2.28.2007

Release the Gluco Wannabes

































This is how a pigeon takes flight.

After I watched the Wolves barely muster up 65 points against the Mavericks on Tuesday night, I'm pretty much ready to write Papa Wolf Glen Taylor an email and ask him to compensate me for my remaining NBA League Pass bill (sudden thought: possible Freedarko tax write-off?). I'm throwing in the towel on Kevin Garnett too. Not giving up on HIM, but no longer committing myself to the hard stance that I need him as a part of my life, on the Timberwolves. This KG-surrender actually occurred the previous week when I read his now well-documented comments, well-summarized here, which are merely the most explicit in a long line of faiiiiiirly subtle self-declarations of KG's unhappiness.

I AM DOCUMENTING IT ALL RIGHT HERE. Once KG and Minnesota part ways, much will be made of his loyalty, how he never ASKED for a trade, how he kept his mouth shut. For the past year-and-a-half, we've seen KG-apologists from Stephen A. Smith to William Lee to Bill Simmons to Charles Barkley [no links, we've heard it over and over] scream for freedom on KG's behalf, because KG's good character somehow makes him deserving of a championship . I am here to tell you that all of this KG-bolstering is grossly overstated (note: some like me are also fed up with this continuous pining). Sure, Ticket never came out and straight-up begged for a trade like Zo, Vince Carter, T-Mac (fallen heroes), but you know what? Fuck it. I wish he did. I'd rather he would just man up and speak his piece rather than pull this passive-aggressive shit. Some quick evidence to review:

During the failed 04-05 season, when most analysts picked the Wolves to go all the way, KG broke down during the legendary John Thompson interview...then pissed away the rest of the season with a bunch of aging teammates and started throwing subliminal disses at the front office at the season's. At the start of the 05-06 season, as the Wolves were looking to bounce back, Garnett started this muckstorm by throwing some serious shots at the F.O. for mishandling the Flip situation and Spree and Sam's contracts. In the beginning of the current season, KG made his infamous "my clock is ticking" comments. I'm leaving out a few similar smaller remarks...but we are pretty much up to date with his current "Thank God for opt-outs" smackdown.

























Here is where the typical Minnesota sportsfan jumps in and blames Kevin McHale for everything, which seems also to be the refrain of every NBA media member of late. That line of thinking is such a cop-out I barely want to address it, but I guess I have to. Will try to make this succinct. I'm not saying McHale shouldn't share some of the responsibility, and I'm not putting it all on KG either. I'm just saying, there's enough egg to go around. Shit, if we're distributing blame, then let's talk Troy Hudson, Wally Szczerbiak, Eddie Griffin, Flip Saunders. Back to McHale, though, I think dude's failures are largely a result of (a) one big organization-wide mistake: Joe Smith (KG, Glen Taylor, and others can share responsibility on this one), (b) bad luck (see: Marbury pulling a Diana Ross, Terrell Brandon's injury, and the Malik Sealy tragedy), and (c) listening TOO MUCH to KG (see: Troy Hudson's contract, Mike James, again, the Joe Smith deal).

On top of it all, McHale takes the blame for making moves that ALWAYS seemed advisable at the time. Let's see, after T-Brandon goes down and the Wolves play a spirited-but-again unsuccessful 1st round series in 02-03, everyone barks at him to get playoff-experienced vets, so he goes out and grabs Sam Cassell and Spree. Sam and Spree get cranky, age quickly, want money and we all start to stir--Cassell's playoff heroics are forgotten and is now seen only as a shit defender and too much of a shoot-first guy, so McHale goes out and gets a solid-defending/pass-first point guard in Marko Jaric. Jaric gets the jitters, the season explodes, and everyone says what KG needs is a championship-tested clutch companion, so McHale goes out and gets Mike James. DO YOU REALIZE HOW MUCH OF A MIRACLE THIS WAS? Nobody thought he was going to the wolves, nobody. Sure, Mac took Ndudi Ebi instead of Josh Howard in the 03 draft, but he did so knowing that we were going into the season with a team of vets. The starting lineup was scheduled to have four all-stars (Wally, Spree, Sam, KG), and he figured he might as well roll the dice. Paul Grant and Will Avery were bad decisions. Then again, Craig Smith and, uh, Kevin Garnett at #5 were good ones. I've already said too much: McHale is cool with me.






























Back to KG. Actually back to McHale AND KG. Outsiders are quick to suggest that the tragedy of KG's career was that he never had a strong supporting cast. They point to 03-04 as the only season as the exception. Let's examine this claim a bit more closely: First, using some extreme double-negative logic, quick inspection reveals that the 03-04 was nowhere CLOSE to a formidable cast. The starting center spot alternated between Michael Olowokandi and Ervin Johnson. Trenton Hassell, a patch, was starting as well. Gary Trent (Mr. Timberwolf) was getting clock. Darrick Martin was starting playoff games. How was this team of guys necessarily better than any of the Joe Smith/Wally in his prime/Hudson in his good year/ T-Brandon permutations. Second, THEY HAD THE SAME SQUAD IN 04-05...PLUS a healthy Wally. Obviously, the unspoken factor in all of this is chemistry, but if all you need is chemistry, then how was chemistry so difficult to formulate? I'm leaving more questions than answers here, but the bottom line is that the whole "lack of supporting cast" argument is pretty spotty. Or, if you want to take this opinion, then you are basically conceding that KG was actually Pippen all along.

I refuse to take that stance, although I will admit that KG's game is simply not dominant, because of his well-documented tendency to shoot fadeaways and not turn to the middle or go up strong to get fouled. These tendencies I don't necessarily fault HIM with, but rather, I attribute to Flip Saunders. Flip nurtured a young "Da Kid" in his painfully redundant perimeter-oriented offense, and turned a beastly down-low high school player into a superfreak jumpshooter. I blame Flip for most of this, actually.























Again, the purpose of all this is not to blame KG, but rather to get the facts straight before he moves on and revisionist history is written. I feel like I've already watched the next 9 months of my life play out by witnessing the Iverson situation. I fear that like AI, I will lose respect for KG when all is said and done. Note, I did not lose respect for AI for asking out of Philly. Rather, I lost respect when he tried to cover his tracks with his adamant claim that he NEVER DEMANDED A TRADE. Instead, he let the Sixers know that, in his words:

If they didn't change what was going on so that we had a chance to win, I thought they should get rid of me.

That is some straight Bill Clinton "I did not have sex with that woman/definition of IS" semantic dumb wizardry. That interview (with Stephen A.) was the one to let the know the Philadelphia fans that their AI could have never been responsible for the whole debacle. Blame Billy King. Blame Maurice Cheeks (FATHER TIME). I thought it was bullshit. VC goes back to Toronto and takes his boos like a man, dropping 30+ and sticking daggers in the Air Canada Center. Iverson wants Rocky status in Philly + baby blue first round exits at the same time.

Say what you mean, fellas. Stop moping.



































I also bring up A.I. because he shares something else in common with KG--they are two of the most respected players in he league, THE two players I think of first when answering the question, WHO HAS HEART. What our Jr. High B-Squad coaches told us about "heart" though wasn't true. The folk wisdom has been twisted for years.

The players with heart, those who play through pain and who epitomize the Protestant work ethic. Those players, they DONT win championships. I have never seen Tim Duncan dive for a ball. I have never seen Shaq play through an injury for a couple weeks to keep his team afloat. I never--during a game--saw the visible manifestation of "heart" on Jordan's face. Jordan played within himself; his body language and demeanor reflected that. With KG & AI, heart is something you can pinpoint within their furrowed brows, something that elicits Walton's verbal recognition of how "HARD [AI or KG] wants to win right now."

Heart, in this sense, is a bit contrived. For the true champions, there is no outward expression of this nature.

19 Comments:

At 3/01/2007 11:07 AM, Blogger Pacifist Viking said...

It's not a copout if it's true.

My problem is that McHale has failed repeatedly to give Garnett legitimate help in the post. He's led the league in rebounding because he has been REQUIRED to--he's just never had real help there. And there have been opportunities to get help there, but McHale has instead devoted resources to acquiring a myriad of guards to assemble around KG. Right now, how many guards/swingmen are on the T-Wolves' roster? James, Foye, Hudson, McCants, Jaric, Davis, Hassell...am I forgetting anybody? Maybe things are changing, as Craig Smith seems like a player and Blount has worked alright. And hey, maybe McHale has tried (Joe Smith, Olowokandi). But he has failed. Garnett's been on his own in the post surrounded by perimeter players.

There are some prominent heart players that do have titles, though. Larry comes to mind. I remember that quote he had "It makes me sick to see players watch the ball go out of bounds," or something like that. Maybe he's an exception in all things.

 
At 3/01/2007 11:19 AM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

i was thinking that larry, kobe, and even d-wade might all be exceptions to the "champions don't have heart" claim, but what sets those players apart from KG/AI is that you never saw their MISERY. with KG/AI it's like, "look how intensely miserable they are yet somehow still fighting. they must want to win so badly."

we could debate mchale for days, but i still chalk most of this shit up to bad luck. olowokandi was supposed to be good--he sucked. griffin was supposed to stay out of trouble--he didn't. garnett needs to help himself in the post.

 
At 3/01/2007 11:41 AM, Anonymous bloodofthewig said...

Notmally, nothing but love for DLIC But, sorry, facial/visage contortions have absolutely no bearing on a players desire to win. These are basketball players, not soap actors. One of the weaker strains of thought on FD in some time.

And even though Timmy is not FD, doesn't mean he doesn't eat parquet with the best of them. Doubt that these are fakes.

http://www.nba.com/spurs/weekly_roundup/051127.html

http://www.mysanantonio.com/specials/spurschamps/slideshows/spurslakersgame4/Slide_05.shtml

 
At 3/01/2007 11:54 AM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

"sorry, facial/visage contortions have absolutely no bearing on a players desire to win."

this was the exact point i made in my post.

as far as your photos, one is of TD falling down, one is of him getting gang-tackled by a bunch of kings. what's the point? MY GETTY IMAGES GAME IS AIR-TIGHT and i could easily find a bunch of images of TD looking calm and placid.

bottom line: TD takes weeks off to sit with injuries that KG has played through. i'm not knocking this at all. in fact i'm saying that this is the exact reason that TD is a champ and KG is not.

 
At 3/01/2007 12:03 PM, Blogger Trey said...

I never--during a game--saw the visible manifestation of "heart" on Jordan's face.

What about Jordan in the Flu Game?

wv:lsldidm-my favorite Street Fighter character

 
At 3/01/2007 12:04 PM, Anonymous the wolf said...

Uh, Jordan not having heart? What about 38 against the Jazz in game 5 in '97, the game winning three, and collapsing into Scottie's arms (for effect no doubt, but nonethless, a gutty performance).

I don't necessarily think I agree with entitlement to a title for a man who makes $26 million a year (which lends itself to the problem of surrounding him with talent), but he is the perfect teammate for a scorer, or at least a few guys that can shoot. He makes his teammates better, but better than shit is what exactly? He's like JKidd in that regard.

 
At 3/01/2007 12:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

what then is the relationship between heart and precision or mastery? i'm assuming here that jordan's "playing within himself" is a manifestation of mastery whereas iverson or KG's display of heart belies a deficiency of some sort? is hustle in this equation?

 
At 3/01/2007 1:31 PM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

On the tax w/o question: yeah, you can write off any NBA leaguepass expenses, as well as internet connection costs, etc. against any revenue earned from FreeDarko's advertising, sales, or any other compensation you make blogging, basically.

Okay, put me down for an emphatic f*ck yeah on calling out KG's passive-aggressive trade demand. Either say "yeah, I'm happy here, I enjoy having a huge say in the decision-making" or say "I want out". Stop playing it both ways.

But no dice on trying to absolve McHale of the blame. McHale is the worst GM in the NBA (not hyperbole; legitimate fact). You know the list of atrocious mistakes he's committed, so don't make me list them, please. Nobody made him go after Marko Jaric (and giving up Cassell PLUS his #1?!?). Everyone with a shrewd of knowledge about basketball knew that was a terrible move.

And why trade your #6 pick for the #7?

Anyway, if KG wants out he should say so. But the reality is KG is scared to leave the team and possible lose his legacy, which right now is "Great player doomed by bad executive decisions". That looks better than "great player who wasn't aggressive enough at clutch time to lead his team to victory".

 
At 3/01/2007 1:58 PM, Anonymous Cyanide said...

And why trade your #6 pick for the #7?

Not a bad move if you're really looking to cut cap space any way possible and the player you want is picked later. All the NBA first-round draft contracts are guaranteed with specific salaries, so even if it's only shaving off two or three hundred k, it's still a bit more money saved.

And I'm gonna straddle the fence and say yeah, there were a lot of unfortunate, really unpreventable circumstances that mired the T'Wolves where they are now (injuries, Griffin's fucking up, etc), but there's still a great deal of management-induced hardship with things like KG's enormous contract that's so hard to work around and the stupid Joe Smith scandal costing the Timberwolves a host of potential young talented players.

Just seems like scorched earth time in Minnesota. Ditch KG, get some pieces and picks while you can, re-arm for the future.

 
At 3/01/2007 1:59 PM, Anonymous General Patten said...

I forget exactly where, but recently I read someone’s comments/article about how it makes sense to take Oden with the first pick over Durant because do-it-all players like Durant, however talented they may be, are forcedly spread too thin because of their implied responsibilities to fill every hole. The obvious example of this is Garnett, and to a lesser extent LeBron and Paul Pierce, because every time their respective teams need a big bucket, rebound, or defensive stop, these guys are options one, two and three. I don’t have all the team stats for Garnett’s career, but from 2001 to 2006, he led the team in points, boards, steals and blocks and was top 2 in assists every single season. While that is truly an amazing feat, its no coincidence that the best year the team had was when Sprewell and Cassell took a good deal of the load off KG’s shoulders. When Garnett’s responsibilities were narrower and he could concentrate on doing a few things well, rather than feeling the pressure to do everything well, the team was better. McHale has to be blamed for their shittiness since that team, if only because it was plainly evident what kind of players needed to be paired with Garnett
.
I agree with DLIC that that team was only marginally, if at all better talent-wise than some of the Wolves teams from the years before or after, but the fact of the matter is that Cassell and Spree possessed the swag and killer instinct that the team sorely lacked. They wanted the ball in crunch time, got pissed when they were slighted, and didn’t play like pussies when KG reamed them out. McHale’s missteps prior to that team are forgivable; however, his attempts to recreate the cocksureness of that year (i.e. Mike James and Ricky Davis) have been remarkably shortsighted. This could have been easily rectified by giving up Foye to get Iverson, but McHale botched that one too.

If KG doesn’t want to demand a trade from a city that made him the highest paid basketball player of all time, I can understand that, but the guy wants to win and as long as McHale is calling the shots, its not gonna happen.

 
At 3/01/2007 2:33 PM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

KG doesn't want to win, not at the cost of having to share the credit for the victory with someone else of equal stature. Listen, if KG really wanted AI on the team, I mean really wanted AI on the team, Foye would have been traded, and AI would be his sidekick.

But the reality is AI is no one's sidekick; he's an equal star to KG. KG wants a true sidekick, someone that will help him win but won't take his status as top dog. It's not an ego thing, its more of a "this is my team, and I want to keep it that way" kind of thing....

 
At 3/01/2007 5:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the article misses the fact that KG probably doesn't want to leave Minny as much as he wants to win a championship.
As great a player as he is, he's turned into the bitchy employee who has been working somewhere for too long and complains about everything... I've worked with these people and it's loads of fun.
KG has played on 1 team since he was 18... plus he's overrated, right now KG is an amazing talent who never got the supporting cast. If he was on a better team he would have been chris webber; a really good player who couldn't get it done.

 
At 3/01/2007 5:52 PM, Anonymous robinkisser said...

As a Minnesotan, though not a native, I feel like I should jump in a trash mcfail too.
He has failed over and over again to build a team that is even competitive, while refusing to change directions and try new things. Some of this goes to coaching, but most of the blame lies directly at mchale's doorstep.
Bad drafts, poor free agency decisions, idiotic trades (jaric for cassel and a #1!!!), repeated attempts to build a soft jump shooting team unsuited to KG, etc. etc. etc.

To quote britt robson (city pages)
"But toting it up, I would trade the Wolves second-best player (ricky davis) for the second-best player on every single Western Conference team, the third best player on half of those teams (7 out of 14) the fourth best player on two teams, and the fifth best player on Phoenix. That's the short-term supporting cast of these Wolves."

How is that not mchale's fault?

Tell me, does anyone honestly believe that if you swapped careers/teams, tim duncan for KG that he wouldn't have won at least a couple of championships too?

People said that tim duncan was too boring to inspire teammates to win championships. Shaq was too goofy, jordan too selfish....

The new paradigm for winning style is set by the last one to beat the old paradigm.

 
At 3/02/2007 3:36 AM, Anonymous grover said...

"Tell me, does anyone honestly believe that if you swapped careers/teams, tim duncan for KG that he wouldn't have won at least a couple of championships too?"

So true. Honestly think about it.

KG starts his career with David Robinson, who schools him in practice. KG becomes even tougher.

Popovich coaches with actual skill, so KG learns his role as a star.

Spurs management have shown the ability to build a team, rather than just 'complement the star." Because of this, Duncan is willing to share the spotlight with Tony Parker & Ginobili.

None of this would happen in Minny.

 
At 3/02/2007 4:21 AM, Blogger Nate said...

My only beef with Garnett is that he had the skill and body to become one of the greatest low post threats ever, but instead chilled on the perimiter waaaay too much throughout his career. Here's what I wrote about KG on a profile I had of him on my blog over the summer:

"As with LeBron, he can be counted on to fill up the box score every night. And as with Duncan and Kobe, he is one of the more fundamentally sound players in the league. He can rebound, block shots, shoot the mid range jumper, and is almost un-guardable in the low post. He’s also a very solid passer and has great footwork and ball handling ability for a man of his size. My only knock on KG is that I feel he could be a much better player if he asserted himself more on the low block. There really isn’t anyone in the league that can guard him down there, yet he still considers himself more of a wing player than a post player. I really feel like his post game is as evolved as Tim Duncan’s, yet he doesn’t utilize it. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Duncan has the ability to take his man to the perimeter, but you see he still spends most of his time on the block because that is where his team needs him most. KG, if you’re listening: Get your butt down on the block, and I guarantee your team will make the playoffs this year."

 
At 3/04/2007 3:14 AM, Anonymous Jason said...

if you've never seen Tim Duncan dive for the basketball, you've obviously not seen enough of the Spurs.

But I guess what you mean is players wearing their hearts on their sleeves. Exactly what's so fantastic and inspiring about that escapes me.

 
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