Hear nature scream

The playoffs have gotten so dim that, for the second time in a week, I'm going to devote an entire post to a reader's comments. This morning, Jimbo suggested that we're doomed to sound like a lock groove in the coming weeks:

You know Shoals, for an NBA fan you're pretty invariably pessimistic about the NBA. I won't go so far as to say it's getting a wee bit boring, but I will say this: your constant suggestion that the likes of the Spurs and Pistons are ruining the league sounds like the perfect inverse of the 'play-the-right-way' complaints of the opposite camp.

Vis, it sometimes sounds exactly like 'all this dunking and one-on-one play is ruining the game' except 'all these perfect defensive rotations and extra passes' are ruining the game.

I say this in all seriousness: maybe we've been horribly, drainingly wrong. More than anything else, FreeDarko has stringily devoted itself to the prosperous gospel of The New NBA. Not nostalgia for the eighties, not nineties malaise, but a living, breathing synthesis where eye-catching performers could carry viable contendors. Were it not for this vision, chances are we wouldn't go out of our to celebrate oddities who, under the right circumstances, could rise to the level of our chieftains. We've frequently scoffed at a win/loss bottom line, but good look finding a single mention of And1 or proof that our hearts titter for anything other than NEXT LEVEL DOMINANCE.

With this postseason shaking out the way it is, though, should we be reconsidering our position? If none of our cherished causes can even make it past Round 1, and the teams taking care of business at this very moment have at least a few more years left in them, must this dream be deferred? That is, should FreeDarko admit that we're ultimately about frivolity, that the symbolic victories we seek will, for at least the foreseeable future, remain separate in reality from the real thing?

"When I step with my shoe of gold, I am forced to scrape the ground with the other ankle"—Thomas Karate


At 5/14/2006 6:30 PM, Anonymous griffin said...

I think the semis are going to redeem themselves this coming week, especially with San Antonio in the unusual position of trailing in a series. Perhaps this will end the sobering sobriety that Round Two has presented us thus far?

A few words about the Detroit Pistons. One of the FD contributors recently described Detroit's offense as being like a humming machine. In other words, the suggestion was that the Pistons' automatic execution led to dry entertainment. And with that in mind, I began to question why we in Metro Detroit enjoy the Pistons almost to the point of cult status?

After watching the past few games, I've reached an obvious conclusion: it's all about the defense. Nothing excites the Palace crowd like great defensive stands. Unlike the offense, the defense is more improvised and emotionally charged. This is also why basketball is like jazz (I'm aware this comparison has been scoffed at on FD). Great improvisation is exciting and recognizable by all, and it is defensive improvisation that gets the Palace so loud.

So what I'm left to assume is that, for non-Piston fans, the "excitement" of the defense is not nearly as satisfying to watch as a LeBron James windmill. And in that case, the Pistons will always be boring to watch from a national point-of-view.

The Pistons also lack national storytelling intrigue. Who cares outside of Detroit if the Pistons can win a 'ship without LB? Isn't that the big storyline ESPN is selling? Also, the Hickery High underdog element is gone. The Pistons now are just a team that knows how to win basketball games.

Again, if I look locally, we want to see if these Pistons can match the Bad Boys two titles and possibly surpass their total, which is a type of storyline. And from my own perspective, I find the Chauncey Billups / Ben Wallace co-captain duel fascinating. Both guys always call the other guy the leader, even though their eyes give them away. The Palace crowd has gone from all #3 jerseys and afros, to some #3's and a lot of #1's. And I wonder if it could ever reaching a breaking point. Word has it Ben just hired some big shot agent to handle his contract this summer...

Anyways, I wish people nationally could get as excited about the Pistons as we Detroiters are able to, but I also understand how they can translate as being robotic and therefore grim.

I view the Spurs as being grim, which is probably exactly what a non-Detroiter thinks about the Pistons.

At 5/14/2006 6:44 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i would never call these pistons grim, and i really wish i could enjoy watching them.

re: your thoughts on the thrill of defense. that's how i felt about wallace back when he had to do it all himself.

maybe i just truly hate the team game.

At 5/14/2006 6:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't read enough of your blog to know the FreeDarko philosophy but I couldn't agree more about the NBA being about the greatness of brilliant individual performers.

As much as the league tries to hide that fact behind what's become the cliche of playing the-right-way, the fact remains that basketball is a game of individuals, or at least more than any other major sport, save Nascar and uh..poker. The NBA needs to play to these strengths rather than forcing any team looking for success to tailor their game around the Larry Brown model. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for teams with great chemistry making up for lack of talent but c'mon, the Sonics were title contenders last year.

Also, if there's another Pistons-Spurs finals this year I'm going to eat a pine cone. Conservative basketball sucks.

At 5/14/2006 6:58 PM, Anonymous rainbow squirt said...

Cheer up, there's still Dwayne Wade. Dude was all lightsaber duels and old John Woo movies and Chinese acrobats today. That one move where he went for the layup, but Krstic's hand was in his face, so he just stayed in the air while he switched around and layed it in from the other side: the man can curve space.

And the NBA wants to go and ban tights. Buncha nincompoops.

At 5/14/2006 7:11 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i came to the conclusion today that, were wade still with odom, butler, and svg, i might have a whole different cosmos of feeling toward him. as is, he's stuck on a team that's somewhere between the unlovable "73 win" lakers and the nellie/cuban roster that never was. the company you keep, my friends.

no fucking clue what to say about the nets. i go back and forth between thinking they're unachievers and marveling at how much they've been able to do.

WV: ybnchi

(new slang: "you bitch" or "yeah bitch" + "davinci code"="yabinci!!!!")

At 5/14/2006 7:31 PM, Anonymous Memory Jones said...

I remember a press conference shortly after the Pistons traded Grant Hill to Orlando, when Joe Dumars said that he wanted to remake the Piston's image from one that was based on stars to one where people were cheering more for the "team." They scrapped the flaming horse-head and their color scheme flipped back to red, white, and blue.

So how much of the public concept of them is due to Dumar's marketing them as "Team Pistons"? Is it just that he created the team that fit his vision (anchored by Ben Wallace, one of the acquisitions in the Orlando trade) or that the public accepted his vision and then projected that onto the team before them?

The concept has survived shifts in players and coaches, so it seems less tied to a particular moment than a gestalt captured by Pistons-as-ideal.

Riddle me this: In 2001, if someone had told you that Rasheed Wallace was going to be playing on a title contender and would be known for his acquiescence to "team" instead of his record-breaking tech count, would you have believed it?

Then ask yourself has 'Sheed changed, or just his image?

Are the Pistons a team of selfless warriors, or a crew of folks who had been maxed out elsewhere and are allowed to shine by kowtowing to their own limitations and the fact that they play in a mediocre conference? (The Knicks, minus pretense; is Steve Francis in Piston's jersey a scrappy scorer instead of a superstar disappointment?)

At 5/14/2006 8:33 PM, Anonymous bublitchki said...

Sheed has not changed his play OR his image. What has changed is his surroundings. For him, Detroit is the ideal situation.

In Portland, 'Sheed was the team's best player and was therefore expected to be the Blazers' go-to guy. That was a role he was reluctant to assume from the git-go. One night, he'd step up, drop 30 and 13, earn flowery encomiums from management and local media only to be derided as a no 'count the following night when he'd play a secondary role and tally a Haslem-esque 12/5. Over time, Sheed grew increasingly surly and

In Detroit, Sheed can be Sheed: a superstar on some nights and a role player on others.

Word verification: eiempftq

At 5/14/2006 9:15 PM, Anonymous jack said...

Regarding the pistons fans being the only ones able to truly appreciate defense:

Don't be so full of yourself. It's always fun to watch a team make a key stop, or go on a 12 zero run to end the half. I think it's a little harder to cheer for the pistons because they have such great individual defensive players.

Watching the Clippers defense is fun, because you know Cassell is gonna get beat, and it's not the "I'm funneling my man to Brand and Kaman" beat, it's "if I rotate my hips then I will have to leave the game for a few minutes" beat. You marvel at Hubie calling Quinton Ross a defensive stopper, when it's pretty clear that he's just a freak who doesn't know what he's doing. Magette never plays good defense because he has to save all his fouls for the offensive end. Somehow Elton Brand is the glue that made this team lead the league in blocks and is holding its opponents at 40% FG% this post season (next is miami at 44%).

Probably the Eastern Conference Clippers are Miami, where you expect Shaq to be a solid post presence, Dwayde to be hard to beat off the dribble, and Haslem and Posey to be valuable defensive subs, but the opposite is true, and still they are the best defensive team in the Eastern Conference. They rack up a lot of steals, is the only explanation I have, but that's not in Riley's defensive game plan.

Anyway, I really appreciate teams that shouldn't have a defensive identity, but still get it together and shut down opponents.

On a sidenote, I would like to point out that the Seattle team with Jerome James, Danny Fortson, and Reggie Evans, led the league in dumb last year, which makes it a little surprising they had any sort of defense. You can just kind of imagine Jerome James thinking "I'm Jerome James, bitch!, heh heh heh" after every rebound.

At 5/14/2006 11:56 PM, Blogger Snicker-snack said...

I don't think you need to feel bad about disliking certain teams; it's pretty impossible to remain completely objective and only, as they say, "a fan of the game". I have personally been rooting for the Pistons because I like the idea of the best team (I use this loosely, not in a pass-first sort of sense) winning, I loathe Lebron for some strange reason, and I wanted to see what kind of black magic Gillyweed might be able to work on them. But the Pistons are just fun as hell to watch this year with Flip (aren't they almost last in layups!), and my only problem with them is only that there are so many blowouts.

But anyway, Freedarko hasn't been wrong. It's just that the teams with standout stars in past years have been surrounded by such marginalia that they don't have a chance in a 7-game series against better teams. Look what Iverson was able to do with people who did nothing but play defense, and let's not forget Kobe and Shaq's 3-year dominance of the planet.

At 5/15/2006 12:42 AM, Anonymous griffin said...


your response to my post is illogical. i see no evidence that i was "full of myself."

my point is that i understand why non-Pistons fans would be unentertained by Deeetroit basketball. that's all.

At 5/15/2006 1:52 AM, Anonymous jack said...

Ok, sorry if I misinterpreted it, I thought you were saying non-Piston fans don't enjoy defense oriented basketball. Still though, what you said in your last post is kind of a tautology, seeing as the definition of a pistons fan is somebody who enjoys watching the pistons play basketball.

At 5/15/2006 5:11 AM, Anonymous Jimbo said...

Wow, I'm not sure how to feel. On one hand I'm front page on a legendary blog; on the other hand the quote makes it seem like I'm one of those intellectually half-baked hater types. (Basically the comment carried the intended meaning, it was just poorly constructed.) Anyway, yes, maybe/hopefully it is just the playoffs.

And I hope your dream of "eye-catching performers could carry viable contendors" is viable. The main barrier to that in my mind had been that success in the NBA is premised on big man play and sound defense. But Luc Longeley was not key to the Bulls' run and Bird was no centre; defense is not inconsistent with eye-opening-ness (I think); and of course Amare showed us, if only briefly, that the FD big man can exist.

Go not quietly into that good night, FreeDarko, and keep the dream alive. But remember at least it isn't late 90s Heat-Knicks...

At 5/15/2006 12:33 PM, Blogger c-los said...

Im not a Pistons fan but I enjoy watching them play this year. Im not a purist at all and I could care less about team ball but for some reason they amaze me how their sets look so effortless. They get the shots they want and rarely do you see them flustered. To prove my love of impure hoops I watched a tape of the 88 allstar game the other day and kept thinking to myself that these guys suck. Noone had moves, handles, etc... The older guys(Bird, Moses Malone, Alex English) just ran as fast as they could to open spots and shot jumpers. The younger guys (MJ, Karl Malone) just basically ran past their men off pure quickness and shot out of control layups. I turned it off after 10 mins.


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