2.03.2007

Calm Alone Can't Scrap a Stable



So I go watch Kobe and Arenas square off in Chinatown; in a sense that FreeDarko is a contract with my most basic feelings, I have no choice but to write something on it.

First, the basketball. Without Jamison, it's Butler who still struggle. He looked positively average tonight, while Arenas ping-ponged between flummoxed illusion and white-hot brilliance. He lost the war, but I will always have such unimpeachable moments as:

1) Arenas so excited to shoot over Kobe that he leaves time on the clock at first half's end

2) Arenas bouncing the ball off the ref's foot

3) The crossover on Kobe.

The first two lead to one of my most treasured realizations: unless he's miles from the basket, Arenas never appears fazed by contact, never diminishes his focus on the basket. Compare that with Kobe (drives designed to draw fouls), Wade (relaxes slightly after the whistle), or Iverson (goes out of his way to show how hard it is to shoot anyway). The latter, a telling symptom of the game: in no sport's play do stars get humiliated as frequently as in basketball.



Now, Kobe. Anyone who believes Wade is the league's finest baskebtall player is a fool. Dwyane Wade is a bronze age bully compared to Kobe's complete and total exegesis of the game's inner workings—the da Vinci of this shit!!! Gilberto Gil (what up D-Wil!) practices obsessively to fine-tune his habits. Kobe, on the other hand, works off the court so he can reason more sharply on it. You can see the spatial and numerical relationships rise off of his every possession. And at the risk of sounding stupid, he's so frantically analytical that everything looks like a well-reasoned post-up. A Duncan post-up. Except for breakaway dunks and most three's, of course.

Okay, Wizards. Here's what I find so fascinating about this team, which is probably just an extension of my Arenas experience. On any team more straight-faced about swag or intensity or flash, those gold jerseys would be a miserable mistake. With this merry bunch, however, they're almost an ironic, ludicrous statement of purpose. We want to be the team that rocks gold lame uniforms. And gets away with it, in part because being in on a joke is what makes us soar.



Actually, what I meant to say was that failure with the Wizards, and Arenas in particular, is a mightily complex thing. Arenas, and the team as a whole, don't just alternate between good and bad, on and off, useful and impaired. To my (admittedly biased) eyes, they're either playoff-worthy or absolutely inept. Arenas goes from superstar to the dowdy benchwarmer his appearance initially suggests; the team as a whole from explosive to clueless. Granted, I'm a little stuck on this after seeing them flounder without Jamison, and Arenas get mixed up about exactly what the Lakers were consistently giving him. Still, I believe this is part of what makes the Wizards so lovable, and at the same time such a maddening love to cradle.

In the comments on my All-Star plaint, someone made an off-hand remark about Amare "not yet dominating like he once did." His numbers are certainly there, but I'll admit, he's not quite the force he was. It's not the system, or the depth, or the chemistry—Stoudemire may still be able to have his way with most of the league, but he's terrifying no one. In a way, though, I'm perfectly happy with this outcome. He'll be an All-Star on and off for a while. He may get a ring or two. He's learned a thing or two about the game, and can keep up with this far more complex and varied Suns team. Amare's now got the tools to last in the league; if he had to sacrifice a pinch of his profligate athleticism to get them, that's likely a fair trade. Now leave my alone, and I hope to never come down on this side of things again.

19 Comments:

At 2/04/2007 1:29 AM, Anonymous paper tiger said...

old amare:new amare::skip to my lou:rafer alston

you're right, not a pleasant side to come down on.

 
At 2/04/2007 4:00 AM, Anonymous bcf said...

The rematches are never as good as the real thing. Suns 2 wasn't close to Suns 1, and now Kobe vs. Gil 2 didn't match Kobe vs. Gil 1. Still, the ball off the ref's foot moment was great - do you think he did it on purpose? I didn't think so at first but if you watch the replay his head is turned towards the ref, like he's aiming there.

Also, about the crossover - it was nasty and it had Kobe totally on the wrong foot, but Gil also took three obvious steps without a dribble. As a Wiz and Gil fan I'm glad they didn't call it, but it kind of tarnished the moment.

 
At 2/04/2007 10:48 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

arenas says that the problem was his lack of goofiness. i broke down the quote over at the fanhouse, but most of it is stuff i've said before here

 
At 2/04/2007 11:27 AM, Anonymous cw said...

"Kobe, on the other hand, works off the court so he can reason more sharply on it."

Explain his reasoning for taking thee shots in the second half of last year's game 7 in phoenix.

 
At 2/04/2007 12:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

new Amare is moving much better without the ball and because (on both sides of the ball) so many guys in the NBA kind of suck at that he's cashing in on great dishes from Nash and knowing where he needs to be at any given moment. I used to think of him a little bit like Shawn Kemp, just in terms of the astounding explosiveness in a big guy. It's just not the same anymore; he's sacrificed more than a "pinch" of his athleticism. After the agonizing, endless anxiety of months of rehab everyone was so anxious to Decree Amare's Return that they were willing to glaze over his numbers and declare it so. He'll continue to excel but it'll be because he's gotten much smarter on the court.

 
At 2/04/2007 12:40 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i'll stand by the 85% number. most he's just not as abrupt getting off the ground; about three times a game, he does something like a return to his former form. still, he only looks "less athletic" compared to his former self.

 
At 2/04/2007 12:42 PM, Blogger Brickowski said...

Competitive goofiness at it's finest.

 
At 2/04/2007 1:19 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

cw said...

"Kobe, on the other hand, works off the court so he can reason more sharply on it."

Explain his reasoning for taking thee shots in the second half of last year's game 7 in phoenix.


I don't know why this has been such a hard thing for people to understand (unless it's just another "excuse" to hate on Kobe), but it's rather obvious why Kobe barely shot the ball in the second half of Game 7. In the three wins of that series, Kobe was only the leading scorer in one of them (Smush Parker was in one game and Odom was in another). Meanwhile Kobe went for 50 in the loss in Game 6. In Game 7 Kobe had 23 points at the half and the Lakers were down by 15. Given all that, is it surprising that maybe Kobe wanted to try to get his teammates going to get the Lakers back into the game? Of course, by that point the Suns were rolling and it was too late, and by trying to involve his teammates at the start of the 3rd the deficit was in the 20s in a matter of minutes and then it was really out of reach.

Kobe seems to have learned that it's better to try to involve his teammates at the outset of the game, which you see him doing a lot this year, and then focus on his own scoring from the 2nd quarter on.

Regarding last night's game, looking back on Kobe's "controversial" comments about Gilbert after the first Lakers-Wizards matchup this season, do his comments seem more valid now? "He doesn't seem to have much of a conscience. I really don't think he does. Some of the shots he took tonight, you miss those, and they're just terrible shots. Awful. You make them and they're unbelievable shots." Is Kobe right? Is Gil's shot selection really that bad that his (and his team's) success hinges on extremely shaky or risky shot selection? Look at how Kobe and Gil stacked up against each other in the two games this year:

Kobe - 42 ppg, 7 rpg, 8 apg, 29-50 (.580) fg%, 9-16 (.563) 3-pt%, 17-20 (.850) ft%

Gil - 48.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 6 apg, 26-61 (.426) fg%, 8-27 (.296) 3-pt%, 37-44 (.841) ft%

Even with Gil's huge outburst against the Lakers the first time around, he still overall shot poorly from the field and from 3 against the Lakers this year. Maybe Kobe's right about Gil.

 
At 2/04/2007 5:01 PM, Anonymous jr said...

apropos of nothing, or perhaps the recent "bad good big man post", there was a sequence in the Pistons-Cavs game where Sheed jumped over Ilgauskas for a tip and then jumped over him again and slammed it one with one hand. Plays like that make me cringe every time he shoots a 3 even though I detest the Pistons. Also, that Arenas/Deshawn Stevenson shooting contest absolutely nuts; for anyone who missed Gil (hilariously) discussed it in his latest blog post. Lastly, Peyton Manning? C'mon, I come to freedarko for pictures of hirsute clowns juggling torches in front of zebras in the rainforest, not Peyton on Super freaking Sunday.

 
At 2/04/2007 5:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see where you're going with the conclusion that Butler and the Wizards will struggle without Jamison (the pick and pop that Arenas/Jamison ran is now missing when Arenas gets double-teamed), but I think two games is an awfully small sample size. Losing to Toronto on a back-to-back isn't awful, nor is losing to the Lakers when they play inspired.

Butler, in particular, wasn't that awful last night -- he just didn't get any breaks (calls and/or shots) when he drove the basket last night.

I still think there's a possibility they go over .500 in Jamison's absence. Five of the next six games are at home, with four/five against teams who probably won't make the playoffs -- most of whom on long road trips(LAC, MIN, POR, SEA, PHI).

Oh, and for God's sake, can someone lend Blatche a basketball IQ?

 
At 2/04/2007 5:26 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

blatche is fucking awesome.

one thing i just realized about amare: he now seems like he's less of an asshole, and less likely to fuck up his career with drama. again, i'm not happy that i'm equating "moral" basketball with personal growth, but in this case it's not so tangential.

 
At 2/04/2007 5:27 PM, Anonymous D-Wil said...

Shoals-

Thanks for the shout out!...

Though I was interrupted by a couple of long phone calls (one was Michael Tillery - I think you know of him), I was finally able to finish a brief post over at my spot that also acts as a comment on this post of yours.

 
At 2/04/2007 6:05 PM, Anonymous ryan said...

anyone who hasn't seen/heard the gil/deshawn bet, go over to gilbertology, there's a video up of it. best 10 minutes of comedy i've seen in a while.

 
At 2/05/2007 6:34 AM, Anonymous Mortimer said...

I think you're referring to what I said about Amare not yet dominating like he used to... I'm sorry if it seemed dismissive of Amare's return; athletic marvels silenced by injury (even slightly) depresses me more than nearly anything else in the sports world.

Z-Bo's comeback is a bit different as he's probably one of the least athletic non-white players in the league, let alone amongst league leaders. His limitations helped him come back better than before; he could never jump so that wasn't a part of his game, the pain from his knee made him develop a strong outside shot (which he depends on too much), and now that he's relatively pain free he can incorporate the parts of his game that got him his contract along with the injury-game. Plus if he has a bad game he can say the knee hurts.

Just like microfracture surgery promotes growth and healing to create (in theory) a stronger bone than before, players adapting and growing from injury hopefully can improve their entire game. Amare was such an AMAZING athletic marvel that even though I was a fan of his style, I did not see him adapting well to losing even 5% of his natural gifts.

This is his first year back, however. Like everyone always says, the first year back from micro sucks. It still hurts, you're getting confidence back in the leg, etc. Z-Bo was pretty bad last year (his first year back), to the point where knee-jerk fans wanted to trade him for spart parts of nothingness. Amare will combine his newfound veteran's guile with the return of his athleticity or be... not Kemp2 cause he had other problems, but something new?

I can't really think of a good comparison. I know everything "Amare" has been talked to death and I am not really adding anything new; having glimpses and evidence of holy athleticosity in our time and then, without warning, replaced with New Coke Amare... this injury shit depresses me more than the 2000 Western Conference Finals.

(That was my 9/11)

Mortimer

 
At 2/05/2007 9:46 AM, Blogger GentleWhoadie9000 said...

Gilberto Gil may sound better, but Arenas is mos def Umbabarauma in a Jorge Ben stylee

 
At 2/05/2007 12:35 PM, Anonymous geebs said...

Amare's physical presence has been troubling me as of late. True- he does have the flashes of complete inside dominance that he showed during the playoffs 2 years ago, (especially vs. Duncan). But now, Duncan occasionally blocks his shot. I see Amare, unfortunately, going the direction of Antonio McDyess, who although was never quite the powerhouse that Amare was, worked in a similar manner on offense before being crippled by injury. It's the catch-22 that kills a fan's spirit though: Big men are suppose to be as coordinated as Shaun Bradley-- when they are more gifted, and thus, dominate in basketball, the gods must remind them that they are mortal. Hopefully Dwight Howard can mature into the player he is evolving into currently, without crippling himself in the process.

 
At 2/05/2007 6:07 PM, Blogger Pooh said...

Nowhere else to put this, so I'll say it here. I'm officially done with LeBronikova until he demonstrates that he gives a shit about something more than being the prettiest girl in school. (The reverse dunk down 10 with a minute to go sealed it for me, actually).

 
At 2/05/2007 7:59 PM, Anonymous MaxwellDemon said...

To hit on a microcosm of the Wild Yams statistical analysis, Gil went 3 for 15 from 3pt range on Saturday. Was this as painful to watch as it sounds?

 
At 2/05/2007 9:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Caron may have taken offense...

 

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