10.24.2006

Coma von Soda



If you think we've been eerily quiet over here, you're right. The calm is not fixity, the thunder shall soon fall. But I had to take a break from our frenzied preseason preparations to comment on this NYT scoop (via Inside Hoops):

Carter will not soon take the starting point guard job from Kidd, a future Hall of Famer. But he will gladly fill in when necessary, helping to reduce the mileage on the aging and often aching knees of the 33-year-old Kidd.

You may have caught grasping for Association-wide storylines heading into last season. The Big Redemption failed steadily, and I think we had every intention of just laying back in observation this time. Though when Silverbird and myself got to talking this summer, the Positional Revolution sprung forth from deep within our collective mind. The evolution of the theory has been steady, taking place here, here, in any number of Dunkin' Donuts up and down I-95, and in little ways across this very blog.

Reading this smattering of quotes, though, it suddenly all came together. To quote a long-lost friend of mine, "all bets are off!" Vince was once considered nearly Kobe's equal in the Next Jordan sweepstakes; if anything, the PR allowed him to become one of the premier swingmen in the game, and thus pad his all-around stats as never before. That he's now being casually subbed in at point guard, still that most specialized of positions, is indeed a harbringer of fury. When he dominated the ball in the Eastern Conference Dark Ages, he certainly displayed an ability to handle and move with the ball; this is also an age of drastically underrated passing skills, and a general poet of fluid motion like Vince is no exception to this. It's quite a leap, though, to go from diversified playmaker to caretaker of science.



Lawrence Frank: "[Vince] really feels like he’s Magic Johnson when he plays the point,” the Nets swingman Antoine Wright said with a smile. Wright, a good friend of Carter’s, added, “He jokes about getting in his point guard mode by taking the 1 off his jersey, turning it into No. 5.”

Majesty of note: Vince does not see himself as taking up the point forward, or slumping to take the abuse inherent in the combo guard experience. He's thinking Magic, the prototypical all-around djini, whose point guard/basketball player dichotomy was a true case of burning chicken, glowing egg. KG may have cut the umbilical ties to traditional basketball order, but Magic exemplified the comedic expansion of positional logic. With Vince, you're not getting a Garnett-like unleashing; instead, he's taking his versatility as license to inhabit a certain position in the spirit of its most ambitious practitioners. But rather than see it as Carter's assuming he can be as outsized a point guard presence as Magic, I believe it's a matter of Magic's uniqueness opening the door for Vince to take a go at it.

This is not the forsaking of positions—it's assuming that they must submit to the will of profligate talent. I honestly have no idea if this represents a kind of conservatism, or an alternate path, in which positional "outsiders," whose main claim to legitimacy is the ability to technically fulfill the demands of the slot, step in and see what they can make of a threadbare tradition. Carter may just be fucking around, or he may be thinking that skill is ultimately as, if not more, important than the sacred point guard sensibility, a goofy myth that in the sole excuse for Eric Snow's still being in the league.



The need for Carter’s versatility will not end there. As part of the Nets’ plan to become a more up-tempo team this season, Coach Lawrence Frank could use a small lineup, meaning Carter and the Nets’ other top swingman, Richard Jefferson, will probably be asked to play power forward at times. Jefferson said it brought back memories of his rookie season, 2001-2, when Kerry Kittles and Kenyon Martin each played several positions.

Contrast this with the entropic free-for-all we're expecting in Toronto, Golden State, and of course, the Land of Fire. It's in some ways closer to Averyball, where positions remain intact but are tinkered with to fit individual talent. Asking Jefferson to play power forward, as opposed to simply throwing him out on the floor to run and jump, implies that he'll be making use of his rebounding and finishing skills, much in the same way that undersized Shawn Marion remains the second-most traditional piece of the Suns' fractal planet. Yes, this is most likely the kind of preseason gadgetry that dissipates in the harsh light of semi-legitimate competition. But to see that this lurks in the backroom of every team's mind, that they'll fight deficiency with sprawling talent, makes me think that something big is afoot.

30 Comments:

At 10/24/2006 1:27 PM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

Another Next Jordan, indeed. Don't forget to remember that the Bulls tinkered with this around '88 or so. That was when Mike got a lot of his triple-doubles (Can we take the hyphen out of that? Tripledouble? Is it ready?)

As far as running a small lineup, the picture I have in my head is if you replace "play power forward" with "be Vince Carter on offense and front somebody on defense". Which should work pretty well. But I wonder if he'll get beat up.

 
At 10/24/2006 1:33 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

holy crap, i didn't even see that vince was playing pf. just r-jeff. i don't know if that aids or bombs my argument.

 
At 10/24/2006 1:49 PM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

I don't think Jeff has much of a post game (if that's what they're looking for).

My other concern is, What guard are you putting in the game when Vince moves to PF? The roster reveals House, Matt Walsh, Antoine Wright. Or you could do the bi-point thing with McInnis and Kidd. But neither one of them can shoot.

How about swing-swing-shoot, two-big? Carter, Wright, House, Boone, Krstic.

wv: mnthmxz = Brando utterance at onset of sleep

 
At 10/24/2006 2:06 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

marion doesn't have a post game and can't really put it on the floor, but he does okay for himself at the 4

 
At 10/24/2006 2:18 PM, Blogger Bret LaGree said...

It seems to me that players can better hide their weaknesses as the game spreads out.

Or, maybe, what we perceive as their weaknesses are merely a product of the slow, congested, coach-centric game of the late 20th- and early 21st-Century.

As long as people have been playing basketball, it's been natural to attack the basket when your team has an advantage or to gravitate toward a comfortable, open space for a catch-and-shoot opportunity. I don't see a downside to letting the most talented basketball players amongst us apply their gifts and experience in an intuitive fashion.

 
At 10/24/2006 3:01 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

from chris sheridan's CELTICS WTF piece:

The players are anxious to make the move to a small-ball lineup in which Pierce will be the de facto power forward, though they'll still have to rely at times on the still unproven low-post games of Jefferson and Perkins.

 
At 10/24/2006 3:30 PM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

This seems less like a push for positionlessness and more like a push for faux-Suns-ness. One is innovation, two is a trend.

As the idea of "Sunsball" orbits further from the light source, mistakes in understanding come from both ends of the analysis spectrum:

False: Playing a small lineup and running more is the foundation of (and a skeleton substitute for) the Suns' game.

False: The Suns are an apt analogy for other teams' small-ball position switching.

 
At 10/24/2006 3:33 PM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

I guess I should add: Perhaps it's the teams simply seeking to enable talent, while at the other end the reporters are trying to stretch these moves over someone else's framework.

 
At 10/24/2006 4:37 PM, Anonymous J.E. Skeets said...

This topic screams Onion ...

"Small-Ball Gets Smaller: 5'5" Boykins To Start At Center"

 
At 10/25/2006 12:56 AM, Anonymous Aaron said...

I don't buy this VC business as legitimate Positional Revolution stuff. I think it's just the Nets not having any guards at all besides Kidd and Carter. Marcus Williams is hurt and the Nets don't want to go back to the kind of backup point guards they used last season. This isn't experimenting with new strategies. This is desperate fumbling for a way to not have J-Kidd destroy his knees. This is going to be his last season, by the way. No way he survives this one without a horrific knee injury.

wv:aalbj --> I am our 36th President

 
At 10/25/2006 8:57 AM, Anonymous Kaifa said...

I'll believe that VC as PG or PF stuff when I see it. With his well-known tendency to settle for perimeter shots instead of driving when a defender gets rough on him, he might actually turn into Eric Snow. As far as PF idea goes, who is he going to be able to defend unless the Nets play something zone-like? Maybe Marion, but just imagine Duncan or even guys like Boozer or Zach Randolph on Carter. Has anyone actually seen him play either position during the preseason?

 
At 10/25/2006 10:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eric Snow is solid and the kind of role player every team should have, particularly at the point.

Vince is a dunk artist with a jumper every thrid night. He'll turn a well-oiled machine into a 30 shot per game show.
Let him play the point and we'll count the pull up 28-footers.
Give me Eric Snow and someone else who leaves his guts on the floor every night instead of paying Vince Carter.
The "sacred point guard sensibility" is crucial.

 
At 10/25/2006 10:10 AM, Blogger buffaloT said...

Snow is gutsy, unselfish, and a good man. The Nets could use him.

 
At 10/25/2006 10:22 AM, Blogger bobduck said...

Snow only plays in Cleveland because their other options at the point are so execrable. He's approximately nothing on offense, at least nothing the Nets can use, and decent on defense.

I agree that VC as PG is far from revolution, but it's the best option (short of finding Smush Parker 2.0).

 
At 10/25/2006 11:03 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

snow can rarely score, doesn't really make plays, is best on teams where the offense runs through someone else, will hit the floor on occasion, and yes, is a very good man. sorry if i'd rather try out an absolutely deadly talent in that slot on the floor, since he's basically taking up space/not getting in the way to begin with.

also, this isn't the knicks. it's not like the nets are so loaded at the 1-2-3 that they're using this as an excuse to cram more firepower onto one court. it's about seeing where you can use what talent you have so that you get the absolute most out of it.

the polar opposite of this is the duncan/jermaine o'neal "i don't do center" craze of a few years back. no, neither was a "true center," but that doesn't mean they couldn't have put themselves there whenever it would've helped the team most.

 
At 10/25/2006 12:03 PM, Blogger Sparkles*_* said...

Re-imagining VC as a reliable PG is like me thinking my 3-year-old daughter is ready for the SATs: sure, she can hold a pencil and compose a fairly decent rendition of what an apple looks like (it's red, it has no wheels), but she's still got 2, 3 years (tops) to go before she can hang with the elite Ivy Leaguers.

Wince will never master the holiest of slots. That's like teaching a dog to be a cat.

I say this, confidently, with every fibre of my beatnik.

 
At 10/25/2006 12:43 PM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

I absolutely hate the Duncan Not A Center business. Because he's obviously a center. You know, you run the offense through him at the post, he's top 3 offensively with his back to the basket, he gets most of the defensive boards. (His post game is more pure center than Robinson's ever was.) How is that not a center? In fact, there aren't many truer good centers in the league besides him. Plus, he takes an All-Star spot from a real forward every year.

 
At 10/25/2006 1:52 PM, Anonymous styler said...

IMPORTANT QUERY:
is this site pro- or anti- Nene?
thank you in advance

 
At 10/25/2006 2:04 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

elite and useful are two different things. no, carter won't be kidd. but since they're lacking at the moment, why not try and create a version of the position that allows him to play it? would iverson be a terrible person to bring off the bench as a second point guard?

with the not a center thing: do duncan and o'neal play the way they do because they're allowed to not be called centers, or are they not centers because there are elements of their game that prevent them from being true centers?

 
At 10/25/2006 3:22 PM, Anonymous Kaifa said...

Or, in O'Neal's case, might KG play a role? I remember O'Neal always asking for another low-post banger and rebounder next to him while he could very well be that new-breed type of guy himself. But he wants the KG face-ups and mid-range fade-aways.

Also, the "I'm playing the 5 but I'm not a C" debate should include Amare and Dwight Howard as well, right? But someone should really ask these guys what the big problem is about being called a C. It's not like the term is still only associated with big, white stiffs or slow-moving 300+ pound guys, not with Olajuwon and Robinson winning five titles in the 90's. I just don't get why this seems to be the only position players shy away from self-consciously trying to redefine.

 
At 10/25/2006 4:02 PM, Blogger Vegan Viking said...

Salt Bagel, I couldn't agree more. The Duncan-as-greatest-power-forward-ever talk needs to stop. You may as well make Bill Russell-as-greatest-power-forward-ever arguments. There is nothing in Duncan's game, or the way the Spurs play around him, that indicates he's anything but a center. I've been raving about this for years, wishing somebody would listen. The contrast between Duncan and Garnett illustrates this point fully.

 
At 10/25/2006 4:07 PM, Blogger Vegan Viking said...

Shoals, I think Duncan is not called a center EXCLUSIVELY BECAUSE HE WAS DRAFTED BY A TEAM THAT ALREADY HAD A CENTER, and both were good enough to be on the court at the same time. Maybe I'm wrong, but if about 25 teams drafted Duncan, he'd be currently called a center. And he'd probably be one of the top 10 of all-time.

Kaifa, it's weird--it's almost like black quarterbacks going out of their way to be pocket passers and say "I'm not a running quarterback." Who gives a crap? Why does one's game have to change based on being called a PF or C, when one is doing the same thing either way? This drives me crazy.

 
At 10/25/2006 4:35 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i think there is something to be said for duncan's ranginess and ability to have an offense run through him (rather than AT HIM). these are both skills that would keep him hanging out in traffic or deep in the post more often than not. and, unlike jermaine o'neal's fadeaway, arguably worth the tradeoff.

 
At 10/25/2006 4:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Viking, the difference between four and five is what a team makes it. I play a lot of NBA 2K7 and I have Ty Thomas and Ben Wallace in roughly the same position on either side of the key in most offensive sets, alternating hi/lo as needed. The fact that guys like JayO and Timmy "don't do center" would be a little like if I, at 5-foot-9, 150 lbs, said "I don't do point" and yet brought the ball up court and made sweet-ass post entry passes (as I do). PoTAYto/PoTAHto, eh?

 
At 10/25/2006 4:51 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

defensive assignments weren't always as fluid as they've become over the last 2-3 years. this is a seriously underrated aspect of the PR

 
At 10/26/2006 12:56 AM, Anonymous Torgo said...

the servers, they are dying. Had this nice bit about Duncan, the center, the stuff... comparing Duncan to Brad Miller (essentially the same role, but one says he's a forward, the other is a center... and no, there's no way they're in the same realm of ability)

Shoals, about the defensive thing, you're onto something. How else would we have seen Tracy Mcgrady, defensive badass, take down Dirk not so long ago. That kind of thing could have been (if not for, y'know, T-mac's spine) a declaration of all-around badassnessness, if we ignore that, at 6'8", Mcgrady would have been a SF back in the 80's, and Dirk would have been Rik Smits with a better touch.
Other examples? Who else goes into the defensive mismatch and wins? Centers on shooting guards, outside the paint? PG on PF? Who can do that and win?
It seems that PG and SG have always been exchangeable on D, either the best defender on the best offensive player, or the offensive star getting a pass and playing D on the weaker threat to "save himself for the other end of the floor."

 
At 10/26/2006 12:31 PM, Blogger c-los said...

Vince can't check 2 guards....how is he gonna check any serviceable PF....Position definition is pointless...its all about how you use the player in the system...Diaw was a PF/C last year by technical definition but alot of the offense involved him handling the ball on the perimeter and skill wise he's almost a SG/SF

 
At 10/26/2006 1:05 PM, Anonymous Aaron said...

It occurs to me that I've predicted the demise of Kidd's knees for the past three seasons now. How is he still in the NBA?

 
At 10/30/2006 6:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you can call it a "positional revolution" or a call it "namibia," but what is going on is the best players are on the court at all times. It has been thus since the first team you played on in grade school. A great Vince at small forward is only adequate at point guard, but still better than McKinnis. The real problem is age old, the Nets have zero quality on their bench. And Why?: the salary cap.

 
At 11/01/2006 4:24 PM, Anonymous Alex said...

Vince definitley played a bit of the 4 for some sets in the 3rd quarter last year. What you have to realize though is this wasn't the other team putting out a normal lineup. I don't think anyone expects Vince to be able to do anything to stop a real Power Forward and not a 4.

Does anybody remember the All Star Game in Atlanta maybe 3 or 4 years back? Garnett got the MVP because I think he scord like 8 in a row on Vince who was guarding him in the 2nd overtime...

 

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