns to happen is for Kobe to say fuck everything, and turn his 8 sideways into an infinity sign.

 
At 4/24/2006 12:46 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

worst person for it because of the tone of his game/language used to describe it

 
At 4/24/2006 2:48 AM, Anonymous Carlos Destrroyo said...

Garnett for Amare twists the mind; neither player's role would change, but both teams would feel that much more fierce.

Almost unrelated, but I see Francis pulling a "Sean Elliot in Detroit," sans the stability Elliot had in SA. He'll be smothered by Right Way Brown, pout, kick a garbage can, tank a few games, and get traded for his worth as a Knick (obviously below his potential with the Rockets) for some promising young talent. After that, Francis will go back to his old 20 ppg without truly sharing the ball ways, and the Knicks will have Bill Curley #2 on their hands.

And the worst player to get a rape charge? Ron Artest; he'd be in a cell for a decade or two and probably kill a guy for sport. The league, however, could not afford a Lebron rape charge after the millions they've poured into smelting his crown.

Kaman and Rambis would have to battle to the death to determine who would win the "utterly creepy child-molestor" category though.

 
At 4/24/2006 8:32 AM, Blogger GentleWhoadie9000 said...

I don't think a RonRon rape charge would really surprise anybody. LeBron would be bad. Kobe was bad, but in hindsight, it was probably only a matter of time before he lost his Ripkin.

To clarify, your Cal Ripken is the skill you use to mask your id with a friendly, apple pie public persona. To justify the term, according to my boy Verbs' father (who is B-more 5-0), Cal Ripken was a vicious, unfriendly domestic abuser, not the all-American nice-guy. The night the lights mysteriously went off at Camden Yards when he was supposedly on the trainers table barely able to play- somebody pulled the lights because Cal had to get sprung from the lockup after beating his wife the fuck up.

Anyway, anybody with a serious Ripken is succeptible. Artest doesn't ahve one, we all know he's nuts and capable of just about anything (I'm not saying I personally think he's a rapist, I'm just saying it wouldn't shock anybody after he fought a giant posse of people on TV). Now Bron, I don't think he's got a Ripken. K

obe, we all now know, had a sort of deviant streak associated with his vanity. Kobe gets what Kobe wants. Kobe will make the balled up paper go in the wastebasket out of sheer will. Kobe is the kind of guy who might be mean to Stevie Wonder in the right kind of circumstances. OK, now I'm just provoking Dr. Shoals.

 
At 4/24/2006 9:45 AM, Blogger Mirabeau Lamar said...

If Lebron, regardless of his inner "Ripken" potential, was accused of rape, the Nike "We are all witnesses" campaign would have to be immediately scrapped. What the fuck does that mean anyway? The importance of witnessing is replete in Holocaust remembrance literature and seems to indicate that something unique in human history has occured. Nike's ads have gone from the sodapop, "It's gotta be the shoes," when promoting young MJ to Lebron's apotheosis: "Kneel in the presence of your maker."

Scariest rape charge: Chris Kaman. I was molested by a dude like him, but Kaman didn't have my attacker's post-up game.

 
At 4/24/2006 10:40 AM, Blogger Ian said...

Someone definitely needs to find a pic of Kareem's jacket. Lot of buzz around it, and I didn't catch it.

Actually, Magic didn't catch a rape charge, but he did get sued in Michigan by a woman that said he gave her HIV.

 
At 4/24/2006 11:26 AM, Blogger Joey said...

1) Isiah Thomas once exclaimed "Ooh, I spilled my popcorn" in this hilariously amateurish way after an amazing play by Michael Jordan back when Isiah was providing "color" (it was the most bland and useless input possible) commentary for a Bulls game on NBC. I have never gotten over this because it was so ridiculous on so many levels, but it was also a perfect response to what Jordan had done.

I had one of those moments yesterday when I saw Kareem's jacket. And it wasn't just the jacket. It was that Kareem was wearing it at an NBA game, seated among many regularly dress pedestrians decked out in sweaters, jerseys, t-shirts, and the like. He seemed like he had just awoken from 1976 or something. And on top of that, the dude is incredibly awkward to begin with. In fact, he might be the most physically awkward elite athlete I can think of. He NEVER seems comfortable in his own skin, sitting or standing. At least not now since he doesn't have much to do, is too smart for most of his colleagues, and is too socially maladroit to get a real job.

2) You might want to use the following phrases when describing Kobe Bryant as we go forward: tearing up the walls (as in, "The scoring onslaught was so overwhelming that it threatened to tear up the walls of the gym"); beating up the pussy (as in, "The ferocity of Kobe's dunk over Tim Thomas was frightening; he really beat up that pussy"); most of what's said in the second verse of "Oochie Wally" (as in, "...gut from the front and
grind from the side and, fuck from behind and..."). Just some ideas.

3) Trading Amare for Garnett accomplishes little for the Suns. While KG's all-court skills would surely blend with the D'Antoni style; and while KG could reliably hit jumpers on the pick and roll; and while KG and Marion paired together would eff up any and all swingmen at both ends of the floor, KG's knees are becoming a problem; he's not strong enough to defend centers; he still has a limited post game that is already exceeded by the next-level athleticism of Amare's rudimentary shit; and Kevin is older (as stated). On top of all that, KG's contract is bigger, no?

 
At 4/24/2006 12:21 PM, Blogger Nate said...

I think the Lakers game planned perfectly for the Suns. 9/10 times Kobe would have been ready to take over in the fourth. And 9/10 times Tim Fucking Thomas is not going to hit 8/10 shots. Anyhow, the only thing I think they made some mistakes on (other than missing some chippies in the first half) was to double team Nash off of screen and rolls. People don't understand that if you do that Nash will find the open man for an easy hoop each and everytime. Play Nash straight up, don't double team or chase him with two defenders. I don't care if he scores 50! The Suns can't win unless Nash is drawing and distributing. If you don't double team, you take away his ability to do that. If you recall the Dallas series last year, the few games that Dallas won, it was mainly because they let Nash go off for 30+ points and then shut down the rest of the squad. I would rather Nash score 40 and get say 5-7 assists. He's much less dangerous that way than when he get's 18 points and 10-15 assists. As well, did you see how many times he would go to the basket when he was single covered and then still try to make a pass to a teammate? He made a few turnovers doing that. You just have to be aware than Nash is looking to pass first and is much more dangerous when he is drawing two defenders than when he is not.

 
At 4/24/2006 12:52 PM, Anonymous swaggering outfits said...

Shoals is right about Kobe and the rape charge. Especially with all the annoucner talk centering around Kobe's PENETRATING and ATTACKING and ABUSING and TAKING ADVANTAGE of the defense. Its all very uncomfortable. The whole Black Mamba thing just makes it even more disturbing.

Kareem's jacket may be the new Best Thing Ever. It even tops the effeminate -looking blouse he wore when he fought Bruce Lee in Game of Death (rent it!).

 
At 4/24/2006 2:29 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

that jacket was so celestial that i honestly think i am more likely to come across it again hovering over me on the highway (where i've been all morning) than in the form of some measly internet jpeg

joey--i totally forgot about the whole center thing. though i'm sure dalembert could be had for a song these days. . .

diaw/garnett/marion is a pretty mind-blowing frontline, even if there is no center there.

nj--maybe i'm overestimating how basketball works, but what i saw was d'antoni denying the lakers the option of turning nash into just a scorer BY DOING IT HIMSELF. there were stretches where nash seemed to be penetrating and looking for his shot because he knew they'd rather give it to him than risk another open three; by then putting barbosa, marion, and diaw all out there, suddenly the "nash scores, no one else does postulate" goes out the window cause all those dudes can create for themselves.

 
At 4/24/2006 2:58 PM, Blogger mutoni said...

im glad you brought up that hilarious call by Isiah when he was working for NBC, Joey. I vividly recall the game. It was during the Finals in Chi-town, 1997 I believe, when Jordan crossed up Russell at the top of the key, got in the lane, hopped and dunked all over Ostertag. I didn't know Money still had those kinds of ups. Apparently, neither did Isiah.

The only other thing I recall from Isiah's infamous days as a commentator on NBC were bursts of inexplicable nervous laughter during games.

 
At 4/24/2006 3:01 PM, Blogger mutoni said...

as for Cap's jacket, I cannot believe ABC only showed it for about 1.5 seconds. Had that been on TNT, we would have gotten closeups, Barkley and Kenny's heads super-imposed in the pic, the works. *sigh*

 
At 4/24/2006 3:23 PM, Blogger Josh said...

where on the internets do I go to mourn Ron-Ron's suspension for Game 2? it's like the Lig is trying on purpose to make the playoffs un-compelling.

 
At 4/24/2006 3:25 PM, Blogger Joey said...

Nice memory, Mutoni.

 
At 4/24/2006 3:46 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i have to sort out my feelings on the artest suspension. . .might have more of a visceral response if that team weren't being blotted out by the spurs, competitively and emotionally.

 
At 4/24/2006 4:01 PM, Anonymous Buforana said...

Suspending Ron Artest for a rough foul is like suspending Tim Duncan for having a face made out of fig newtons. It cannot be helped! The man is caught in The Passion. If the world is exposed to the San Antonio Spurs heartlessly gutting the NBA again I'll be greatly disappointed. It's pretty clear the Kings won't be the team to stop the Inevitable, that's for sure.

 
At 4/24/2006 4:21 PM, Anonymous Mr. Six said...

Ronnie should have received a reward, not a suspension, for giving Manu an elbow ... like maybe Stu Jackson personally delivers $1 million of the salary that Ronnie lost last season, but all in the form of big bags of Sacajaweas.



word verification: rzabbl ... Bobby Bobby Bobby Digi Digi Digi

 
At 4/24/2006 4:26 PM, Blogger Nate said...

B-Shoals,

I'm not saying that Nash wouldn't score a lot of points if he was single covered. He proved that throughout the game. But I don't think the Suns play their best when he does that. And his big games from the playoffs last year seem to prove that. I just think this is going to be a really interesting series. Love your posts...

 
At 4/24/2006 4:30 PM, Blogger Mirabeau Lamar said...

Buforna, the Spurs have been programed to destroy the League this year. With military leadership (Pop), an outsourced workforce (half the roster), and a conservative business model (defense-minded), the Spurs are determined to repeat their championship. Early glitches in the software (Duncan and Ginobli's injuries) have been patched up and now SA will roll over the League with scientific accuracy. The team has no exploitable weakness and is deep at each position. The Spurs are not basketball; the Spurs are the triumph of machine over man. The industrial revolution meets the digital, global economy. Their logic is that of a multinational corporation: winning regardless of the aesthetic/ethical cost. While purists and humanitarians cry out against the injustice of their game, there is no stopping the inexorable march of progress.

 
At 4/24/2006 4:49 PM, Anonymous Mr. Six said...

Humanity's only hope: Ronnie Reese and his phased-plasma elbows in the 40 Watt range.

I know whom I'm rooting for.

 
At 4/24/2006 4:50 PM, Anonymous oranges said...

kobe's quiet, quiet performance is a bit puzzling to me. i see phil's vision of getting the non-kobes involved early and building up their confidence. but this is counter to what they've been doing 95% of the season so i don't think it will be an easy task for them. it's highly unlikely that all the non-kobe starters will keep up their production from gm 1. with the exception of odom. the suns should really key in on wearing odom down. let kobe go off for 40, hold odom to his avg output and you got the game.

even though the suns have no interior defense to speak of kwame still isn't going to be huge cuz he just can't seem to catch and shoot very well. and the lakers seem to have problems with entry passes.

i'm looking for the suns to come out and score 120 in gm 2. execution will be crisp and precise.

 
At 4/24/2006 8:09 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

nj--obviously the suns are at their best when nash is setting people up. i guess i'm just trying to say that, unlike last year's game plan, these suns do have ways to work around nash-as-scorer. not that q, joey johnson, and marion shouldn't have been able to, but they didn't as much as you see diaw, marion, barbosa, and bell.

did anyone find the jacket yet?

 
At 4/24/2006 9:07 PM, Blogger mutoni said...

i think it's gonna be a long while before that jacket surfaces on the interwebs.

Anyone else think Wade looks like a newly-released convict with the baldie?

 
At 4/25/2006 1:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is a link to a Lakers forum. Scroll down about 10 messages and behold, Kareem.

http://www.clublakers.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=50249

 
At 4/25/2006 8:02 AM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

obviously, the key to the lakers/suns series is andrew bynum.

THE SUNS HAVE NO ANSWER

 
At 4/25/2006 10:58 PM, Blogger S-Love said...

Isaiah was pretty bad, but I remember Magic Johnson responding to a nifty layup with the phrase, "That was a whoop-de-whoop." Magic is probably worse even than Tim Hardaway.

 

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