6.02.2006

Why not be ready?



I feel so strongly about this that I had to spend the last ten minutes deleting comments that would've stolen this brief post's thunder. Everything I said yesterday is totally true, but with the Heat and Mavericks there's really no reason they shouldn't be "tone-setters" or potential torch-bearers of legitimacy. Actually, the Heat are like a piss-poor version of the Lakers dynasty: Shaq + guard is as awesome a core as you could possibly muster up, but the microbes around them are a sordid, crappy reflection of the crisp murder ballad that was Fisher, Fox, Shaw, George, etc. Most teams would love to have those two players to build around; unfortunately, Riley's post-Cuban Frankenstein is always going to seem too uneven, too volatile, too suspicious for anyone to truly fear their integrated, symbolic whole. There are just too many thorny individuals on that team for it to ever mean anything in the abstract. They will forever seem vulnerable, the axiomatic power of the Blessed Two constantly having to override the roster's overall goofiness; to say that they follow the same formula as the Lakers is to greatly underestimate Phil's handiwork and/or greatly overestimate what Shaq brings now. On the other hand, the two-man game never really saved the Lakers' ass, making Wade/Shaq or Kobe/Shaq still just the very beginnings of a team concept.

The Mavericks, though, have it all. Clear hierarchy but no shortage of proven occasion-risers, bodies off the bench but nothing resembling clutter or controvery, sparkling mixture of old and new, athleticism and guile, cockiness and humility. Not to mention the COY, who has managed the tactical version of the dreaded rebuilding on the fly: Avery has more or less turned that team's philosophy inside-out without upending the team or choking the chemistry out of it, which is about as amazing as the Suns losing everyone and somehow getting better. Yes, the formula is obvious it barely counts as one—you stay alive by eating, breathing and shitting, which is why no one ever really needs to talk over it—but shouldn't the Mavs ring out as the one true team remaining?



I've become convinced that the problem has been Dirk. As much of a phenom as he is, it's still been difficult to accept him as a resident superstar. Yesterday afternoon, Silverbird confided in me that he "just had trouble thinking of a roving seven foot German enigma as the leader [and centerpiece] of a championship team." His lingering Holocaust resentment aside, the Bird does make an excellent point: Dirk in many ways stands in opposition to most of what we've been taught about what makes a star championship-worthy. He's supposedly soft, doesn't play his height, isn't that expressive, isn't black or explosive, seems inveterately incapable of not playing pretty. Last night, though, changed all that. Anyone who ever had doubts about Dirk's heart or motivation, the relevance of his game to a hard-bitten context, or his ability to rally the team with deeds alone had best stand down forever after his 6/1/06 performance. Granted, it was against the Suns, he played some part in letting Tim Thomas run wild, and he was following up a miserable Game 5. That triumph over adversity, though—that desire to prove people wrong, dominate in a way that meant something, and prove that he understands the balls-out competitive impulse—shows that Dirk's inner voice is as worthy of respect as his game's airy genius.

33 Comments:

At 6/02/2006 1:15 PM, Blogger GentleWhoadie9000 said...

This was the star-making game for Herr N. (Although he was already my super-fave color fold-out, as most of you know). There is no better way to build your star than to convince everybody that you are not worthy (see: 11 pts) and then use that extra attention, controversy and nay-saying as the fuel for a flush twice kind of performance. Everybody's eyes were on Dirk, and he was like "Deutchland '06!" all up in they mouf.
EARLY!!!

 
At 6/02/2006 1:58 PM, Blogger T. said...

raja bell is derided. the mavs occasion risers are celebrated. this is a league of stars. and yet the suns (1 mvp, 1 all-star with the broken jumper, 1 brazilian, 1 guy rooting for Thierry Henry) - are being rooted against.

Why the two orders Colonel Jessup?

As an almost future-adidas employee, I'll refrain from commenting on the Crazy-8 - except for to say that I think tinfoil hats can end up getting really hot in the summer months.

p.s. in light of our long abanonded Brazilian futbol discussions - how about Ronaldinho's interview with SI?

SI.com: What are your impressions of the United States?

Ronaldinho: I love the United States. I've been there with the Brazilian national team and with Barcelona. I've never had the satisfaction of going there for free time, but that's one of the plans I have, to go there and get to know the U.S. And to see basketball, which is something I love. One of my dreams is to see live basketball there, but I've never had the time or the opportunity.

Who do you think lil' Ronaldo is a fan of?

Here's the interview

WV: liiqudsxo = liquid giraffe sux-o - reference to Dirk?

 
At 6/02/2006 2:10 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

wait, you're leaving the rockets?

raja bell is derided: absolutely unworthy nobody who isn't doing nearly as much for his team as the media thinks

mavs occasion risers: stackhouse? terry? howard? harris? i agree 100% with burns' take on this team--these are all serious players standing in line to be the star.

i don't have the slightest idea why i'm rooting against the suns. i like diaw even more now than i did during the season. been about marion since 2000. etc. etc. there's just something vacant about them. . . they're interesting to discuss but i don't feel like they can support the emotional weight of what THE PLAYOFFS SHOULD BE. though i think they dodge that partly on purpose (as in my "the suns are barely playing basketball" post), it doesn't exactly make them the most satisfying team to invest any emotional energy in.

this is a league of emotions and the suns have none.

 
At 6/02/2006 2:36 PM, Blogger T. said...

It all just seems so arbitrary. Raja Bell is derided because of the media reaction to him? Yeah - but how about his actual contributions on the court - he really does carry the Suns attitude in his USVI hands. Without him - they have no emotion. With him - they're clotheslining KB24.

A very similar thing was seen here in Houston - yeah, TMac and Yao's injuries had a lot to do with the record - but Bobby Sura's absence was felt just as strongly - I think with a healthy B. Sura we make the 8th spot (and lose in a first round sweep - talent, is after all, talent) - but Sura was the Rockets attitude last season. Just as Bell is the Suns attitude this season.

And yeah - I'm awaiting the offer from the 3 stripes. Most likely I'll be taking it too - unless it's absurdly low.

 
At 6/02/2006 2:50 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

raja bell is a better-looking, marginally more interesting bruce bowen. case closed.

 
At 6/02/2006 2:51 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i'll expect a phone call soon about designs for the SHOALS '07.

about the arbitrariness. . .unfortunately, it's not like we got together and decided on what mattered to us as a collective. or that i don't reserve the right to change my mind because it can get boring to have the same opinions on the same people forever. i make it up as i go along, just like the businessmen i admire.

one thing about the sura/bell comparison: no one ever compared bobby sura to willis reed. no one ever acted like he was as key to the team as a TWO-TIME MVP. and finally, i fail to see exactly what bell brings other than intangibles. is he shutting down any stars? providing them with anything more than yet another three-point shooter? making a ton of hustle plays at key times?

face it, these people just don't want to accept that tim thomas has been the real break-out star for the suns. he's carried the team at times, killed opposing teams beyond the arc, in the lane, and off the dribble, and shows energy without getting suspended for it. he's not anything defensively but who gives a fuck---one "stopper" isn't going to make the suns a valid defensive club, whereas a multi-faceted weapon is key to what they do best: SCORE.

if you want to pick a silly, superficial story to spotlight as a "key to the suns," it's thomas. he's been as important as diaw, who is easily the second most integral guy on that team.

 
At 6/02/2006 3:26 PM, Anonymous Kaifa said...

While Thomas has been impressive, he's still the guy I loathe the most of those still playing. He's found the perfect team for himself, showcasing those attributes that had GM's taking yet another chance on him over and over again. And on the Suns he can hide those facets that made him fail on these teams built on more traditional models, teams who needed players to give a crap on both sides of the ball and doing more than scoring on offense. So I guess Tim Thomas' success might be directly related to what Shoals has stated, that the Suns just don't work like your normal NBA squad.

But how great is Darrell Armstrong? I was getting so sick and tired of Thomas' 'hot hand' gesture that he (and also Whoopie Goldberg aka Brian Grant) had going - I was extatic when Armstrong jumped up and down mocking him and flashing the biggest set of teeth this side of Baron Davis.

Also, maybe not the best idea to blow that kiss to Dirk. Pretty pivot move directly after that, and the 3 in Thomas' face would have warranted one of those sneers he's shown in the playoffs.

I'm wondering how the perception of Nowitzki not having enough heart came about. If you've ever seen him play for the German national team or think back to those Mavs-Jazz series (when he got his teeth knocked out) a few years back, I'm wondering how anyone could come to that conclusion. I just don't understand how differing from the stereotype of franchise PF could be mistaken so easily for not giving his all or not trying to be a leader.

Anyway, someone on here wondered why Dirk doesn't have a proper nickname, I'd say it's for the same reasons you give for him not being seen as a superstar:

"He's supposedly soft, doesn't play his height, isn't that expressive, isn't black or explosive, seems inveterately incapable of not playing pretty."

Versatility is much more difficult to put into a single label than athleticism. I just hope that any nickname that will eventually come up won't be associated to Hasselhoff.

 
At 6/02/2006 3:27 PM, Blogger GentleWhoadie9000 said...

Phoenix is where 76ers go to bloom

Barkley, Bell, Thomas

 
At 6/02/2006 4:10 PM, Anonymous J.E. Skeets said...

-- I apologize if this posted twice. I'm an impatient bastard. --

Shoals is so damn right he’s virtually turned around.

“face it, these people just don't want to accept that tim thomas has been the real break-out star for the suns.”

Now that’s the fuckin’ Paul Pierce. These Suns aren’t even getting the chance to be robbed by The Desperado if TT isn’t ballin’ at the level he’s been ballin’ at. Dude’s been ridiculously solid throughout the Poffs—minus the “phantom D” and hand gestures of course. (Q: Is that Yayo?)

And Kafia: I hear ya, but I’ve switched. I’m absolutely lovin’ TT in these playoffs. He’s like Johnny Fairplay out there or something. I mean sure the guys a dick and all, but I’ll be damned if I’m not going to watch, just praying he does more. The Game 4 “excuse me, coming thru” walk-into-the-Mavs had me on the floor. And last night’s pretty boy kiss—even if it did rile Nowitzki—was mint.

And oh, as for Dirk’s nickname ... can’t he just be ‘The German’?

 
At 6/02/2006 4:29 PM, Blogger Lex said...

I think it boils down to Germany. Aside from the aforementioned lingering feelings, Germany is simply not sexy.

Similarly, Diop, given his contributions to defeating the Spurs and in the three Dallas victories over the Suns, along with his four years of ineffectiveness/inactivity at Cleveland, should be a story with which any national sports writer could run wild. If Diop isn't less likely than Diaw or Bell, he's at least more likeable than Thomas. But Senegal is not sexy.

Brazil (Barbosa) and Argentina (Ginobili) are sexy. France (Diaw, Parker) is sexy. Senegal and Germany are not sexy. It's not explicitly or necessarily a matter of ethnocentrism, just a matter of sexiness selling.

(The x-factor is Kirilenko, who makes up for his unsexy Russian-ness by playing tough-to-mean defense, filling every category of stat lines, and having a badass nickname. Plus, his hair makes him the anti-Dirk: unusual, but stylish.)

Am I wrong?

 
At 6/02/2006 4:32 PM, Anonymous spider said...

Any chance TT re-signs with Phoenix? Would he pass up more bucks elsewhere so he can be a straight-up gunslinger, riding with the sheriff? Surely he won't have the same minutes on court when Amaré comes back.

I'm pretty sure that TT's gesture is patterned after WWE wrestler John Cena's "You can't see me" motion.

I think TT was right about Kenyon being "fugazi", but he shouldn't have mocked Dirk...

 
At 6/02/2006 5:40 PM, Anonymous Mr. Six said...

I'm skeptical of the prospects for ultimate success of any team relying on TT. As suggested earlier this week in the comments, dude's too karmically ruined. But he's definitely balling. Like Stackhouse, though, he owes AI an apology.

wv: pafmoxoc ... Aztec proto-hoop deity?

 
At 6/02/2006 6:22 PM, Anonymous Ashy Larry said...

Admittedly a minor question but a worthwhile one, I think: How sick of Marquis Daniels’ mental lapses must AJ be to Podkolzin his ass the way he has this series? Dude’s ridiculous to the hoop and the Suns have no interior defense. You’re telling me he’s not worth 10 minutes in the 2nd and 3rd when J. Howard gets into his inevitable foul trouble?

 
At 6/02/2006 6:53 PM, Anonymous aug said...

I've accepted Dirk as a legite superstar last series. He is one of the very few players that really move me and get me pumped in my chair while watching. Something about the perfect level of emotion at oppurtune moments that he captures. He won't fist pump or gloat too much(bell after his 3) or act like it's another day at the office(wade). Every time he hit a big dunk or 3 the past 2 series, i have been right there with him and the crowd on my feet, out of my chair.

Also, my hair is really close to dirk's now but black and curlier. I'm due for a hair cut and think it's gonna end up like dirk's afterwards. I can't wait.

 
At 6/02/2006 7:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since when was Dirk not a ball-out competitor? Remember the 01 playoffs vs the Spurs? Game 5 is an elimination game and Dirk has severe food poisoning coupled with a mouth full of blood after Terry Porter elbows him in the face late in the 4th quarter. He comes back, calmly drops the free throws and the Mavs win the game. That was Jordanflugamesque.

 
At 6/02/2006 9:17 PM, Blogger GentleWhoadie9000 said...

There's a poll called "How good is Dirk?" up on ESPN SportsNation:

If you were starting an NBA team, which of these players would you take ahead of Dirk Nowitzki? (Check all that apply)

58.9% LeBron James
37.0% Dwyane Wade
33.0% Kobe Bryant
31.2% I would take Nowitzki before any of these players
28.2% Tim Duncan
15.6% Amare Stoudemire
15.3% Shaquille O'Neal
15.0% Kevin Garnett
12.1% Steve Nash
5.6% Dwight Howard
5.5% Elton Brand
5.5% Tracy McGrady
5.3% Allen Iverson
4.9% Chris Paul
2.9% Gilbert Arenas
2.8% Vince Carter
2.7% Chauncey Billups
2.4% Chris Bosh
2.3% Jermaine O'Neal
2.3% Paul Pierce
2.0% Shawn Marion

Say what you will, but I think that LBJ as #1 is definitely legit, and I think that the "I'd take Dirk before..." option is a little inflated given that the poll is being conducted a day after he dropped 50 and not a day after he dropped 11 points. I'd have to say Wade is too high, and Duncan too low. I've always been of the opinion that a team that fed Duncan the ball 40 times a game would never lose.

 
At 6/02/2006 9:19 PM, Blogger GentleWhoadie9000 said...

By the way, keep an eye out tonight, because tonight is Wade's "flu-like symptoms" game. We all know what kind of status you achieve by scoring 40 points with the flu.

 
At 6/02/2006 9:42 PM, Anonymous aug said...

I hate that whole being sick elevating your legacy crap. I've played with the flu before. Hell, i dropped 26 points and 5 assists or so while going 10/10 from the line in an 55 point intramural game last week. The whole time i had a mean sinus cold. My head was swimming and i couldn't breathe out of my nose. Even though my head was throbbing and i felt almost dizzy when i was stopped, you can still grit it out. The whole jordan playing well while sick and other people as well thing is mad overrated. Once the adrenaline gets going, nothing else really matters. Same with physical body part injuries.

 
At 6/02/2006 9:57 PM, Blogger GentleWhoadie9000 said...

I'm tryin to see somebody play ball with a piece of shrapnel the size of a wallet in their leg. Like in the good old days.

 
At 6/02/2006 11:10 PM, Anonymous Kaifa said...

Anybody else find it interesting that apparently Avery Johnson has set a limit for Dirk about the number of 3s he's allowed to take? I mean, the objective is clear, getting him to attack the rim or at least get closer to the basket against smaller defenders. But still, I think Dirk's at his best and certainly more fascinating when he mixes it up like in game 5. Why limit him from the start?

Also, how many Pistons do we have to re-examine after this terrible game 6 loss? Certainly Billups as a clutch player who brings it when it matters, then Ben Wallace who did next to nothing on D. Others?

The guy who certainly manifested his reputation was Saunders. Wasn't he supposed to add to the Pistons' offensive schemes? Other than the five or so times when they ran Rip off staggered screens, that looked like pick-up ball to me. Just painful to watch, especially them settling for jump shots for three quarters when nobody had it going and they had Shaq on the verge of getting into foul trouble. I have the feeling it will be interesting to see who will shoulder the blame for all that.

 
At 6/02/2006 11:29 PM, Anonymous fix_the_knicks said...

Re: the espn poll. I'm assuming we're talking about building a team for the long-term, not this years' playoffs. If so -- um, Dwight Howard?? That guy is only going to redefine the center position in the post-Shaq era. Is FD just sleeping on him, or is it just that he's not in the playoffs? Here's a rash prediction -- as noted by Simmons, Diesel's contract has fuct Miami for the next four years, leading Wade to jump ship to Orlando, where he teams with Howard to win a boatload of championships and shut out Lebron for several years as Cleveland struggles to put the right pieces in place.

Another note about this poll -- much as I thought Krazy 8 was the MVP, I can't see taking him in this situation, as it would preclude me from taking anybody else good. See, the fact that things like this don't come into play in rotisserie leagues is why I don't play that shit.

 
At 6/02/2006 11:39 PM, Anonymous fix_the_knicks said...

Furthering this scenario, note that Jameer Nelson is a better passing version of D-Fish, Trevor Ariza is Devean George, and Darko is... well I guess we have no idea who the hell Darko is, but if he won a championship before Lebron, um, well that would be some shit, huh?

Who's their coach again?

 
At 6/03/2006 12:05 AM, Anonymous aug said...

Brian Hill. He got them to the finals before with shaq/penny/3d/nick/horace and could do it again if wade was there. I speculated the same thing. I assumed shaq retired next year or something and wade wanted to move north a bit and to a more comfortable environment. Plus, Shaq already said he wants to buy the magic one day. It won't happen, but as a magic fan i pray for it every day. Then again, wade is amazing, but i'll be dammed if he doesn't get me revved up like kobe or dirk.

Dwight has a loooong way to go. As someone who has watched most of his games, i can tell you he's not as good as advertised. He's a like a baby horse out there. He can't walk, control his arms or body. He's athletic sure, and can rebound, but one of these days he has to learn to play basketball. Hopefully he'll develop a face up and/or back to the basket game eventually. He has another year left till he's the same age as shaq as a rookie. He better step offensively and defensively in the next season. As good as he is, he's a bit overrated at the moment(i know he has potential out the wazoo, but i'm talking about the immediate future)

 
At 6/03/2006 2:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure Shoals, Tim Thomas haters, and people who see the Heat as nothing more than a rehash of the 2004 Frankenstein Lakers are in agreement with this:

Please for the love of God let the Mavs win the championship.

 
At 6/03/2006 6:47 AM, Anonymous Kaifa said...

Re: Nowitzki's nickname - read this in an ESPN article. Don't think that the name will stick or does make a whole lot of sense, but here's how the Nash family calls him:

"The ex-teammates also hung out at Nash's Phoenix-area house on the eve of Tuesday's Game 4, giving Nowitzki some bonding time with Nash's 19-month-old twin girls, Lola and Bella. To keep the 7-footer from Dallas on the kids' radar, Nash's wife Alejandra will point him out whenever Nowitzki flashes across the TV screen.

Tio Loco, she calls him to the children. Crazy Uncle."

 
At 6/03/2006 12:02 PM, Anonymous mtp said...

That Nash/Nowitzki article on page 2 was another marc stein pulitzer winner. I think it's sentiments like that, that make some of us pretty nervous about Nash and Nowitzki as top 10 guys. Because the media is lapping them up like what, we're (I am, at least) suspicious whenever the steins/bilases of the world start spilling the ink pots all over the page bout the next big white boy.

wv:guvyifbg

Give up your iconoclasm brian grant

 
At 6/03/2006 12:56 PM, Anonymous Captain Caveman said...

Who started this nonsense that Dirk needs a nickname, anyway? His name is Dirk, people. DIRK!

 
At 6/03/2006 2:10 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

Dirk doesn't need a nickname but I kinda wish Eric Piatkowski was a star player just so his nickname "the Polish Rifle" was more of a household name.

 
At 6/03/2006 2:43 PM, Blogger T. said...

What kind of world do you live in where Eric Piatowski isn't a star player? The guy was 'Man of the Year' in South Dakota once. Mike Miller's hero. Sheesh.

Shoals - I'll get working on those shoes.

 
At 6/03/2006 4:48 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

I sit corrected.

 
At 6/03/2006 6:53 PM, Anonymous Carlos Destrroyo said...

Skeets,

I believe you mean "Ze German." Scarier that way.

 
At 6/03/2006 7:36 PM, Blogger GentleWhoadie9000 said...

ubermensch

 
At 6/03/2006 10:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i don't have the slightest idea why i'm rooting against the suns. i like diaw even more now than i did during the season. been about marion since 2000. etc. etc. there's just something vacant about them. . .

As a Suns fan who nevertheless hears this, I think it's down to Amare being out. When the New Suns exploded into the NBA last season, he was an integral part of their game and their identity, and they were never supposed to be as good without him.

As a Suns fan, this is heresy. Is Shoals' disease contagious?

That they are is a massive tribute to D'Antoni, Nash, and the whole damn team, and it was very very cool until partway through the conference semis, but now, purely on a conceptual level, their success is almost a letdown. Now even last season is somehow more about the system and less about that incandescent talent.

Now Dallas are making their game 6 3rd qtr. comeback as I write this, and I'm strangely ambivalent.

It would never be so if their opposition was more hated (the Spurs), but part of me would rather they need Amare to come back and take them to that last transcendent level - then, let the dynasty begin.

~mnemonic (forgotten my password)

p.s. Plenty of guys I know refer to Dirk as The Diggler - it's more than the name, he does have that indefinable air that says 'coulda been a porn star'.

 

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