A small matter of orderly fear about order

Hello, and welcome to FreeDarko's Heavenly Host of Objective Conditions. Today, we will be dealing with a simple and yet ageless question: what makes an NBA franchise sorry? Specifically, at what point can we definitively state "that franchise stinks?"

This uncharacteristically useful question comes to you courtesy of Houston Sports Talk Radio, who the other day informed your boy that the Rockets were dismal and vanished. Not having much interest in the state of any other Houston team, I got stoned on the idea that the team of T-Mac and Yao could indeed be worthless. In fact, I was still stuck on this riddle when I finally read this latest gaping expert survey on ESPN, the first in a long train of soothsaying. To save you the trouble of reading it (I told DLIC and the Recluse that it was like FreeDarko done badly), I'll spill the beans: the Rockets have two All-NBA'ers, the Raptors are getting a bunch of foreigners, some weirdo thinks Wade and LeBron are headed to the Knicks, and Garnett is technically seven feet tall. Oh, and the Bobcats will win games using the Hawks' formula.

None of this is the least bit interesting, except for how it relates back to this city's feelings of NBA despair. Did I somehow miss the bulletin that heartily announced "NBA'S BEST CENTER AND ENDLESSLY SKILLED TWO-TYPE SCORING CHAMP: WORSE THAN ZERO?!?!?!!?" I am well-acquainted with the Rockets' mess at every other positon, but how little of a difference this has made is well-documented stillness. What's more, Achilles-upon-spear is not quite the same as dog fried with mud, which is a nice way of saying that the Rockets are in a position that hosts of teams would envy. As much as the myth of the star might've crumbled, you'd be hard-pressed to find a GM who didn't want to build around an inside/outside air raid in its prime. Frustrating, yes, but never, ever pathological.

For a fan to throw up his arms and jump under these circumstances spells out for me the difference between short-fused, Pavlovian stooge and man knee-deep in the sport. I don't care how poorly the Rockets fare this coming season—complementing Yao and T-Mac should be one of the easiest jobs in management, and thus this team's fans should accept that they're usually only inches away from legitimacy. Hell, give or take a bit of front office error and sacrosanct predictability, they're already post-season heavyweights.

This might be the most ordinary thing I've ever written, but there are basically three kinds of bad teams. Those that are cesspools of ruin (Knicks, Hawks), those not obviously deformed and simply incomplete (Bobcats, Raptors), and those that, for all intents and purposes, are good and are just coming off of an empirical fluke (Rockets). For the pneumonically-inclined set: couldn't, could, and should. Granted, at some point "disappointment" becomes "disappointing" or "underachieving," yet certainly there must be an irreovcable, scarring pattern of failure there. Note to those who choke on their gums to hear me talk so sensibly: these categories are based on past work together. "Good on other teams" means little to this discussion, as does that nasty "potential" term.

I wonder, though, if the Rockets aren't such an unusual case as to be more or less forgettable. Could this last miserable campaign be up there with the time the Spurs took the low road to Duncan? Of course, there will be no such silver rewards for this franchise, but the historical goofiness is its own accomplishment. For a team such as this to have so floundered bears out not the importance of role players or coaching acumen—really, it's just one of the worst bolts from above that basketball could imagine.

Some internet accomplishment far more illuminating than this: Corey from Black Marks on Wood Pulp has been compiling a list of bloggers' favorite writers. If you were ever interested in seeing some combination of major influences on myself, DLIC, and the Recluse, or the taste that makes Henry Abbott tick, this installment is your most important meal. A free day of reckoning to anyone who can correctly identify whose picks are whose.

And finally, The Wire may be the flagship official FD television opus, but early The West Wing holds down second. . . and this went flying out the gate on Monday with an emergency bid for #3.


At 9/20/2006 1:40 AM, Blogger BenSchwarmer said...

Completely partisan question to follow:
In the universe of "3 types of bad teams" where do the Portland Trail Blazers fall?

It seems to me they are an amalgamation of all 3.

I once set out to categorize things using such discrete boundaries...I hypothesized that teams who missed the playoffs in the East were either unfairly under talented or incompetently coached. I found, much to my chagrin, that I was way too correct for my own good.

At 9/20/2006 3:30 AM, Blogger T. said...

I think Houston fans are just defeatist and beat-down by a long sports year - especially with the absolute disaster that is the Texans (record + Mario Williams - Reggie Bush) and the Astros getting smoked in the World Series and the disaster that was last year's Rockets season.

And whatever goodwill Van Gundy had following the Dallas series of two years ago, was blown faster than W. post 9/11 with his "you're with us or against us" mentality. Strong on defense vs. (posturing) strong on defense? Wins you no global fans.

(And that's the last time I compare current events to the NBA)

WV: biien - Kevin Harlan calling Tony Parker's games via Babelfish

At 9/20/2006 3:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it even the fans, or is it just lame American media, determined to turn every story into an extreme? A steadily building franchise is a pretty boring sell. On the other hand a "tanked" season and shell-shocked team on the brink of implosion give a call-in show a lot more fodder. It's like CNN, which will tell you that the world is ending pretty much every night of the week.

At 9/20/2006 8:26 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i have to say the fans. espn isn't that stupid, though they could stand to be less sloppy about showing it.

At 9/20/2006 11:50 AM, Anonymous tmp said...

Studio 60 on Sunset Strip. Wow. That was fun.

Imagine if Aaron Sorkin had co-written The Paul Shirley Project.

WV: gvwdrf - Dorf goes Governing.

At 9/20/2006 11:54 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i'll take the low comment rate as proof that this is indeed the most trivial thing i've ever written.

of slight interest: while working on this, i decided that gay/battier was the right move. waiting for rudy would've been an admission of weakness, since they woudn't have the sactown-like luxury of letting him mature on the bench

At 9/20/2006 12:08 PM, Blogger mutoni said...

shoals : i'm sure you'll appreciate simmons's column today...http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/060920

At 9/20/2006 12:14 PM, Blogger there is no you or me without Suomi said...

If Bonzi signs with the Rockets, my current lack of enthusiasm about the space program will blow over and transmute right into ammonium perchlorate. I figure T-Mac even with a more or less healthy back is still going to miss 5-10 games, and Yao just can't get it done by himself & Battier. The margin for error in the West is just too slim to overcome going 0-for those games.
Throw in the Buddy though, and I think they can weather such a spell, at least go .500 for it. Even the role players will look better once they don't have to be 3rd options. Plus Wells is a such a good rebounder that it'll do a lot to alleviate the gaping hole at the 4. I just still think of SB as a 3. I didn't watch a ton of Grizzlies games, but I'd always assumed their bigs came to Pau and a stiff.

At 9/20/2006 12:55 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

bonz had better head over this way. . .lest he clog up young j.r.'s straightshot to greatness.

i simply can't read simmons on the wire. it's like a cruel joke designed solely to upset me.

At 9/20/2006 12:55 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

dude, what's up with you and sharks?

At 9/20/2006 1:27 PM, Blogger mutoni said...

i don't know, man. i thought he did a good job writing about the show.

At 9/20/2006 1:32 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i can't even bring myself to read it. not that i have any more right to the show than he does, but come on, this is the guy who by his own admission likes to picture bias's last hours as pacino with the mountain of white.

that just reminded me how fucking angry i was when some fool-ass blog deleted my comment suggesting that cocaine overdoses can result from a bum heart, and don't always indicate excess.

At 9/20/2006 2:25 PM, Blogger bayaz said...

On the lit note, somehow that list doesn't strike me as particularly FD. I was thinking Celine maybe, Miller definitely...

At 9/20/2006 2:26 PM, Blogger GentleWhoadie9000 said...

Note the Pittsburgh influence as evidenced by the classic use of "your boy" to denote a first or third person singular pronoun.

Strength tito, ike.

At 9/20/2006 2:32 PM, Anonymous Pichi Campana Aguanta said...

All I know is that Mayakovsky's titles sound like the names of FreeDarko posts:

"A Cloud in Trousers"

"A Slap in the Face of Public Taste"

The proto-FD.

And I have to agree that Simmons made a good observation in today's piece:

Now I'm wondering if I avoided "The Wire" because its central themes -- drugs, corruption, urban decay -- were realities that I simply wanted to ignore. Instead of being haunted by a show like this, it was easier and safer to skip it entirely. Most people feel this way, I'm guessing; it's the only conceivable reason why five times as many people would watch "The Sopranos" over a show that's better in every way. See, when most Americans dabble in inner-city TV shows or movies for our "taste" of street life, we're hoping for the Hollywood version. We don't want despair and decay, we want hope and triumph. We don't want the zero sum game of drug dealers killing each other, we want the Rock coaching juvie kids and turning their lives around in two hours. We want them to win the big football game, we want the movie to end, and we don't want to think about these people ever again.

That's the real reason why "Gridiron Gang" became the No. 1 movie last weekend, and that's the real reason why "The Wire" was barely renewed for a fifth season. Upon further review, maybe the problem isn't Hollywood after all.

At 9/20/2006 2:55 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

bayaz--miller? henry miller? arthur miller??

At 9/20/2006 3:06 PM, Blogger bayaz said...

most definately henry.

At 9/20/2006 3:18 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

henry "widen your shores" miller?

At 9/20/2006 4:18 PM, Blogger Gladhands said...

Henry "iron out the wrinkles" Miller.

At 9/20/2006 5:16 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

going on PCA's "mayakovsky test," we probably should've included "Dan Bejar 1998-2002"

At 9/21/2006 11:18 AM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

lol @ gladhands. ever tried to use one of those lines in a bar?

also, yeah, bejar would have been on the list had the last few albums never happened.


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