A stunning reversal that needs you

You can chalk this up to the middling desperation of witnessing the NBA season dwindle down to a mere four teams. Or a need to make these rounds as distinctly viewable as the early ones were, since even I can't justify turning away from any sort of Finals. But what you are about to hear could very well uproot the light rails upon which FreeDarko dogma doth glide, and I want you to all prepare yourself to suddenly question my existence. Without further ado, then, some quixotic thoughts from several quarters worth of off-hand Heat/Pistons watching.

a. A moment for everything

I want to insist here that I am not going back on any number of seering things I've written in the past regarding Dwyane Wade. I still could not give less of a fuck about his destylized rapier of a game, and think his execution as drained of flare as any explosive off-guard I've ever seen. But in the playoffs, he most definitely is someboday. It was only last week that I recalled how swept away I was by his demolition of the Pistons in '05; flourish or no flourish, serpent or not, his ruthless effectiveness is enthralling when, well, success really means something. The law of playoff basketball is that nothing comes easy, that the situation is itself is an invisible barrier against regular season entitlement. Yet while even LeBron had to fight to put up his customary numbers against the Pistons, Wade is demolishing the most hallowed defense in the land. Shaq figures into this equation, yes, but on an experiental level, there's nothing quite like seeing Wade splinter and raze the very Detroit figures we're used to classifying as "defensive menace"—despite being very much the focus of their efforts.

b. The hunter sings

Wade during the regular season can often seem disingeuously flat. In the Playoffs, though, he not only shows raw emotion and the ability to seeth (and bitch about calls as much as anyone); he's overflowing with enthusiasm, love of the game, all that shit lacking not only in Duncan but also sometimes in the most performative of basketball souls. Call it a telling bit of gee-whiz reflection, but more often not it's a jolt that threatens to dislodge all of his style's bloodless connotations. What this means to me is that Wade is not the orderly soldier or Arenas-like underdog many want him to be, nor the kind of unchained seraph I expect of my mega-stars. Plain and simple, he's a regular dude with an upbeat attitude and an untrammeled feeling (and feel) for the sport, the sort of personality that very rarely coincides with his level of athletic ability. There's not the same walking clinic vibe you so often get from Duncan, or the tacky bouts of Rick Ross-ness that usually come with non-swoll-headed players in this league; Wade dominates and he knows it. Even today, though, he's still that star on a mid-major, killing cats with ease but keeping it all in perspective. All that energy that can, and maybe should, go to his ego and individuality instead goes to passion for being there at all, the game he loves, the fact that he stands around Shaq every day. I can't really speculate as to why it only shines out in these later months, but don't expect to hear me complain about Wade's demeanor until next season.

c. I weep when I prosper

Lastly, I really don't want to dwell on this, but I felt kind of bad for the Detroit last night. Though there's supposed to be no sympathy in sports, I forget just how much I liked a lot of these Pistons before they were a new century dynasty, or even the scrappy mirage that came from beneath. I don't want to watch them anymore, but the Wallaces and Billups, at least, deserve better than a sub-par postseason showing that'll leave them open to all sorts of off-season questions about their worth.

Also, maybe Brick can help me on this one: the San Antonio area doesn't seem to realize that its team got knocked out. Still flags and shirts everywhere, a sort of ominous "you're all just renters on our seasonal turf" feeling to it all.


At 5/30/2006 2:47 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

since no one seems to care that i've finally admitted there is some worth contained in the life and times of dywane wade, i would like to point out how suddenly fantastic shaq looks when wade is playing at this high a level. you'll hear plenty of voices claim that the revitalized shaq is winning this series; if this is pretty much the same pistons team that once managed to contain shaq by playing one of the two wallaces on him (sheed has a long history of knowing how to trouble shaq, even in his prime), then, like laura said under dlic's post, why can't they get back to that?


he may be/have been a force like no other in basketball, but the extent of his omnpotence can and does depend on who is working around him and how. and if you caught the paradox in there, then you see what i've been trying to point out about shaq.

if the legends were true, the lakers could've just fed him the ball in the post every single possession, waited for the triple-team, and then kicked it out to horry or fox.

kobe wasn't just a talented second option, he was himself a game-altering force. remember, there was shaq time, kobe time, and then an uneasy peace between the two down the stretch?

there are precious few players in the nba who can single-handedly dictate the complexion or course of a game. i would suggest that this isn't even a quality inherent in or synonymous with the strangely authoritative "50 Greatest" list. maybe i'm picking on twilit shaq to bring this up now, but i think that in this series, you're getting a revealing indication of the dynamic between shaq and a dynamite guard. as in, the two complement each other, and the balance of power/vector of influence can swing either way depending on circumstance and individual performance.

there were times when the lakers looked like this. when kobe drew the attention and took the spotlight. then, as now, shaq was still enormous and strong and intimidating, but please don't tell me that there wasn;t a decidedly COMPLEMENTARY relationship between the two players in LA. with neither one being the constant chief monster.

At 5/30/2006 3:22 PM, Anonymous Captain Caveman said...

Shoals, I appreciate grudging acknowledgement of Wade; I'm just not literate enough to add anything to the dialogue.

At 5/30/2006 3:31 PM, Blogger Mirabeau Lamar said...


It is nice to see you give some props to DWade. He is hands-down the best in the Association at getting to the tin. No defender respects his game from 18-25 feet out and he still gets to the rim every time he wants to. You are right about the Shaq/Wade dynamic; they are symbiotically complimentary.

Re: Spurs pride, San Antonio knows their team are the champs regardless of playoff outcome. File that under "Hometown Pride" in the FD Discarded Concepts File.

At 5/30/2006 3:39 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

is anyone willing to admit that wade/shaq is not SO different from kobe/shaq?

At 5/30/2006 3:56 PM, Anonymous aug said...

I've been saying that for awhile. I just assumed everybody else felt the same way when they first started. It's funny how shaq/penny, kobe and wade all worked out. Shaq's relationship slowly got better with the teammates but i'm not sure if it's because of guards getting better personality wise or shaq maturing and realizing how much he needs them. I remember the penny years very well considering i lived in orlando and got caught up in fandom(not to mention owned 2-3 pairs of the penny shoes). If penny stayed healthy and shaq stayed in orlando another 2 years, penny would've been on the same field as kobe and wade. People forget how incredible he was. I see the same things in the style of game in all 3 of those teams. I don't know why people fool themselves into thinking wade is somehow more life altering, better or better suited for shaq's game than kobe and penny. If anything, i think penny was the best teammate for shaq basketball wise. But shaq was too immature to handle it all at the time.

At 5/30/2006 4:02 PM, Blogger Mirabeau Lamar said...

In Wade's defense, he seems the most mature (i.e. the smallest ego) of the Penny/Kobe/Wade sequence of guards; his confidence in himself and lack of a desire to prove himself translates into a great pairing with Diesel, whose self-absorbed gladiator style commands the media attention.
In terms of actual court play, Penny was more of a distributor than Kobe and Wade, while Kobe started his relationship with Shaq averaging 7ppg. Wade's self-assuredness and genuine talent from the outset set him apart.

At 5/30/2006 4:12 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

what would the world have looked like if shaq had been able to let kobe breathe? not saying that kobe's necessarily better than wade, but at least their primes overlapped. kobe and shaq regularly playing off of each other the way wade and o'neal do=five straight rings.

At 5/30/2006 4:43 PM, Anonymous J.E. Skeets said...

Mirabeau: "No defender respects his [Wade's] game from 18-25 feet out and he still gets to the rim every time he wants to."

Agreed. So why in the world do the Stons (see: Rip) insist on picking Wade up at half-court? I mean, Rip's D'n up on Wade is so freakin' close, he's basically just sharing his mask with the guy -- well, until he blows by him, of course.

Shouldn't the Stons at least TRY to play some sort of Sag-a-Wade game?

At 5/30/2006 5:02 PM, Anonymous Kaifa said...

I agree with aug on Penny being the best complement to Shaq basketball-wise. And as Mirabeau Lamar points out, Wade certainly fits best next to Shaq personality-wise.

With Shaq-Kobe I always think back to that sweep of the Spurs as the prime example of what could have been. That one fast break will always stand out, with Shaq bringing it down the court, dishing to Kobe and (as he said) knowing he'd get it back for the dunk. That was the Lakers apex as far as I'm concerned.

Another thought I tried to develop in a previous thread: I still don't believe that Shaq embraced Wade the way he did just to stick it to Kobe or because Wade is such a great and humble guy. Both of these things surely play a part, but I think that Shaq also did this to ease his way into being the second banana without taking to much criticism for his regression. He now slides into the position of not being the leader on the floor (if still the vocal leader) and does so gracefully by giving the media all the right reasons they want to hear, e.g. Wade's so unselfish (unlike Kobe!), he's not so full of himself and so on. I mean, having succes with Penny and Kobe and not doing anything with Van Exel/Jones/Ceballos etc. as his sidekicks must have taught him a lesson. And being as media-savvy as he is, he's really played it perfectly in his new start with the Heat. Should they now win the title with Wade carrying them on his shoulders, Shaq will still get most of the credit and attention for the title guarantee he gave after the trade. And somehow I wouldn't feel at ease with this and the ramifications it would have on the whole Shaq-Kobe dynamic, even though Kobe the person couldn't annoy me any more than he does.

At 5/30/2006 5:11 PM, Blogger Mirabeau Lamar said...


I think Shaq is perhaps the greatest professional athlete at media manipulation. He frames the discourse on his career. Just as the Dems complained that the GOP were "framing the argument" on Social Security and terrorism, so Shaq has convinced the media to see him from his own perspective. His narrative is strong, compelling and media-savvy. What sportswriter doesn't like a 7-footer who calls himself Big Aristotle and uses Godfather analogies to illustrate points, like claiming Haslem is the Heat's Clemenza. The media and fans have bought into his tripartite historical model for understanding Shaq's career. Raw youth, inexperience and failure - athletic excellence and success - wisdom of age, defering to others.

At 5/30/2006 5:13 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i don't think it ever made it into my post, but i'm convinced that this is the last year that shaq could win a title and have it be his title.

At 5/30/2006 5:48 PM, Blogger bobduck said...

There's no way that that a title this year would be his. If/when they make it to the Championship, both Dallas and Phoenix have the players and style to take Shaq out of his 30s game. 20s Shaq could make a legit claim that this title is his, but DWade has a game much more suited to whomever the Heat will match up against.

Also, Shaq is no longer the unstoppable force he once was. Many of his points come off of a Wade ally-oop or a dish where he can just dunk it. Gone are the days where only Arvydas could stand up to him.

If anything 2000 was Shaq's title. I guess you could make the case that the Game 7 against Portland was more about the team concept, and maybe even Bryan Shaw, but the majority of those games were all Shaq.

ltkvd: Licking Toads Kills Venereal Diseases.

At 5/30/2006 5:56 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

read what i've been saying. i know that wade deserves most of the credit, but like kaifa said, it's thought of as shaq's team, he's still the leader and superficial alpha dawg, and it makes good on the "fuck LA" guarantee he made when he came to miami.

At 5/30/2006 6:33 PM, Blogger bobduck said...

I misunderstood your earlier comment. I thought you meant that Shaq would be the best player on his team, or the player with the most effect on the outcome of the game.

To a large extent, this is a Shaq-type sqaud, replete with veterans and an explosive off guard.

At 5/31/2006 1:08 AM, Anonymous Putnam McShanks said...

I have been slowly devouring this site over a number of weeks and have fallen completely in love with the sublime nature of these discussions. I have come to my own personal "light bulb" moment about this league and it is that the nature of the new NBA is inherently unfair. The future of the league does not belong to the hard working graft of years gone by, but by the new players who were seemingly designed and controlled via video game. That the Pistons narrowly pushed past LeBron only set them up to come face to face with the destiny of all teams that value hard work over the spectacular; In the end the stars win. Detroit fought past one supernova only to find the next one even hotter than the last.

If there is one axiom that both Wade and Lebron have proven to me over these finals it is that "action is faster than reaction" These Pistons quite simply do not stand a chance against these two goliaths at the vanguard of the "new" NBA. I have come to terms with the mortality of my Pistons and can now sit back and watch with a certain ease the dismantling of the club I hold so dear.

I am ready for the end; I am ready for the beginning.


Post a Comment

<< Home