Three weeks of raising hell

Okay, one more 'gain. If you're wondering why I'm quoting myself, peep the original uses; otherwise, please don't click on those links, lest you and me be forced to remember how breathlessly spirited this first round has been.

Let me try and translate that for anyone looking to start a fight: we know that the strong teams will roll. We know that the individual stars will shine bright as they can, but will ultimately have a hard time single-handedly knocking off the TEAMS. That's the story of this season, and the lack of intersection, intermingling, or interchangability of these two basketball concepts, both coasting at a zenith in their respective quarters, is why this I've been so nonplussed by it all.

The typical critique of FreeDarko would go something like "of course y'all care most about round one," which would of course run counter to all received baketball wisdom. Here, though—and this is that crucial aspect of our mission that's so often been dropped on the puddles—it looked like we might've be partially justified. Two star-driven squads mounting the most riveting show of the entire past two weeks, and a egomaniacal loon sublimating his talents for the sake of the upset. Either we were seeing marquee figures making the Playoffs as serious as they get, or, more dramatically, these player showing that team efforts are most rewarding when they're set up like well-oiled solar systems. I would also like to include Kings/Spurs in here, which told us a lot about the real Artest, once and for all.

Now I get to breathe easy and not feverishly build my daily schedule around some of the most fantastic NBA action I've most ever seen. I'm ready to slough through the coming weeks, and maybe even force myself to do things like appreciate Wade, pretend I hadn't given up on my once-treasured sleeper Barbosa, expect Livingston to dominate the Clippers' run, and watch Mavs/Spurs because my girl has a vested interest in it. And yes, LeBron/Pistons will be like Suns/Spurs minus the moral fervor, or Wade/Pistons with some polarity plugged in. But if last night I hurt from bidding my sole allegiance farewell, tonight a softer, more wistful pall falls over me, since until further notice, FreeDarko's season is over.

So I return to my initial forecast for this postseason, a calmly riotous pronouncement that continues to haunt me and had the good sense to end with a predictive riddle:



At 5/07/2006 1:11 AM, Anonymous WhenWhiteWasRight said...

If nobody shouted for joy when Pat Burke drilled an un-needed and unexpected three you are not a fan of basketball.

At 5/07/2006 2:20 AM, Anonymous White People Don't Know said...

I think the most interesting thing about how this series ended is that it makes us reevaluate the things we said about coaching after the first few games. sure, phil jackson had the right gameplan. but, as it turned out, he had the wrong players. kwame brown couldn't carry the weight of a playoff series on his shoulders; smush couldn't keep up with the most creative pg in the league for 7 games; kobe couldn't transform after year of playing however he wanted.

i won't argue that phil isn't a great coach. however, i think he does deserve some criticism for the loss. someone once said that david lynch didn't treat actors any different than props—everything was an object to be fit into his static aesthetic vision. phil seems to have a similar problem. he looks at kwame and sees big man, and he looks at odom and sees faster big man. his coaching style is just shuffling the pieces until they fit into this perfect platonic geometry of "basketball."

phil lost because he couldn't coach around the weaknesses of his players. He couldn’t see that kwame wasn’t up to it, and that they couldn’t keep playing the pick and roll with those disastrous switches.

what made the series so interesting is that in contrast, d'antoni's whole philosophy is to mask the weaknesses of his players so well that they cease being weaknesses. nash is bad on defense and unathletic, diaw is small, tim thomas is lazy, etc. but none of it matters.

If you have a team of great players, i think history has proven that jackson is the best coach you could ask for. but if you are asking a crew of castoffs to run with the elite teams in the nba, d'antoni seems a better bet.

At 5/07/2006 3:21 AM, Anonymous bobduck said...

D'Antoni has the benefit of a roster that can actually hit jumpers. The blame for this series has to fall largely on the shoulders of Mitch Kupchak: the man assembled a roster full of basically worthless player. Kwame looks like he has no business on the basketball court, Smush was overmatched on offense, and yet he stayed with them the entire series.

Sure, Smush contributed some on the defensive end but his offense, with the exception of some of his dunks, was egregiously bad. I would rather have Sasha pulling Nash out of the middle and giving the Lakers an actual shooter than someone who can only kind of play defense.

At 5/07/2006 3:42 AM, Anonymous White People Don't Know said...

That's sort of my point. Jackson had a gameplan that would have worked if he had players that could have fit into it. But he seemed unable to recognize that they couldn't, and he never made adjustments to deal with their obvious incapacities. It seems like he's quiet on the bench not because he's zen, but because he thinks he figured everything out before the game started, and changing anything midstream would be an injustice to his flawless choreography. actually playing is just a formality.

At 5/07/2006 3:43 AM, Anonymous J.E. Skeets said...

Look, the Lakers never actually stopped the Suns. I'm serious. If you believe they somehow did, then you a) don't play basketball, or b) really suck ass at basketball.

Only the Suns can stop the Suns. That's it. That's super-offense. Period.

At 5/07/2006 5:27 AM, Anonymous johnny5 said...

White People, I think you're dead-on about Colonel Sanders, except that he really couldn't have done any better with the D-Leaguers he had. The Suns' cold shooting to start the series had more to do with their losses.

Indeed, Burke pulling an Arenas and popping his jersey was just such a glorious fuck-you - I just needed him to talk shit to the Lakers' bench on his way back upcourt to make it complete.

At 5/07/2006 5:29 AM, Blogger The Electric Zarko said...

I was thinking roughly the same thing as Skeets earlier tonight.

For me, it boiled down to The Matrix. Every time he had a good game, the Suns won and when he didn't, they lost.

One of the scary things about hoops that we like to forget is that even the very best players are shooting at a percentage close to 50%. The amount of shots evens this out somewhat; still, results are dependent more on "random" peformance than anything else, when a good team wins, they do so out of an accumulation of statistical karma.

At 5/07/2006 6:16 AM, Anonymous ronald james davis said...

Man, as a laker fan. Heartbreak. Before all the laker haters jump on "the lakers have always been good so you dont get to feel bad" tip, here me out. This was the first laker team in a long time that I really, really wanted to win. I lived and died with every play in this series. From the obvious dizzying highs, to Tim Thomas absolutely stepping on my chest with that three at the end of regulation in game 6 (the taunting of course included). But anyways what it really boils down to is this: The last great laker teams, from the 99-02 era, they just didnt need my fandom in any way. They had the duo that was going to eventually pull it out regardless. I was with them in more of a, "roll or be rolled by us" kind of way, despite being a laker fan since birth. But this years team was the collection of outcasts that you see before you (+ mamba). With their totally underwhelming roster combined with the rise of the clippers and the day to day insanity of kobe bryant, it felt like they needed my support, if only to be slightly above mediocre. I stand before you, a broken man. You can now return to your hating.

And seriously. Tim Thomas ...the fuck?

At 5/07/2006 6:23 AM, Anonymous ronald james davis said...

Not to say I dont recognize the real reasons the lakers lost this series, but I just had to get all my bitching out in that one. As you all have noted, the suns can shoot the damn lights out. Also, Kwame Brown has small and childlike hands.

At 5/07/2006 7:56 AM, Blogger Deskie said...

I hope that we can now dispense with the (now obviously) absurd hyperboles about The World's Most Talented Rapist (I'm putting Mr. Polanski at number two). I, like many readers here (I assume), enjoy the hell out of the good scribes' of freedarko's pretentious and overwrought efforts at canonizing certain ballplayers, often on somewhat suspect criteria. But perhaps we would all do well to remember the words of that sage mind of sport, the National Felon's League's Big Tuna: you are what your record says you are. Occam's razor incarnate.

TWMTR is not the reincarnation of Number 23, or whatever other fanboy fantasies one wants to imagine. His complete collapse in game 7 is much more telling than his (admittedly brutal) posterizing of Nash could ever be. Sir Charles said it best after the game - he didn't shoot because he was being selfish. He saw the ship sinking and didn't want to be blamed, so he didn't even try. TWMTR has long had a gift for performing blinding feats to hide what is in plain sight. But as with so much in life, the trick only works if the audience wants to believe it.

I got yer MVP right here: a little Canadian guy, leading his team back from the all-but-insurmountable 3-1 deficit. No rim crushing dunks, no 80 point outbursts against terrible teams, no faux-Jordan fist pumping. Waiting, right now, for the Clips. All hail the Big Tuna.

At 5/07/2006 9:28 AM, Anonymous db said...

not to sound too much like an a-hole or anything, but doesn't shaq look awfully prescient now with his parting words to kobe ("be careful what you wish for") after the trade? it's easy to look at kobe's supporting cast and say, yeah, sure, they're not playoff built, they don't have any experience, etc., but isn't this all what kobe wanted? wasn't the point to have a team built so that he would be the sole focal point and presumably to take all the credit if they won? kobe's not a victim here - he, perhaps more than any other player in the game right now, has been given license to have an active hand in shaping his destiny. remember, he could have gone to a better situation a few years ago but elected to come back to the lakers. imagine kobe playing alongside brand, livingston, kaman, et al. i don't care what anyone says - i'd take clippers + kobe to win the western conference just by how strong they look on paper. and the offer was there. he has to take some responsibility for that.

but it does go both ways. the lakers have done well given what they've got, but they need players. they need to let ronie turiaf get in the game more to see if he can become kobe's rebounding presence inside; for as good as smush parker can be, they desperately need a steady, veteran point guard there (he's been wildly inconsistent all season); they need to see if luke walton is for realz. and, most importantly, phil jackson needs to impress upon kobe enough so that he finally understands what he hasn't up to this point in his career - that they way he played for the first half of the phx series is how he needs to be ALL the time. otherwise he'll never have a supporting cast that believes in itself.

At 5/07/2006 11:25 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

just as many of find it as satisfying to fantasize about women we never have a chance with as those that we know, i stand firm in this site's stalwart commitment to grooming deities. with the haze of this series past, though, i am willing to admit that nash is the better man and a lot of what we've said was heat-of-the-moment exaltation (not that this makes it any less true for when we wrote it. . ).


1. you don't get to have it both ways. if the lakers were illusory, over-achieving, i-told-you-so scum, than nash deserves no credit for beating them. the mvp and his #2 seeded team should be able to take care of a joke team witha flaw strategy and a fraud superstar, right?

2. this bullshit about kobe "giving up" is a little harsh. there's a longer argument to be had for the strategic reasoning behind it, but after all he's done this series, you really have to pile on him and claim he deliberately kept his team from coming back? don't you think he might have had, i don't know, basketball reasons behind it that we armchair waltons don't see?

anyone who accuses us of excessive kobe/lebron/gilbert love should take a look at the truly needless amount of shit the rest of the wordl seems intent on heaping upon them. we come to praise great men, not bring them down to our level.

At 5/07/2006 12:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

24 points in a Game 7 for the new #24? 8 shots made, 8 missed for the old #8? Call me crazy if I see a Nike ad in the making here.

At 5/07/2006 2:54 PM, Anonymous jack said...

I didn't watch game 7. I can't defend Kobe's 1 point second half outburst. I can defend Phil Jackson and say there is no way he is at all a static coach who can't figure out which players are on and which players are off. That is basically the most important part of basketball coaching. What went wrong with Phil? This new lakers team has ADD. No matter how well they play, there is not much concentration involved. They turn it over a lot, even when they should be thinking only about not turning it over, they forget to pay attention on defense, and unless you tell Bill Walton and Kwame to box out every time a shot goes up and keep telling them that, they don't do a great job stopping the offensive rebound.

I think the reason Smush was left in was because he knew he wasn't shooting well, so he didn't turn it over much. Sasha is a TO machine.

At 5/07/2006 9:20 PM, Anonymous suitupbill.com said...

Me? I'm as bummed as anything that the good (if absurdist) men of freedarko are calling it a year. Say it ain't so...

What now? I'm left with no one but Bill Walton to drop science on me every day?

Sure the next rounds are more and more foregone until the Spurs/Pistons Finals, but whose flowery prose will make sense of the emotional drama for me?

At 5/07/2006 11:24 PM, Anonymous crazylegsjackson said...

Major breakthrough on the semiotics of Kwame: here

From the link:

"Kwame's element is Earth. He can create small, localized earthquakes; move rocks in the earth; cause holes or furrows in the earth for planting; create tiny islands by raising rocks from the shallows of the ocean; and turn mud into solid ground."


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