A Sultan Shall Cleave Them

Let me make an iron-clad confession: after last night, the Suns might again be the molten core of my Association planet. You might think it's because Amare's well on his way, and that would be part of. But primarily, it's because I love seeing last season's irrevocable wuss-machine gutted before my very eyes. And that the team rising out of its forehead is one for the transparent ages only makes it more sublime.

I don't think I've made any secret of the fact that the '04-05 Suns might have been my favorite operation ever. Rarely has there been needed any great ennumeration of what made that bunch so radicidal, and don't think that Nash's H&M virtuosity could ever get exlcuded from that equation. Last year's team, however, left me totally cold. I appreciated the emergance of Diaw on a purely conceptual level, but I'd ony watch them when I had to; Marion suddenly transformed into a slim, calculating man-goat, and the offense as a whole seemed heaven-bent on a kind of nerdy excess, like a guy in a lab coat bringing Jayne Mansfield back to life to serve as his waitress. When Boris starting dunking in the playoffs, and I finally got to see my dwagag Leandro emerge as a force, they meant a little more. Still, though, there was Tim Thomas, fresh off his long furlough and pimping this system like he'd never failed in his life. And of course, the team's unofficial postseason mascot was none other than a Sloan protegee known for the healthy dose of moralism he brought to town.

Cue '06-07. A possibly broken Amare gets all up in everyone's sphere by, you know, being one of the greatest players of his generation trying to reclaim his crown. Raja publicly bitches. Diaw shows up fat, ugly, and lopsided. Nash's new haircut exemplifies the further adjournment of style. Kurt Thomas is ready. All in all, the Suns looked to be plummeting towards a new kind of sadness, one splitting the difference between a war crimes buerecrat and every other running team that somehow managed to get dull in the interest of contention.

Then, as if out of nowhere, a light arrives. A light much-maligned over these last few years, but one whose mix of ability, clout, and symbolism cannot be underestimaed. The team struggles, Diaw proves ineffective, Raja falls ill, and suddely last year's formula isn't looking so plush anymore. Some blame the onset of Amare, whose woes (he now has a "Nobody Knows" to accompany the "Lord Knows!") might threaten to torpedo the careful rotation calibrations. Really though, it's that the arrival of one man just bolds the writing on the wall. Last year's Suns were soft, generally vanilla, and without meaning. Amare is the catalyst to return them to their former spiritual roost, but he needs a guide. Luckily, the Suns went out and signed the man who will help him recpature his team.

Say what you will about Jalen, but the man has swagger and a peculiar kind of divine wisdom. If the Suns are going to be reclaimed in the name of style and raw energy, it's nothing less than a political coup. And while Amare may be the charismatic leader, he needs an old head, a strategist who has been through the rapids of politicize basketball, to guide his campaign. The time is ripe for the takeover, and last night was the first decisive chapter. With the Suns in flux, Jalen stepped in and contributed. Played well, but was also a decisive presence, the way that somehow Tim Thomas was on the '06 edition. Right away, Amare responds with his least illusory success of the season. Marion's Weis-ing Dirk. And Barbosa's poly-rhythmic aggression rises to new heights, as he suddenly looks like the most deadly backcourt scorer Nash, Amare and Marion have ever had to work with.

I will watch the Suns non-stop this year. In part because Barbosa and a relatively healthy Amare are among the two most joyous performers we have in this league. But I'm also eager to see the evisceration of the team that tried to efface the real point of the running Suns. This wasn't just supposed to be a team that scored a lot—it was a cathartic exercise in basketball expression, the unlikely belief that playing loose and wild was not incompatible with NBA success. I hated seeing that undone, even dismissed, by last year's cool, Euro-ish precision, and hope to once again be able to look to Phoenix for prayer and reassurance.

"The stage is set, now its time to grind!"-Jalen Rose


At 11/10/2006 9:43 AM, Blogger Trey said...

It is highly likely that Jalen will play his best ball in the League. Playing with the Suns has got to remind him of the Fab Five But not in a Jalen = Jalen, Amare = CWebb way. Just five bad dudes playing like they want, having fun, and winning. Probably wishes he could be the primary ball-handler though.

At 11/10/2006 10:56 AM, Blogger Bret LaGree said...

I don't know that Jalen's wisdom is all that "peculiar." He's a smart, funny, and proud guy who, as he ages and his skills and roles have diminished, the prickly manifestation of his pride--bridling at the yoke of assumptions made about his wit and intelligence--has been replaced by a peaceful bemusement of the world he'll inhabit for not so much longer.

It's always been whispered that Webber idolized Jalen as they were coming up, that Webber resented being as much a product of his suburban upbringing as Jalen was of his urban upbringing. That reading cast Jalen's savvy as something genuine, but it's no more genuine than Webber's suburban-derived worldview. If Webber idolozied Jalen, it's because Jalen's cool, which Shoals so aptly demonstrates in the Rose/Russell pic.

At 11/10/2006 11:03 AM, Blogger The Assimilated Negro said...

That's the beauty of Jalen now, he definitely won't wish he could be the primary ball-handler on this team.

I didn't see the game or 'lights yet, but I'm big on the Avery/Dirk/Josh & Jet storyline. I list them ahead of Nash and the Amares in the queue of contenders who have enough narrative karma to get over the hump for the crown.

It's a nice circle of life forming though, like rock, paper, scissors, I think Spurs trump Suns, Suns trump Mavs, Mavs trump Spurs. The LA teams sit on the periphery as spoilers.

At 11/10/2006 11:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jalen is a better baller than Tim Thomas, especially Tim Thomas post-contract. Not the same style of play (not as big, etc.), but way more heady and court savvy.

It's weird that a sort of cloud has hung over Jalen his entire career. He's always been very good. He, not Reggie, carried the Pacers in the '00 Finals. He played brilliantly in that series.

He's always been a clutch player and a good glue guy. I like his addition a lot, particularly if it means Bell and Banks play less.

This gives the Suns hope. The Mavs look like they're in a '04 Cubs-style post-Bartman funk. Good.

I once saw Jalen punch Sherm Douglas in the face in a mid-90s Nuggets/Bucks tilt. That was early career Jalen. He was ejected. My respect grew.

At 11/10/2006 11:26 AM, Blogger Trey said...

"He's always been a clutch player"

Not on the Bulls. It was hard to root for him then. But then again, he didn't have a lot to work with. Chris Antsy?

At 11/10/2006 11:29 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

"peculiar" in the sense that he's still not the traditional vet; he might actually be the first-ever "hip-hop vet." but obviously i think he's every bit as T.E.A.M. valuable as someone less tempermentally suited to build with amare.

jalen seems to have suffered the most from the fab five stigma.

At 11/10/2006 11:41 AM, Blogger Trey said...

Jalen was the most hood of the Big 3 (King and Jackson don't count). The Fab Five would have been just like a good UNC team if Jalen wasn't so street. Plus he wore that suit to the draft. That, along with his Fab 5-ness, solidified an image he'll never be able to shake no matter how different his game is between now and then.

The Fab 5 might be the most FreeDarko entity in basketball.

At 11/10/2006 11:57 AM, Blogger Bret LaGree said...

Ah, I should having assumed that that was a knowing "peculiar" you used, representing the subjective view of another. Very Elmore Leonard.

At 11/10/2006 12:54 PM, Blogger Nate said...

Why did Amare switch to # 1? Did someone forget to tell Amare that Penny Hardaway was the last person to rock the PHX jersey # 1 before him. I mean, that's the last number I would want to rock after coming back from microfracture.

And Trey is right about the Fab Five possibly being the most FD entity in basketball.

At 11/10/2006 1:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hitting back on Trey's Fab 5 comment, maybe the entity of the Fab 5 was more FD, but the storyline of the '90-'91 Running Rebs was way FD. I always think of the scene at the end of Casino with the Tangiers getting impluded for the Mirage. For that season it was never a question of if they would win, they needed to cover spreads. Duke defeating, crazy FD.

At 11/10/2006 1:51 PM, Blogger Trey said...

You have to remember that people seriously gave thought to the fact that the Fab 5 could win 4 national championships. Instead they won zero.

The only thing not FD about them is that they were a college team.

At 11/10/2006 2:00 PM, Blogger T. said...

1:11 Anon - I know a good number of readers of this site are big Running Rebs from that era fans from previous discussions, but - and correct me if I'm wrong - one very large component of FreeDarkoness is potential . . .and more specifically unrealized, tantilizing, game changing potential.

The Rebs won 1 NCAA Tournament and probably would've won another without the involvment of a guy named "The Fixer"

Ain't nothing unfulfilled about that.

Shoals - A Jalen post with frighteningly related photos . . .and no shot of the draft suit? Color me disappointed.

At 11/10/2006 2:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was reading Ruskin this morning for class and stumbled across this: "There are, however, far nobler interests mingling, in the Gothic heart, with the rude love of decorative accumulation: a magnificent enthusiasm, which feels as if it could never do enough to reach the fulness of its ideal; an unselfishness of sacrifice, which would rather cast fruitless labour before the altar than stand idle in the market; and, finally, a profound sympathy with the fulness and wealth of the material universe..." Proto-F/Darko, no?

At 11/10/2006 2:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While Jalen was with the Bulls there were virtually no opportunities for big shots. He played with some terrible teams-- Fizer, Brunson, Mercer, et al.

Jalen still put up very strong numbers on those teams. Around 22 ppg, 5 assists and 4.5 rebounds.

Pretty solid. Granted, no one else knew what to do with the ball.

At 11/10/2006 2:58 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

it's often been commented that the fab 5 was the prototypical proto-FD team, and i agree wholeheartedly. i was a big fan, although being a carolina guy, i loved seeing them lose in '93.

the thing i love about jalen rose is that he's street cool, but he's aware that some things that are the shit in the hood (like his draft day suit) are kind of ridiculous to other people. this awareness is especially evident whenever he's in the studio with ernie johnson.

At 11/10/2006 5:08 PM, Anonymous Practice Anachronaut said...


While reading the NBA/Book-it post the other day, I kept thinking about Chris Webber and why there weren’t any words typed about him – dude’s got an actual museum of documents (and apparently a friend that knows Flash - http://www.chriswebber.com/). That soon led to wonderin’ about the Fab 5 in general and the possibility that they may have been among the FDest out there.

Always nice to get suspicions confirmed, or at least talked about, so immediately.

Thanks y’all for doin’ what you do.

At 11/11/2006 12:51 PM, Anonymous JuneMonsoon said...

As Rose is being reborn, Juwan loses his starting spot to Chuck Hayes. Ouch.

At 11/14/2006 12:15 PM, Anonymous Tony said...

If Jalen is so good, why did the knicks get rid of him? If he had high value as a veteran presence wouldn't that make him more valuable on a knicks team that by all accounts has no 'glue?'

I watched him on the Raptors, and even on a bad team, all he did was take bad shots from the baseline. Although I will concede that he played through injury like a true pro.

I predict that Jalens impact will be minimal on the Suns.


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