4.27.2006

My small fortune



Stop me whenever this sounds familiar. Imagine an offense-based team that favored an uptempo game and relied very little on low post honesty, was led by a masterful, pass-first guard, and fielded an unconventional line-up. They storm through the regular season, with some overheated observers daring to suggest that they've redefined the game of basketball. Their playoff chances are thought to be sorely underwhelming, as they are lacking in some of that elements necessary to complete, fundamentally sound competition. But they end up making a statement that for the ages, even if its ultimate purpose remains unfulfilled.

Now suppose they did the same thing again, with even gaudier numbers. Would you have to respect them in the playoffs on the strength of last year's showing? Regardless of who else was in the running this post-season? Would this be cause to once and for all upend conventional wisdom on the subject? Might we accidentally annoint them a dynasty?



A lot of questions must swirl in all of our minds as the Lakers/Suns highlights reach their third or fourth cycle. Oddly enough, this is the first time that it's really seemed appropriate to ask if Phoenix is vulnerable, if not overrated. I've heard a few nods in that direction, mostly in the form of "Kobe's capable of anything," but most people seem wary of making the same initial miscalculation twice. I also think that this phrasing brings out what, up until tonight, it's sounded a little indulgent to suggest: that the Lakers might be really fucking good. Kobe's off quarter on Sunday points toward one man's mishaps; for the Lakers to effectively neutralize Phoenix's main angle of attack and altogether dismantle several of their key player, well, that's called consummate beatdown. Nash got his, but it was he, not Kobe that came off as the savant scoring in a bubble with little or no effect on the team effort. We're back to the days of "let Nash try and beat you alone," something that I'd gone so far as to suggest that these Suns could use to their advantage.

But what really makes me well up deep beneath my skin is that, at long last, this season has the cult team it's so sorely needed. This is the realization of the dream so many of us saw flash across the skies when Kobe, Odom-as-Pippen, and Kwame first came together last summer. This is the follow-up to the Clip Show and last year's Suns, hallowed be their names. Until the Hawks finish above .400, or Amare stops his frightening slide towards Rear Window-dom on the bench, this Lakers are about as FD as one team can get. Phil is an obvious drawback, and I suppose some of you are still hung up on Kobe-hating. But my, how Vujacic has grown, fearless when he drives and proudly sporting the most electro haircut in the Association! And young Luke, who as a white role player can actually ball a little, has that weird thing with his father not being allowed to acknowledge his existence regularly on national broadcasts, and, has at least some identifiable personal style.

Sidenote: If anyone knows any scouts, can someone please tell them in advance of the draft to not go for would-be stars outside of the lottery? For the most part, those prospects are boom-or-bust scenarios, and likely ill-adapated for life off the bench and/or on the functional periperhy of the team. Someone like Walton, though, who I said all along should've gone late first, is perfect to come in and fill gaps. Same for Josh Howard. All these guys do is play basketball, and they don't really give a fuck how. It's like drafting "an athlete" in the NFL, just with the vagary a matter of convenience and not mystery.

Most of all, this team is full of weirdos and is a ball to watch. And that's without Turiaf even getting on the floor!!!

Everyone's talking about Odom/Marion. Can you even begin to imagine Grant/Turiaf? The earth wouldn't shift for days!

34 Comments:

At 4/27/2006 4:58 AM, Blogger Nate said...

B-Shoals

I told you that the game plan would work and that Stevie was not as deadly scoring as he is distributing the Rock. Phil Jackson is a better coach than what he get's credit for. He game planned the Suns well, and has his team playing smart and with confidence. I can't wait to go to the game on Friday.

I know people think I am crazy, but I really think the Lakers are a shooter away from being a really good team next year. In the instant gratification world of the NBA, everyone was looking for Odom and Kwame to develop right away. And when they didn't initially everyone ragged on them the entire year. Now Phil has Odom playing with confidence (enough to nail several three pointers in tonight's game), and Kwame improving with every game. Walton fits perfectly, and Bynum and Turiaf will eventually develop into servicable bigs. Chris Mihm is their best trade asset now (especially now that Kwame has stepped up). If they can get a solid shooter for him, I think they will be good to go for next year.

Not to look ahead too far, but if the Lakers and Clippers get out of the first round, I think we'll officially have our first hallway series on our hands. Los Angeles would be completely captivated by such an event.

 
At 4/27/2006 6:11 AM, Blogger mutoni said...

That dunk by Bryant over Nash made my year. It almost makes up for the MVP snub. Almost.

 
At 4/27/2006 8:23 AM, Blogger Mirabeau Lamar said...

La Chaqueta must get some of the credit for the Lakers taking a game in Phoenix. It's triumphal return to LA will surely inspire the squad to continue their new "team" basketball trend. In addition to Kobe taking "24" as his new number, I've heard that if the series goes 7, Alcindor is lacing up, clad in La Chaqueta, for the tip-off to channel the hallowed ghosts of Lakers past.

 
At 4/27/2006 8:23 AM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

this is the first time i've wanted to pull for the lakers in some time, and i say that as someone who grew up a lakers fan.

word verification: fozezyu

 
At 4/27/2006 9:08 AM, Blogger c-los said...

Being a Wiz fan my highlight of the night came in the 2nd quarter when Kevin Harlan asked Doug Collins,

KH- "What has Kwame Brown improved on since he left Washington?"

DC- "Ummmm...he's 5 yrs older now so he's more mature and he ummmmm....He's slowed his game down some"

Great to see Kwame's old coach pull that one out of his ass. Kwame still has no idea how to play ball. There is no way that a guy 6'10 270 shouldnt be able to get good position down low on Tim Thomas. Watch him try to post up next game. Its enough to make Pete Newell cry.

 
At 4/27/2006 9:18 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

nj--not to beat a dead horse here, but i think my argument after game 1 was that d'antoni knew phil was thinking about making nash just a scorer, and could put a line-up out there that would make him pay for this over-simplification of things. a difference between this year's suns and last's. last night proved me wrong, i guess, or crazy.

 
At 4/27/2006 9:27 AM, Blogger Josh said...

personally, I was expecting DC to say "y'know, I was too busy ballwashing MJ to notice Kwame was being emotionally eviscerated on that squad, so your guess is as good as mine."

fwiw, I too have found myself strangely under the sway of the Lakers '06 model, and I was a virulent hater during the title years. there are just so many ways this can go completely right or completely wrong, so many guys on the team with something to prove (goes back to Shoals' musings on what's at stake), so many game situations when at least 1 or 2 guys out there on the floor were widely thought to not even be remotely NBA-worthy (I think Smush has like a 59 rating on NBA2K6).

also, the comment on Sasha's hair was like the first time I've literally laughed out loud at the internets in weeks.

 
At 4/27/2006 9:57 AM, Anonymous Existenz said...

as much as i want to see that hallway series happen, the philly in me will just not allow me to ever root for kobe in any way, even as i marvel at how insanely he has played this year. i still remember driving down south broad st during the 2001 finals and seeing a kobe jersey ON FIRE hung on a stoplight. oh the glory days.

 
At 4/27/2006 11:28 AM, Anonymous Aaron said...

Why doesn't anyone see Game 2 as Kobe disappearing for large stretches? I mean, he was in this main ballhander role that somehow required him to dump the ball into Kwame every possession and then stand all the way on the other side of the court doing nothing. If Kobe hadn't taken over late, I would be at a total loss to how these Lakers beat the Suns.

I was absolutely stunned in looking at the box score after the game to realize that Kwame pulled down only 2 boards all game. He was the best big besides Odom on the floor for the majority of the game, and he got 2 rebounds! I think I still get confused by the difference between his potential and his reality. He looks so much like a legit all-star center that you forget how untalented a basketball player he is.

I had a much better time watching Game 1 than Game 2. I think it had all the elements Shoals described back then, and Game 2 was a crash back down to the reality of the situation- the Suns need Amare, the Lakers are built entirely on the Zen mind-games of Phil and the ego of Kobe.

 
At 4/27/2006 11:32 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

with all due respect, i can't think of a bigger oxymoron than "kobe disappearing for long stretches." he could spend a quarter in the bathroom and would be still be entirely present and dominant.

 
At 4/27/2006 11:40 AM, Anonymous Pichi Campana said...

I too strangely found myself rooting for the Lakers last night, despite being a hater for my entire life. How does it happen? Also, Kobe's Dunk and One Arm Hang made me absolutely giddy, when in years past I would have found it revolting.

 
At 4/27/2006 11:55 AM, Anonymous Edwin O'Malley said...

The pregame ESPN roundtable commentary was ridiculous. The way the experts bad-mouthed Phil's game planning made it seem like they had simply caught the highlights on SportCenter and heard Kobe's point total and the fact that the Suns won. They didn't realize that not only did the Lakers come pretty close to winning, but there were a whole lot of unusual factors in the game working against them, such as Kobe's morose fourth q.

Some, who continue to deny, will contend that the plan only works when the Lakers play a perfectly-in-sync game. But that's certainly not what happened last night: way-out-of-bounds Odom passes, a few absolute fumbles by Brown, a couple of moronic missed shots from Walton, Smush's behind-the-back turnover.

And yet, even when the Suns made runs, the team kept its composure and put the game away -- even though this wasn't even the pinnacle of their game.

All the same, the defensive spacing brought a tear to my eye that was sweet instead of salty. When they brought the ball up the court, it actually looked like they knew what to do next without simply handing the ball to KB and letting him see what he could do.

Now, there's no way the game plan works without Kobe's orchestrating the floor. (And all the people who called Kobe the "most selfish player ever" after his 81 should be made to watch this game and given five minutes to rebut.) But this sure looks like Phil's team now.

Assuming this trend keeps up, we'll find out for sure in round 2, where Elton Brand and Chris Kaman will certainly not bend like reeds in the wind for Kwame Brown and Lamar Odom in the post.

If LA (right) can beat LA (left) in that series, will Phil put a funny little hat on the greatest coach ever discussion?

 
At 4/27/2006 12:28 PM, Anonymous Carlos Destrroyo said...

The Lakers, with two stars and a bunch of castaways, are absolutely fascinating to watch. It's like the bizarro Pistons, only that if traded, their players would all tank and end up playing ball in Greece.

The Suns, on the other hand, have always reminded me of outdoor MSU pickup games. They get a rebound, run, find a guy with some space around him, and he jacks a shot at the rime. And in the halfcourt, the ball goes to a guy with decent handles who fakes right, fakes left, and steps back for a brick.

Perhaps that's the fascination, that this simplistic "everyone gets a shot" ball is exactly what we all play, but it all seems too basic to work, like watching the Vienna Symphony Orchestra play pentatonic scales for an hour.

 
At 4/27/2006 12:50 PM, Anonymous westney said...

Carlos-

I get your analogy and I think it applies quite well, but just to correct the record:
It's the Vienna Philharmonic, and the scales they play are by and large diatonic.

 
At 4/27/2006 1:05 PM, Blogger Joey said...

So how fucked up is this: lovable, floppy-haired Steve Nash has somehow managed to become a villain in my universe while likely rapist and pathological competitor Kobe is cast as the heroic dramatic foil? And keep in mind, objectively, I hate Kobe. I can't stand his personality, his usual disdain for people not named "Kobe," his distant gazes--he's horrible. But yet, the supremacy of his ability and the triumph of his will--I ain't mad at either of those things.

Plus, as a lifelong Knicks fan, I have always suffered from some kind of basketball Stockholm Syndrome. The Bulls of my childhood were the captors with whom I couldn't help but fall in love. They tormented me and stole away my hope...but their excellence, the transcendence of Michael, the presence of prototypical-swingman Scottie! They were impossible to resist. I wanted Scottie and Michael to succeed if the Knicks couldn't. It was the flourishing of greatness, and the thrill of feeling like a participant, even if it was vicarious.

Now, in the aftermath, I almost feel validated as I watch Phil succeed without a star-studded lineup. And weirdest and worst of all, this has all happened in the span of about a week. I am in emotional turmoil right now.

 
At 4/27/2006 1:11 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

joey--i was trying to explain to a friend last night how it was i felt after the lakers escaped defeat by the blazers, or unjustly edged out the kings. you just said it perfectly.

and i was kind of into the idea of an entire orchestra playing pentatonic scales.

 
At 4/27/2006 1:39 PM, Blogger Brickowski said...

Add me to the list of former Laker haters/Sun loverz who now can't help but root for Kobe and company. As much as it pains me to cheer for a Phil Jax team, this Nash MVP thing has pushed me over the edge. For me this has nothing to do with Stockholm Syndrome or the Vienna Philharmonic, but instead is a product of nothing less than a love of The Just. I want to see Kobe beat Nash over the head with Mo-Pod the same way Hakeem once did to my beloved Saint David. I want to see this wrong get righted. And, barring that, at least let Kobe continue to defend the honor of Sasha.

 
At 4/27/2006 2:27 PM, Blogger T. said...

You know what's odd?

I grew up a huge Laker fan. The sound of my childhood is Chick Hearn and Stu Lantz giving me a word's eye view from my dad's car stereo.

Now, because of personal/financial/career reasons, I'm a fan of the Rockets - leaving me free and clear to choose any team in the playoffs.

And in the Suns/Lakers series, I choose PHX. And here's the weird part, not only are the Lakers my former favorite team, but the Suns have my absolute least favorite current player (Tim Thomas).

But I want to see the Matrix throwing in that crazy jumper over Duncan and Nowitzki, Barbosa exchanging Portuguese insults with Manu about Germany '06. Suns (or Clippers) for the LOB!

 
At 4/27/2006 2:49 PM, Blogger Mirabeau Lamar said...

I, too, find myself rooting for LA, who I have always rooted against. My first words were "Beat LA," if I am to believe my Celtic-fan father. However, like many of you, I find myself rooting for my least favorite player, Mamba, against a team whose style of play I truly enjoy. Nash's ridiculous back-to-back MVP awards notwithstanding, I am truly intrigued by the possibility of an all-LA Staples Series.

The Battle for the Soul of Los Angeles. Lakers vs. Clippers. A tradition of success vs. one of failure. Glamour vs. Broken Dreams. Paris Hilton vs. the failed actor serving her appletinis. The American Dream vs. the dream deferred. That series would be nothing less than a referendum on the American Experiment. A cursory look at Kobe vs. Brand or Walton vs. Kaman shows how beautifully metaphorical the whole series would be. The Clips are LA's underbelly (Blood In, Blood Out) while the Lakers are Lindsay Lohan shopping on Rodeo drive. The Clips are Oscar-hosting Billy Crystal. The Lakers are Oscar-winning Jack Nicholson.

T, Manu speaks Portugese? Isn't he from Argentina?

 
At 4/27/2006 3:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

watching these games is just weird, because there's no real D, it's all just spacing. even stranger is watching kwame just sort of shuffle around, trying to find something to do. he almost never hustles. makes me think he must be stoned or something, because that little effort is just inexplicable (shot taken, a sun gets the rebound, kwame stands around for a second of two, then makes his way leisurely back down the court for some D, repeat).

 
At 4/27/2006 4:02 PM, Anonymous spider said...

Manu speaks everything.
Dude probably speaks Slovenian to Rasho also...

 
At 4/27/2006 4:26 PM, Blogger T. said...

Lamar - nah, I just pictured Barbosa yapping away in Portuguese to Manu.

 
At 4/27/2006 4:58 PM, Anonymous Mr. Six said...

Just repeating myself from last night, but in case people already aren't looking at the comments on the 4.25.2006 post ...

Charles Barkley let slip during halftime the absolutely perfect nickname for Amare: Hellboy.

I shouldn't be this excited about a nickname, but the league needs more good ones.

 
At 4/27/2006 5:48 PM, Anonymous Jack said...

I think Black Jesus is a better (and less derivative) nick name than Hellboy. Besides, when Amare re-emerges as a gimpy but cagey veteran next season, ala McDyess, Black Jesus will have a much more tragicically fitting air to it then anachronistic Hellboy.

 
At 4/27/2006 8:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. Just reading that comparison to McDyess made me sad. Everyone forgets that McDyess was the missing link between Kemp and Amare. I remember when he was drafted from Alabama and the scouts were going crazy over his 42 inch vertical. I can't even remember the last time I saw McDyess dunk. Micro-fracture surgery, let's hope you do not rear your ugly head again. I'll really miss those Amare lightning fast power dunks.

 
At 4/27/2006 8:50 PM, Anonymous Carlos Destrroyo said...

westney-

Yeah, details tend to go missing when one is in a rush to get to a class he teaches.

Anon-

Actually, Dice throws it down pretty regularly; he seems to be attacking the rim pretty well this year. It should also be noted that he said he threw down a windmill in practice last week, the first time he's done that in quite some time apparently.

But damn, can't a guy be big and explosive without somehow fucking up his career?

 
At 4/27/2006 9:01 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

watch me legislate some quasi-fascist FD policy on the spot: from here on out, anyone who refers to amare in the past tense will get there comment deleted. smiles all around!!!!

btw there's a good chance that if amare runs aground, this blog dies with him. and i don't even know if this is entirely a matter of choice.

 
At 4/28/2006 1:09 AM, Blogger El Dave said...

I feel that Kobe's new number is symbolic (most likely unintentionally) of Kobe as a player. This only confirms a theory I've had for while, which I call "The Kobe Bauer Theory".
I most associate "24" with the show, and the show with Jack Bauer, it's star. For those who don't know, Jack Bauer is an unstoppable on/off government agent who fights terrorists without mercy or regard for protocol. However, as show/Game 2 shows, even Jack Bauer/Kobe needs help from his cohorts, who at times have saved his life and even brought him back from the dead.
Surely this describes Kobe Post Game 2. While he played an excellent game (double-double), he needed Odom and co. to win. He made the dunk, Odom made the past. Jack Bauer may kill the terrorist, but he need Chloe to triangulate the satillites.
And both their lives revolve around Los Angeles.
To sum up, Kobe and Jack Bauer are the same person.

 
At 4/28/2006 8:01 AM, Anonymous Kaifa said...

No offense to you El Dave, but the thought of every TV analyst making the Kobe/Jack Bauer analogy next season is already depressing me.

Another possible explanation: somebody suggested (on here?) that Kobe is very interested in or at least starting to get very interested in African-American history and that the change to #24 might be some kind of tribute, maybe to Jackie Robinson. The sad part about this is that with Kobe the discussion about such a motive will probably follow a very predictable pattern: a lot of people questioning whether this is another marketing/image rebuilding ploy, and a few voices suggesting that maybe Kobe should be given the benefit of the doubt just once regarding his true motives. And even sadder, I guess everybody on here who's reading articles about the NBA on a daily basis has an idea of which writer will push which angle. Or am I being too negative here?

Another nice idea for the ' change, suggested in the ESPN poll: A Nike marketing strategy to sell Bryant and Odom together as "24/7"!

 
At 4/28/2006 8:22 AM, Anonymous Kaifa said...

In case you haven't already seen it, here's the link to a very entertaining Darius Miles interview, just scroll down a little:

http://www.oregonlive.com/weblogs/blazersoregonian/index.ssf?/mtlogs/olive_blazersbeat/archives/2006_04.html

Added bonus at the top of the page: two videos of Andrea Bargnani, who could turn out to be the Jerry Stackhouse in the growing line of next Nowitzkis I mean in the same way as Stackhouse turned out to be the next Jordan, of course.

Therefore: Nikoloz Tskitishvili = Harold Minor (the busts)? Radmanovic = Vince Carter (one-trick pony versions of the role model)? Pau Gasol = Kobe (successful but developed in a different direction)? Thoughts?

 
At 4/28/2006 9:42 AM, Anonymous blindblue said...

The Lakers NEED to make it past the Suns. My sleep will be forever fitful until one of the networks runs promos for the Hallway Series with tracks off "The Battle of Los Angeles." I'm personally hoping for Born of a Broken Man...

My fears hunt me down
Capturing my memories
The frontier of loss
They try to escape across the street where
Jesus stripped bare
And raped the spirit he was supposed to nurture


Well, maybe not that song. That would be kind of awkward.

And come on, how is the Hellboy moniker anachronistic when used in reference to Amare? Not to geek out, but Hellboy's right hand is the trigger for the end of the world.

 
At 4/28/2006 10:20 AM, Blogger T. said...

Kaifa - One problem I have with Skita = Baby Jordan is that I steadfastly hold on to the belief that if Harold had played on a different team he could've made a long career in the NBA. Maybe not the star that they projected him at - but he was gifted on offense. That 1991 JimmyJack vs. Harold Minor game (USC/OSU) is second only to the 'Nique/Larry Bird game in terms of individual duels. And yes, that puts it ahead of the TMac/Dirk 50 vs. 51 game last year.

Maybe if he didn't have to play for mid-90s Riles he could've made it work.

 
At 4/28/2006 11:31 AM, Anonymous Mr. Six said...

Jesus nicknames do nothing for me. I find them facile. The metaphor never works and the narrative is overly hagiographic.

Hellboy is mythic, folkloric, anarchic, and a force of ur-nature. He is a de-horned demon granted honorary human status, a dervish of destruction and creation. And to elaborate on blindblue's point, when Amare throws down, I will now only be able to think of the Right Hand of Doom.

 
At 4/28/2006 12:38 PM, Blogger Mirabeau Lamar said...

Mr6, true dat about Black Jesus v. Hellboy. The only time Jesus has worked as a decent moniker was when ODB briefly referred to himself as Big Baby Jesus. That having been said, the Jesus nickname is usually bad luck (divine jealousy); ODB is dead and Amare injured. Hubris and self-deification can be fatal flaws in mortal men.

 

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