Shoals's Open Veil
I have never been prouder to be an Arenas jocker than when he took that shot; it going in was just confirmation of the truth. For all that mental golfing we did on here regarding the nature of game-winners, what makes a game-winner memorable, and how much of one a player can take credit for, we discounted the obvious: that under unearthly pressure, someone could shout "fuck you" and take the most proposterous shot available on the entire court. We've rhapsodized about LeBron as some sort of first principle of basketball, but I'll take the wilderness of Gilbert's soul any day over LeBron's techtonic empircism.
As for what followed. . . yes, I am saddened as I write. Varejao probably did interfere on that lay-up; the rebound that popped out to Marshall for the three went off a foot, and I remain completely mystified by Arenas's disintegration on the line. But look, as much as I want to see all manner of fine things accrue to #0 over his years in the league, I also, as I've said before, am strangely protective of him. Despite Washington's well-documented ability to harry the Pistons in the regular seasn, I can't say I had any interest in watching the Pistons nullify their very existence, like the Heat did to them last year. And, to return to a certain prophecy of mine regarding the nature of these play-offs and why they sum up '05-'06, LeBron vs. Pistons is the ultimate individual vs. society experiment. We want to understand what it means for LeBron the symbol and LeBron the phenomenon to dwell within the thicket that is the Pistons; if God were my quill, we'd see Kobe vs. Spurs in the West to test a similar hypothesis.
Back to those fateful two free throws. Andreo thinks it was dirty of Bron to say anything, and certainly intentional; I can't imagine him saying anything malicious, and given his class-act rep (got to maintain) and how much has been made of their respect for each other, he probably just said something harmless in the moment along the lines of "here we go," or maybe "NBA playoff basketball!!" Factor in Hughes and Arenas jawing at each other throughout the series, with smiles on their faces even in overtime, and I have a hard time believing that was anything but camraderie forged through the flames. The thing with Arenas, though, is that it's nearly impossible to imagine what he's thinking and why. Bron gives him dap, and suddenly an 82% free throw shooter who is absolutely fearless in the clutch has rimmed out two straight. Did all the lopsided coverage of LeBron suddenly get to him? Was he so convinced that James was intended, to advance that he missed as if guided by destiny? What worried me most is that, after proving himself an elite player in this series, Arenas has somehow dropped his stock with those misses. To all you Arenas novices, I say: remember The Bomb, and accept that the game's ending cannot be judged by human hands.
Besides, Cleveland probably should've won anyway. I like the Wizards and all, but with that roster the Cavs should be contenders. They've got an MVP candidate, some quality sidekicks, and a cauldron full of well-defined role players. If they can give Detroit a scare, though, it's going to be because all were made to suffer at the feet of a single chiseled idol.
UPDATE LIKE I LEFT SOMETHING: From ESPN, here's what James and Arenas had to say about their brief exchange:
The turnover gave the Wizards the ball, but Arenas failed to capitalize by missing both free throws when he was fouled with 15 seconds left. He might have been thrown off by James, who engaged in a bit of gamesmanship by talking to Arenas between the two attempts.
"I told him if he missed both of those free throws, the game was over," James said.
Arenas' account was a little different. He said James told him: "If you miss this, you know who's hitting the game-winner."
Okay, maybe the exact words weren't toothless as I'd suggested, but either of these versions makes me even more right. James meant no harm, and if Arenas flaked, it's hard to imagine that it was as simple as his fellow competitor intimidating him.