The Movement Don't Squint
You may have noticed the distinct absence of a FreeDarko season preview in the run-up to '06-07. We gave you the meta-Zen of the Fifty Greatest, though in retrospect it might've also been wise to hit you with our Pillars of Strength (Stars, Potential, Style, Psychology, and Socio-Political Intrigue, thought not necessarily in that order). And with all forthrightness, I sat down here to assemble something roughly equivalent to last year's hyper-obscurist five touchstones, if not the follow-up to our trippy, Hawks-centric chat.
With my heart in gear and fingers ready to tap away, I quickly realized that there just wasn't one there. If I have one prevailing hunch about what we're about to face, it's that there are precious few gaping question, hype-laden circumstances, or clear-cut struggles for dominance. Of course, journalists have to whip up entanglement so they'll have material for their previews; blogs often know the real score, but they need something to thematize their endless information digs. Therefore, without intending any disrespect to other writers of this earth, I would like to offer up to you FIVE THINGS WE REALLY SHOULDN'T BE TALKING ABOUT.
The Raptors: Executives do not run the floor. They don't even coach. And they certainly don't initiate seamless decision-making and crisp passing. So for all the talk of the newly-transmogrified "Suns North," all interested parties would do well to pay attention to their roster's track record, as well as that of Mr. Sam Mitchell. Ditto for T.J. Ford, whose "pure point" rep stems mostly from poor shooting and an eagerness to wear those stripes. Dude can get up and down the floor like lightning, but unless he's laying it in, there's a good chance imprecision will reign. Plus Bosh, for all his suprematism, is KG's clone in build only. He's more a JO man, which sets this up to be nothing more than a classic "Eastern Conference team endowed with a big guy."
Celtics Point Guard Battle: Let me be prefectly careful on this one: Bassie and Rondo are both certifiably FD. Bassie mostly for what he showed in that doc, Rondo just because. There are also plenty of operatives lurking in our offices who would give a flank or two for the causes of Green, Pierce, Allen, and West. That said, I just don't buy this team ever morphing into a blistering, burping new funk machine. While Rivers may be a "players' coach," I've come to see that this is more like "cool dad" than player/coach. They're put in place to reach the young'uns, transition them into the way games get won by grown folks; nevermind the professional repercussions of a non-wizened black coach putting in place a system advocating athleticism and dunking. I'd far prefer to see a weirdo outsider like D'Antoni step in, since only they seem capable of coaching without the bullshit.
Franchise Darko: The Magic will make the 'offs with or without his blossoming into fertility. Dwight Howard is the best big man in the East. Meer Meer can do it. Grant Hill is not dead yet. As we saw last go-round, the East is far from legit past the top two or three. If The Namesake can block shots, find his spots, and put up 12ppg, the curse will be disspelled and he'll be an integral piece of a winning team. As BR points out, Kwame's done a lot to redeem his ignominity with far less. PS An Iverson trade would put them in the Finals.
Speedy Saves The Hawks: No, no and no. Joey Johnson is Penny redux. The glut of SF's need to be fed gently and often. They probably shouldn't be on the same squad, but the situation only gets more messy when you bring in a guy who, like Ford, is more Telfair than Nash. The Hawks may be able to keep up with him, but S-Clax in this position means less feature time for quiet star JJ and a major disappointment when it comes to the development of Smith, Williams, and Childress. The Recluse believe that Claxton should be a Boykins-esuqe change of pace at the one, but I'm not even that convinced of his scoring talents. Seems that, as with Ford, there's a drastic overvaluing of flawed six footers unable to vanquish the scoreboard at an Arenas-like clip, like no size and a limited offensive repertoire gets you closer to being a "real" point guard.
Adam Morrison, Freckles On A Savior: If he starts, he'll average 18 and contribute little else; if he comes off the bench, it's about 12. Either way, the Cats are bound to improve, and it'll be primarily because of Felton's holding the reigns and a healthy Okafor. That serious basketball folks think Morrison will be the catalyst for a Charlotte leap either have a very, very myopic memory or have forgotten how poorly they regard pure scorers when they're darker and can dunk. For what it's worth, it's primarily because of recent immediate impact rooks like LeBron, Wade, Paul, and Howard that Morrison, along with Roy and Foye, is being sized up in this manner. It might, though, be worth monitoring coverage of a A-Moor/Wallace position battle, since it will no doubt boil down to stereotypes and Dunk Contest participation.
BONUS: Although in the midst of adjusting to a new job and a new town, the Recluse had a lot of NBA on his mind. Here are his top picks for underheralded storylines, which he's logging here mostly for May bragging rights.
1. Mo Williams: The Next T.J. Ford
2. DeShawn Stevension: Missing Piece of the Championship Puzzle
3. LaMarcus Aldridge: Least Talked-About #2 Overall EVER
By the way, over at my other lair, I've got a lengthy Q&A with Wire mastermind David Simon. Until my roundtable with J.R., Marquis, and Multiplicity comes through, this is the highlight of my blogging career.
Oh, and don't miss FD favorite Jason Whitlock's many cents on The Wire.