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?)