5.17.2006

I had those fingers crossed



Fuck everything you heard from me. This whole time, coarsing through the noose of morass I've draped around this postseason, was this one central assumption: LeBron, for all his primacy, could not take out the Pistons. In fact, I hadn't even bothered until yesterday to insert that dazzling asterik: a possible Wade/James Conference Finals, which would be just about the most FreeDarko thing imaginable (since we value winning and all). I'm not flinching on my overall assessment of Wade, but I do know that their late-season tango this spring was up there with the most amazing two man duels I've had the privilege of assaying.

This was the most astounding playoff victory since Iverson briefly slew Goliath. Even if they'd lost, I'd probably be saying this, but under those circumstances, in that arena, against that team. . .I am not a very demonstrative man, and still I'm dragging my jawpiece around the floor as I pace the living room. Then again, it did come after almost as important an upset in the world of high-stakes televised competition:



In retrospect, I feel a little stupid having bled so much hyperbole over him in Round 1. Yes, those were inspired, aesthetically impeccable performances, the kind of thing you'd carve out of soap if you had a long, long time to think about a sport you would never see again. As I noted after the Cavs' second win, this LeBron looked much more like an actual basketball player in a supremely challenging situation, as opposed to the sport's life force running wild. However, watching James subtlely manufacture that win was one of the most transcendent feelings of my entire sports viewing life. He was rarely fancy, not glaringly determined, and more concerned with almost trivial variations on "the little things" than some sort of operatic arc. What that win meant, though, is more impressive than two thousands liters of scalding highlights. LeBron James, one man, is seriously going toe-to-toe with perhaps the best pure team since Jordan's Bulls. He has next to nothing on his side, yet props up his troops for one last ragged ride without any of the ceremony of Kobe's semi-triumphs. Most mind-blowing, though, is that I'm hardly incriminating Kobe—LeBron is just that next level when it comes to influencing the flow and shape of the action.

(I guess you can put this on the Pistons. They fell apart. Three times in a row? By a team built on the rock of balance and patience? Suddenly they're cocky and prone to sloppiness? Does this really seem more likely than LeBron changing the way we understand this entire season that's just transpired?)

Speculation is useless because, for once, LeBron has exceeded expectations and thrown a low-blow to the logic he's meant to embody. This was not the plan; this was not the script he'd been handed, the Jordan-like humbling at the hands of an anti-heroic bunch of walking nettles. At this point, thinking that LeBron is capable of pulling off absolutely anything is not cynicism or the sign of a sucker—it's proof that you've really, truly been watching the games.



For all of you who were deeply concerned about the state of my relationship with the NBA. . .I am still on the verge of tears and having the time of my life watching Mavs/Spurs. Silverbird accurately explained this as my "playoff conversion," meaning that anything I said before was the work of a troubled, aimless soul.

23 Comments:

At 5/17/2006 10:53 PM, Blogger T. said...

Everything I know is wrong.

 
At 5/18/2006 12:15 AM, Blogger GentleWhoadie9000 said...

let's face it- it's the freeway beard.

 
At 5/18/2006 12:19 AM, Blogger ~CW~ said...

Welcome aboard, Shoals. If the Spurs and Pistons cannot pull themselves out of their respective holes - Dirk just tied it at 95 as I write this - the Finals will be some combination of Heat/Cavs vs. Mavs/Clips/Suns, which seems like an absolute blast to me.

 
At 5/18/2006 12:21 AM, Blogger mutoni said...

good god almighty. dirk just did the single most entertaining post-basket celebration in western civilization afte r tying the game on a three. awesome stuff! gotta love the NBA.

 
At 5/18/2006 12:56 AM, Blogger SilverBird5000 said...

why does david robinson have such crappy seats?

WHY IS CHARLES CRANKY?

fmumybvp

 
At 5/18/2006 12:57 AM, Anonymous aug said...

I can't tell if i like it or not, but because down to the buzzer games(except the heat-nets series), all the teams have been running the same play. I swear to god, if i have to see nash/diaw and cassell/brand run that damn moving high pick and roll or the mavs and spurs isolate for dirk and manu or watching lebron go 1 on 5 with 5 seconds on the shot clock one more time, i might go crazy. It's nice to see teams do what they think is the best play, but in these games that have been going to OT or trading important possessions, i now know all of the 6 teams crunch time plans. I mean, how hard is it for the opposing coach to disrupt this.


On a serious note though. I think one of the reasons you have been enjoying these playoffs so much is because you have shut off your mind(or maybe it was numbed from the constant mind blowing moments) and just watched the game. It's hard not to get swept away in the emotion and glory that is NBA basketball these playoffs. There's little time to admire the aesthetics and the complex personalities and whether something is freedarko or not. It's just pure basketball. It's hard to describe these playoffs, which is why you probably find yourself wanting to write more posts. You can't describe it and hope it'll come with writing. Maybe i'm wrong, but these playoffs definitely have left me speechless more often than the ones in years past.

While it has been great, i really do miss kobe and what was for a brief amount of time the new look lakers. After everyone started hating(pretty unjustly too, just because shaq is more likable) kobe unjustly, he gained a bit of a chip on his shoulder underdog quality about him that i enjoy. Watching his transendent talent and a group of misfits the nba and the dleague has never before seen almost topple a "so underdog that they're overrated" teams with a new nba villain in the suns and nash, brough a brief tear to my eye that wasn't even allowed to fall. Besides that though, i just want to keep watching the games. I really do hope the pistons handle lebron and the clips handle the suns because this isn't the year for the nba to change. Lebron will have his moment, but this isn't the cast i want him to do it with. I want a new look, modern team with style to begin to win it all and change the game, but the suns(especially sans amare) is not the team i want to do it. I'd be happy with a mild changing of the guards like the mavs or heat winning it all, or the pistons and spurs just to keep the ol' status quo to make it better for the new age to take over.


I don't know if the playoffs can fulfill all my wishes though. It'll take another postseason or two until i'm satisfied. Good luck finding your self shoals, i'm still in the process as the playoffs continue to shake my perception of basketball

 
At 5/18/2006 1:03 AM, Blogger T. said...

How many crazy plays was Ginobili involved with down the stretch? I've heard/read somewhere that he's Kobe's favorite player to watch. A telling comment - he talked about how Manu and Barbosa (and one other player - latin american?) were very difficult to guard because they all keep the ball in the middle - instead of favoring either hand. Something from soccer? Samba? Tango? A different rhythm for sure. One of my coaches always says that basketball is a game of rhythm - if the latin guys have a different drummer, that makes them more difficult to guard.

 
At 5/18/2006 1:11 AM, Blogger SilverBird5000 said...

i think the other guy was diaw, but yeah - its interesting that he would name 3 "euros". players have such an infinitely better understanding of how rhythm/style/geopolitics and every other nuance matter in a game, it seems almost criminal that so many other people get paid to write and talk about it. never was that more obvious to me than when hearing kobe talk tonight.

 
At 5/18/2006 1:42 AM, Blogger The Electric Zarko said...

Everbody always says that Kobe is smart. After watching him on TNT, I would agree with a major caveat:

Kobe is smart enough to get himself in some major trouble.

 
At 5/18/2006 1:45 AM, Anonymous Mr. Six said...

KB8/24 is built for analysis. Who woulda thunk.

In an alternate universe, today Professor Bryant gave an inspiring lecture on liberation through capital and set a half dozen young future revolutionaries on an unprecedented path.

 
At 5/18/2006 10:12 AM, Blogger Mirabeau Lamar said...

What a night! Did the Earth stop revolving around the sun. Is Cleveland up 3-2? GW9K, I agree that the Cavs bearded glory has given them the necessary strength to topple the mighty Pistons. Think the biblical Sampson with his facial hair containing his power.

Re: the Texas Showdown Series: Damn. This is a Finals-caliber matchup (just like the old Spurs-Lakers Western semis), with a regional rivalry drama, and a showcase for two of the best bigs who have ever played. My God. I'm glad Shoals has come around on this matchup. I had no clue that the Mavs would put SA in this position.

 
At 5/18/2006 10:54 AM, Anonymous Unsilent Majority said...

Fantastic incites shoals.
the queen has earned his due.
but i'll still take the black prez over flash...and that's all that matters.

 
At 5/18/2006 10:56 AM, Blogger Adrianheh said...

Did anyone notice during the Cavs wild celebration, Anderson Varejao (who looks like Sideshow Bob) smashed Damon Jones in the eyeball while hugging someone else. Everyone was so elated, they didn't notice Jones bent over and clutching at his eye socket in agony. I rewound it 5 times. Priceless.

 
At 5/18/2006 11:01 AM, Blogger Joey said...

The Pistons have gone from title favorite to endangered species in a week. What. The. Fuck.

I remember: As I watched a late-season Miami-Cleveland game back in March (?) that featured the amazing Wade-James fourth-quarter shootout, I was thinking, "It's a shame that we won't get to see this in the playoffs since not even LeBron is getting by Detroit." Um...

Wade vs. Bron will likely be the best thing of my life for the next decade, but the Pistons losing will really, really hurt.

 
At 5/18/2006 11:20 AM, Blogger dOctorGriZick said...

I must admit that while i have been enjoying the king james train as much as humanly possible, i still worry about his chances to make it to a matchup with d-wade.

Part of me believes that if the cavs dont win in six they are effed, but an even more curious part of me needs to see a game seven, win or lose.

How's scoop's article about how the defining moment of James' carreer would be his 4-1 loss to the pistons looking now?

As always, well done scoop. Your insight on the game amazes me.

 
At 5/18/2006 12:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

is it just me, or is pop crazy? the spurs won it all last year with their two big man set, they won a franchise record number of games in the regular season, but they scrap their entire system deep in the playoffs? so that the players are unfamiliar with the scheme at the worst time? so that their old guys have to run and scramble way more than they did in the regular season? why not dance with them what brung ya or whatever that folksy saying is? seems silly to me, and the proof seems to be that the spurs have yet to have a decent game against the mavs where they win by a decent margin (this team should be capable of that at least once in 5 games).

as for the pistons, their playoff series always go longer than they should, the pistons always fall asleep at some point in the playoffs, they lack that killer instinct despite all statements to the contrary. not saying the cavs didn't earn it, but i wasn't buying that the regular season meant the pistons were unstoppable. they even lost to the bucks. don't get me wrong, i prefer this year's playoffs to the first round sweeps of the past.

 
At 5/18/2006 12:18 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

could it be that, despite all regular season evidence to the contrary, the nba is approaching a state of parity?

my favorite thing about the spurs series, besides watching duncan play the way i think most of wish he would all the time, is the new message: old farts parker and ginobili get positively BURNED by the young, blurry mavs backcourt. WTF?!?!?!?! on so many levels. . .

 
At 5/18/2006 12:28 PM, Blogger dOctorGriZick said...

anon-

I agree with the sentiment on Pop.
For the first time in as long as i can remember watching the spurs i think pop is getting outcoached. Avery Johnson is pretty much dictating every aspect of the game, and i love that the mere insertion of devin harris into the starting lineups means the likes of Rasho and Nazr may never be heard from again.

 
At 5/18/2006 12:29 PM, Anonymous Aaron said...

We all know Larry Brown wouldn't have lost that game. Just saying.

 
At 5/18/2006 12:35 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

which one?

 
At 5/18/2006 12:40 PM, Anonymous Mr. Six said...

LeBron was built to re-define "right way" and "TEAM" and thereby to nullify Larry Brown's existence.

 
At 5/18/2006 7:27 PM, Anonymous futuristxen said...

A team is something a superstar uses to accomplish winning in the playoffs.

Like that?

 
At 5/19/2006 5:17 AM, Anonymous rainbow squirt said...

1. I think Ms. Longoria may be wearing poor Tony Baloney out. Manu just looks bewildered. He made some key mistakes that contributed to the Spurs' past couple losses. Possible derogatory nick: "Manu Benigni" (too obvious maybe).

2. If Darko leaves the NBA anytime soon, you should change the name of this Blog to "Free Beno Udrih"

 

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