Don't Cry For Him
Last night didn’t really count for much. Two games—one overshadowed by a wan championship acceptance, the other a clammy vigil—and outcomes that shrieked of rust and dreams. As I sit here watching, though, I feel like I’m finally in the presence of the sport I hold so dear.
In fact, this might be the most urgent opening day I can remember. Anyone with a nose for snark knows that, supposedly, the Association holds no water before February; for real red-bloods, that date might even drift off into May. Tonight, though, you get the chance that something bold happened last spring in the Playoffs, something that still resonates at the outset of ’06-07. Somewhere along the line, up-and-comers seized the throne, young teams became contenders, and the New NBA went from a theory to a empire. What’s more, players like Butler and Odom manifested that how last we saw them was how they plan to stay. They found their rhythm at the right time, but when the whole league finds its groove, something bigger is going on—something that one man’s reluctance or laziness can’t possibly shake off. No guarantees that this entire season will have a playoff-type atmosphere, but this is feeling like a sport whose grand narrative will not be taking days off.
Of course, this is all leading up to a discussion of a certain All-Star’s rocky reunion with The King. I’ll resist the itch to compare it to his shotless statement game, since his PG play tonight was anything but forced and exasperating. And while there might be something to the theory that Gil stranges it up so us and Henry will keep his blog buzz fresh, that tranced-out swaying before the tip was probably enough. Plain and simple, the Arenas who made his name during the shootouts with LeBron didn’t show up. And no doubt we’ll hear suggestions that Bron’s got him shook, that Gil showed his plaids with those missed FT’s and deserves to not be mentioned by the ESPN team until they’ve spent an entire quarter slurping Bron.
Let me speak as a vet of the cause: this is Arenas the player. Hubie aptly referred to him as “one of the truly great streak shooters we have in this league,” which was somehow neither a compliment nor a criticism. It has nothing to do with a lack of internal controls or a colorful sensibility—Gilbert Arenas just doesn’t play the game of basketball like others do. Part of what makes his rivalry with LeBron so irresistible is that, while James exists to hand down new commandments from atop Mt. Naismith, Arenas flits in and out of the standard progression of a contest. Iverson is streaky because he’s undisciplined, selfish, and headstrong; Gilbert, the cuddliest gunner who ever was, is waiting for the game to catch up to his reasoning.
So no, I’m not concerned. I don't believe this was a moment of weakness or failure. And I don’t think this is all that interesting, having followed Gilbert madly since his rookie campaign. It’s Gilbert being Gilbert—kind of a nuisance, a set-up for drama, and the source of some fundamental questions about the order of the sport. I have no clue why he couldn’t get a shot to fall until the fourth, why he suddenly appeared fit to exchange three’s with LeBron, or why he then opted to give it to Jarvis Hayes twelve times in a row immediately after that. Most of all, I don’t get how an offensive-minded hellion responds to a scoring slump with some of the soundest distributing I’ve ever seen from him. I have learned to not look for explanations, and instead assume it’s like a bunch of crazy snowflakes that melt on top of a piece of paper that needs moisture.
A few other observations:
-Those LeBrons interviews were beyond brilliant. I don’t care if it’s a marketing campaign; it’s the perfect, frank metaphor for his personae, he inhabits it brilliantly, and his acting shows more personality than anything else he does (citation?). Besides, I’m sure at least some of our readers remember the days of postmodernism.
-If there isn’t a fantasy team named “Primoz Brezec Exhaustion” by 11AM tomorrow, this blog will go into darkest hibernation.
-Same for "Cuttino Mobley Boxing Arthritis."
-Amare is looking older, sadder, more dignified. And while I don’t buy this “the Suns have passed him by” bullshit, I worry that his having missed out on the New NBA’s maturation might hurt his legend.
-Wait, is there any chance that this injury turns Amare into the Next Duncan? He seems to have figured out a thing or two during his hiatus.
-Actually, fuck that. He's regenerating before our very eyes, and forgetting whatever it is he learned about playing in the post.
UPDATE: Watch me crawl in all directions as I ponder the League Pass Question on McSweeney's.