It ends here

Fuck what you heard. This is not Raja Bell's playoffs; contrary to what some too-clever smurf at ESPN.com would have you believe, he is not its face. If anything, he's the inoffensive placeholder at the heart of a raging picaresque, the innocent bystander who happened to synch up well with a series of outrageous climaxes. There is nothing exceptional or significant about Bell the man or the player, despite his well-documented friendship with Kirilenko, and his ascent over the last few weeks has been a slap in the face of the League of Stars mentality so heartily on display this spring. He's the epitome of the phantom journeyman, who happens into the right situation once or twice in his career and lives to tell about down through the years. That anyone truly feels that Bell, and not Diaw, has been the key to the Suns' peculiar, spectral run, is a disgrace to all forms of basketball, especially the qualitative weirdness that the Phoenix practices. The media seems intent on fixating on Bell exactly because he stands for so much that the Suns seemingly neglect; I'm not going to downplay his usefulness, but he's hardly changing a game on either end, unless you think it's that team's responsbility to nod toward the old guard in the form of one man's chastening orthdoxy.

It's gone to dude's head, too. Maybe I heard this wrong, but I thought that going into half two he made some unecessarily ballsy comments about "some people not thinking I belonged in the game tonight"—"those people" being Magic. Even if Magic isn't the vox athleti that DLIC rightly observed Charles to be, you don't take the dire tone of voice when MAGIC FUCKING JOHNSON has merely questioned whether your injury is fully healed. It was mildly amusing when Bell sought to bludgeon Kobe into respecting him—brilliant strategy on TS's part, if you hadn't figured that out already. Basically staring down Magic, though, is straight clownish, something not even Artest would fuck around with. If he's supposed to uphold all that is righteous and fruitful about the blood and guts section of basketball's tradition ("do you wear #19 because of Willis Reed?"), Bell might want to watch where he swings that honor of his; otherwise, he's just a punk riding a wave of reactionary media yearning, one that doesn't get the difference between holding his own with the stars and disrespecting the sport that they, not him, have defined through their good acts.

(UPDATE: Okay, he just apologized. He really does generally seem like a good guy, even if his moment of vast exposure is annoying the hell out of me.)

I also wanted to address some concerns about my massive Suns post raised by Aug, our resident grouchy technician. Or at least the one that affects the way I do business in a daily way. The Suns do not regularly attack the rim with the same sense of purpose or indignation that other teams do. . . with the exception of Barbosa, the only remotely concrete touchstone I have for the experience of watching that team. When he can figure out how to play a relatively traditional role in their topsy-turvy basketball universe, Barbosa gangles about as a slasher, a scary offensive threat that actually allows me to find meaning in the Suns' seemingly endless stream of wonder. Plus this involvement varies inversely with the amount of time Bell's able to spend out on the court. Making it all the more appropriate that I now claim, somewhat tentatively: FREE LEANDRO!!!!!!!!!!

(UPDATE #2: Looks like everyone just loves kidding around with Raja Bell. I guess if Kenny and Charles are willing to bend over backwards for him, I have to. Right?)


At 5/31/2006 1:07 AM, Anonymous aug said...

I also believe they attack the basket for different reasons than other teams. I feel that it's still essential to their game which is why i mentioned it a few posts ago.

Leandro does scare me though. I don't know what the man is gonna do next. He has the ugly release 3 that is deadly, the killer speed, and the handle and change of speed that made devin harris fall over himself once or twice tonight. The man has those long strides to get to the basket quickly(like manu) instead of the short ones to jump higher and change direction like most nba'ers. I'm definitely interested in seeing what he's going to do in the future. I thought i read somewhere he's a free agent or something this off season. I think he can get decent money somewhere, more than the suns might be able to offer since money is getting tight for them.

I also have hated bell even more than his kobe hacking days on the sixers during these playoffs. It's like he doesn't realize he's a blip in the nba world. He's a less heralded bruce bowen. I think his "I told you i'd make fucking shot" or something like that, that you could lip read after his 3 in the clip game 5 basically sums up the way i feel about him. HE'S A ROLE PLAYER AND WE DON'T CARE ABOUT HOW GREAT HE THINKS HE IS. Sometimes tnt/abc/espn kills me.

I'm not even going to say anything about diaw. I think you can look back at november comments i made, professing my love for him and waiting for him to fully blossom. He's about as athletic as amare(sans the strength), as good a passer as nash, a great post defender and offensive poster, is french, and has a great case of the popeye joneses. What's not to love?

At 5/31/2006 2:54 AM, Anonymous bayaz said...

Diaw's play's really been beautiful and his post-up moves are inspirational. Interesting to see how he'll play if they meet the Heat in the finals, what with Shaq and Alonzo down in the paint.

At any rate, I think this post basically sums up my whole problem with your philosophy towards the game Shoals. I (like a lot of other people around here I think) have really come around on the whole style kick and particularly its conceptualization in these parts, but the way you frame it is just basically so reactionary. I can't help but think that instead of celebrating or evangelizing for the creative as mass movement you end up idealizing a tiny group of players to the exclusion of anybody else who doesn't know their place, something that to me at least totally nullifies all, and I mean all of the political import of what you're doing. You end up sounding more like a technofascist than the anarchist that lurks at the heart of FreeDarko-dom. I don't want to start hating here, but damn if this doesn't sound like some bitch in the hamptons talking shit about Mexicans trying to unionize the local Wal-Mart. Maybe I'm absolutely wrong here, but I just can't escape a nagging frustration with your posts over the last couple of weeks.

At 5/31/2006 5:26 AM, Anonymous Uncle Ted said...

This is not a place for banal mush mouthed egalitarian politico-moral fetishism. Save that for times that matter (or maybe better just save it in the corner of your apartment). There is nothing reactionary in exalting virtue and giving mere mortals like Bell their due. The NBA is a league of superheros where the most noteworthy and memorable players bring some pefection of a basketballish virtue to the floor. (Think Iverson's quickness, Shaq's low post dominance, Nash's awareness of the court, Ray Allen's release.) Players who don't exemplify virtue, who aren't to that degree archetypes) are properly left in the dust bin. Darko's philosophical forebears are Aristotle and Nietzsche, not Kant and Marx. And fortunately since it's Basketball and not distributive justice this is all for the good.

At 5/31/2006 7:57 AM, Blogger O.D.B. said...

And isn't this the same thing we saw last year with the Big-Shot-Bob-Worship? Different players (Horry at least had a couple of lethal drives last spring), but the rise of both can be attributed to the moralists who search desparately beyond the stars (yet not at all in the outer-reaches) for what was once a dwarf that they can elevate to a red giant. There is nothing more reactionary than that.

Another parallel: Horry's still riding that meteor from last year, now complaining about playingtime, wishing he had a career like Charles (Note: The 'style kick' always gets the last boot). I don't care that he apologized, Raja's doing the same thing; his star is already shot.

At 5/31/2006 10:30 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i don't see how a post that lionizes boris diaw and leandro barbosa, trashes an over-exposed raja bell (good looking on the horry comparison), and basically ignores nash and marion is like a bitch in the hamptons.

At 5/31/2006 11:05 AM, Anonymous Pichi Campana said...

Sorry for my gossip mongering, but that link to Kirilenko's site requires me to share two things: J.J. Reddick was in town yesterday for a workout with the Jazz and when a reporter asked him if he hung out with Boozer at Duke his response was a thing of beauty.

He said something like "I was better friends with Mike Dunleavy from that class. You all know Boozer has a woman, so we didn't really see him that much." This should help solidify The Booze in the pantheon of Whipped Men, alongside Doug Christie and Antonio Davis.

And second of all, Matt Harpring's wife Amanda is a doctor as well as being hot.


At 5/31/2006 1:18 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...


just to prove a point, i started going through the list of all active nba players and marking next to each whether i felt positively, negatively, or indifferently/ambivalently toward them.

needless to say, it was a huge waste of my time and i gave up after the "j's". but the number of players that got the thumbs up roughly equaled the sum of those i hated and those that might as well be dead to me. the point: i like twice as much of the league as i hate, they just aren't around during the playoffs.

At 5/31/2006 1:32 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

oh, and i just said this on basketballjones, and i think i've said it before, but no one's yet answered this for me: what exactly has raja bell done this playoffs other than introduce "toughness," "heart" and "defense" to a phoenix team that doesn't need them?

i didn't really see him slowing down kobe at all. and if he did manage to "shut down" kobe when it counted in game seven, then why is #8 being butchered for "disappearing?" either kobe's a quitter or bell's a defensive wiz.

one three-pointer. . .let's no even get started down the "does one key shot a year a legend make" path.

more shaq-bashing: guards capable of consistently taking over games in the fourth quarter, no matter what the stage and no matter what the opponent, are not a dime a dozen. and shaq, for all his strengths, simply cannot win without one. this isn't quite as damning as "amare stoudemire without nash is nothing," but really makes it clear just what a cooperative effort those teams were/are.

At 5/31/2006 2:05 PM, Anonymous bayaz said...


Re-reading my comment this morning, it is pretty awful and yes, it’s probably a function of the playoffs that I’m seeing this. It does seem to me that you’ve started slipping from a quasi-pomo reading of the game into a more modernist approach, but to bring in class and the hamptons was just wrong.


I think if I was advocating “banal mush mouthed egalitarian politico-moral fetishism,” I would have said communist instead of anarchist: a more “equal” freedarko certainly wasn’t my point. Irregardless, there’s a lot of room between straight up deification of the individual and the idealization of the mass, even if what I’m talking about doesn’t exist between the two.

At 5/31/2006 3:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

re the comment re shaq and the 4th quarter -- that's why i pick duncan over shaq. he didn't get it done this year (somewhat surprisingly), but you can go to duncan in the fourth and he generally delivers. shaq may be able to dominate for even 3 quarters, but he was never the go to guy down the stretch. and that's important as any role on a championship (or other) team.

At 5/31/2006 5:01 PM, Blogger Pooh said...

If you want to Free Leandro, you must get everyone around him to chant, in unison, "FUCKING FINISH" (and you too, Diaw. Though Dirk seems to be BoDi's anti-kryptonite, every other time he drives, he throws some little flippy thing up, even if Devin Harris is guarding the rim. If Dirk is there, Pike City. I wonder if they'd let Bradley suit up and just stand under the rim and play 5-on-6 just to ensure that Diaw brings it.)

At 5/31/2006 5:40 PM, Anonymous Uncle Ted said...


Have you ever had someone mock the way you write? Regardless, everything i said above is also true.

At 6/14/2006 12:44 PM, Anonymous Esther said...

Come on. Bell did what he supposed to do in his situation for his team. It wasn't his fault that his plays end up looking heroic and gave him some spotlight. I don't see it getting to his head though. He is still his usual out-spoken self. He openly addressed Magic Johnson because he always speaks his mind no matter to whom. He also does admit mistakes just as readily. It's rare to find such honesty in the media now a days.

At least for me, I don't see any excessive ego from him. If anything, he down plays these attention during interviews. He is a bit sensitive on being dissed, though. But respect is not an unreasonable thing to ask for anyone.


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