4.13.2007

Ladies, Your Intestines Shine



I've heard that the worst thing you can do in the wide world of sport fandom is be a fair weather one. Okay, I can get with that. If your point of reference is the tribal sphere, and you dawdle on the margins until there's good reason to perk up, it's not just insincere. It implies that the team owes you something, that your devotion to them depends on their proving themselves devotion-worthy. If you live in a city low itching for chauvinistic rallying points, the machine of pride doesn't operate if some people have the right to stand to judgment. I'm not saying that hometown fans are always unthinking monoliths. But if the team becomes a take-it-or-leave-it proposition, then the circuits of faith are jammed up to their core.

I think it's well-known, though, that FreeDarko could give a fuck less about provincial forms of worship. We exist on a higher, or at least more time-consuming, plane known as "liberated fandom." Put simply, we like the teams that meet our vague and furry criteria, such that our sensibility can find a match worth its while. This is no more shocking than only reading books that get good reviews, or avoiding a shitty bar even though your friend works there. I don't mean to disparage all ye fine people who have home teams, or insist that the two are mutually exclusive. Hell, some of my proudest moments as a watcher of the game have come when I've been able to approximate some sort of Arenas-derived pull for the Wizards. Alas, I am a wanderer by trade and a malcontent by spirit, and thus must make my way without the comfort of community.



The only reason I'm bothering with all this is that, with the playoffs close the edge (in so many ways), it's about time we all tool up and ride for the Nuggets. In case you've forgotten, this is the squad that has given a home to J.R. Smith, realized Melo's ceiling and respectability up to the tip-tops, and opened the door for me to come to terms with Iverson. Also, they've allowed me to remember just how minorly majestic Camby’s play can be, dispensed with my NBA nemesis Earl Boykins, and given George Karl free rein to rant and rave with everyone listening like it might be relevant.

I don’t think, though, that I’m the only person who had basically given up on this team until fairly recently. Until the streak, actually. The potential was staggering, but these were grown men—men who, at very least, we expected to not fulfill all of our worst nightmares about that combination for several months on end. Now that the cylinders are bursting and the steams exploding, the Nuggets have become the team we wanted them to. They stand to disrupt at least the slick rhetoric of this year’s playoffs, and maybe even put the fright of Noah into one of these regal estates. In short, they will be to this year what Arenas, god rest his aching carcass, was to ’06. And I’ll be damned if that first round series with LeBron didn’t set the tone for all the hi-jinx that followed, due mostly to Gilbert’s flair for tension, disaster, and deliverance.



What’s the catch? That quite evidently, you can’t fully comprehend an Iverson/Anthony team without the doctrine of thick-and-thin loyalty, which is pretty much just a hood version of some fat guy in Cleveland watching the Browns at his own heart surgery. By no stretch of the imagination can what I’m describing—not bothering with the Nuggets until they became what they could be—measure up to that standard. So in some sense, any allegiance I could claim to have to these Nuggets is marred, contradicted, even, by my refusal to stand with them throughout. Not because of the nature of fandom, but because everything I like about them is informed by this bleak determination. Or, to spell it out, if the difference between the Suns and the Nuggets is that Denver is overflowing with heart, grime and, as Dr. LIC put it, “mess,” how can coming to them late really embrace this distinction? If you stand by the end product, and not the journey, then there’s no use reveling in the struggle that came before it.

With Arenas, I’ve always felt fine going through ups and downs. Perhaps that’s because they never seemed pathological or self-defeating. There’s a rhythm to Arenas’s fuck-ups and redemptions that’s like the ocean or scared bugs, while Iverson and Melo both seems experts in the mire. Not wallowing per se, but only a slight improvement over that. When either of them gets down, they seem to have to dig themselves in deeper before rebounding with a wholly separate, often later, act. It’s not like I ever forgot they existed, or wholly abandoned my hopes for the team. But I think it’s only fair that I can grasp the range of Nuggets experience without having to indulge their every skid. When the prodigal son heads off, you’re supposed to leave him on his own for a while. What matters is how warmly you receive him upon his inevitable return.



Some similar problems apply when you start looking at the Warriors. Except they’re not definitely making it in, so I don’t want to jinx the Most Dangerous Team in the NBA. Okay, since you insist: one of their key players is an even more extreme of what I described above (Jackson) and another ends up in nearly the same place through injuried (Davis). I’m at peace with myself. And as a team, you could say that Don Nelson’s mad science can be just as trying as any of the players previously discussed. It’s almost like he’s trying to alienate you, or test just how willing you are to follow him to the canyon. Then he pulls you right back. Right?

Totally unrelated, but I have to say: fuck these Lakers. This is not a Kobe question. This is a banged-up Odom, not enough Mo Evans, Turiaf should start, Smush is not a point guard groan that begins in my nose and ends wherever the shirts I made during last year’s playoffs are stored. They had something to do with the Lakers being a bunch of wacky misfits, had a post that went with them, and I ate them all. Basically I don’t want to see the Lakers in the playoffs, since it will only open up Bryant to more bullshit when the problem is. . . Phil Jackson?

26 Comments:

At 4/13/2007 12:52 PM, Blogger max said...

Don't forget about Steve Blake.

 
At 4/13/2007 1:07 PM, Blogger Nate said...

Agree with you that part of the blame could be placed on PJ. Like I said to you and the hausers last night-injuries aside-Jackson has made some very poor decisions throughout the year.

1) Starting Smush Parker-Fuck Smush Parker. I can't stand his attitude or his work ethic. It's stupid to let that guy help ruin their season when they have a perfectly capable future starting PG named Jordan Farmar on the sidelines. I know Farmar is young, but he is so much better than Smush in terms of defensive intensity and effort, it's ridiculous. Plus he's an actual pg, so he runs the offense and keeps the thing going, while Smush just looks like a dear caught in headlights everynight. Smush really must have possesion of pornographic photos of PJ and Jeannie. That's the only way I can explain Jackson's love affair with him.

2)Exploiting match ups. He's got a guy named Lamar Odom that is a match up nightmare for almost every team in the league. Take last night, for example. The Clippers had EB trying to defend Odom on the perimeter. Everytime Odom took EB off the dribble it ended up being a lay up. Odom is just as unstoppable against smaller players in the post, but PJ never calls his number. Odom should be almost as featured as Kobe Bryant is in the offense, yet most of the time (like the second half of last nights game) he is relegated to a spot up shooter. Odom only had his number called like 4 times the entire night last night. And what about running some pick roll plays with Kobe and Lamar? A Kobe and Lamar pick and roll tandom would be difficult to touch, yet they never run that play. If Kobe is involved in pick and roll it's usually with Turiaf, Bynum, or (when healthy) Kwame Brown. Throw L.O. in there and see what he can do. I'm tired of seeing games where Smush Parker gets more shot attempts than Odom.

Everything else can be blamed on injuries. Walton, VladRad, Odom, Kwame, and Chris Mihm all missed over 20 games this season (with Kwame missing over 30 and Mihm missing the entire season). It's tough for a young team, that isn't that talented to begin with to get any consistency with that type of line up. When you think about it, another coach probably would have done a much worse job with this team than PJ is. I mean, with their injuries, does any team in the league have a worse set of bigs? Bynum is not ready yet, so they have to rely on Ronny Turiaf for most of the game. But maybe you're right. Maybe a lot of their failures can be blamed on him.

 
At 4/13/2007 1:25 PM, Anonymous Ronnie Friday said...

While this has nothing to do with the post, I just saw Marbury on Rachel Ray, where does this place him in the Freedarko universe?

 
At 4/13/2007 1:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You almost lost me when you promoted the nuggets as interesting. The only thing redeeming about that team is EDUARDO NAJERA. Maybe you get into them because they are an ego driven circus, and I imagine that can lead to some entertainment, but they certainly will not be any story in the playoffs. Gotta make it at least to the second round to be interesting. Much like the knicks, the nuggets are only feasibly attractive when in train wreck mode.

Golden State on the other hand is a fascinating team. Minus BD, he should just go play for the knicks. They deserve each other. I am totally on the Monta Ellis wagon, strapped in a ready for the road. Barnes and Beidrins are great too, and you got that crazy malcontent stephen jackson too. And Nellie. Now thats a mix.

Smush Parker should be sitting at the end of the bench. Farmar has some serious skills and he should be out there improving them. The triangle doesn't do matchups like that with Odom. The triangle changes with movement in the defense. Odom and triangle dont fit the square peg.
Brian

 
At 4/13/2007 2:11 PM, Blogger Nate said...

The triangle is a system dictated by movement in the defense. But there are ways to exploit Odom when has a smaller man on him, such as moving him from the four spot (which plays on the perimeter/baseline extended in the offense) to the center position (for offensive purposes). And when he has a bigger man on him, he should be running up the floor as the two man (for offensive purposes) so that way he has the opportunity to take the slower guy off of the dribble. There is also flexibility to run pick and roll with Kobe and Lamar within that offense, as they have been doing it all year with Kobe and other scrubs.

 
At 4/13/2007 3:26 PM, Anonymous iverson fan said...

Shoals finally coming around. I'm glad to hear it. I don't think there is a Nugget that I don't like. Personally I'd like to see Diawara get more PT. Linus is ballin. Nene is coming around, and Camby has been a beast. Can we beat the Spurs? Who knows. Tony Parker is a choke artist but Nobli and Duncan are money.

As for the Laker's injuries, Murs said it best, "Excuses are like rap careers." Those last 6 shots Kobe missed would have been a help. And another fucking airball by the Mamba. I think Smush's D is better than Farmar's. I got a little sentimental watchin the Clipps last night. Sometimes it seems like they are the only team that understands this point: Feed your best big man in the post all day long.

I will be kinda disappointed though if the Lakers don't make it. Watching Kobe lose in the playoffs is a great feeling.

 
At 4/13/2007 3:29 PM, Blogger Phillip said...

1. J.R. Smith is a douchebag. Do something.

2. Smush is gully in every way. He won't give up on himself. He'll bang on Ben Wallace. He'll play pickup ball-D on a 47 year old S.Cassell. He'll bitch about getting benched. It isn't his fault Phil runs him out there every damn night.

3. LO is a conundrum. So much talent, too much of it unrealized.

4. Kwame Brown is a pussy. Lamar's playing hurt, Kobe played hurt, Luke's playing hurt, Ronnie had his chest opened up, Vlad's wearing a Prince-padded undershirt. WTF!

5. The Triangle is broken.

 
At 4/13/2007 3:38 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

iverson fan will be pleased to hear this but I place the blame for last night's Laker loss squarely on Kobe. He got that early technical in the game and you could tell right then that he decided he was gonna beat the Clips all by himself. His strategy worked wonders when he was shooting 67% for the first 28 minutes, but once he bottomed out (finishing 3 for his last 12) there was nobody on the team who had any kind of offensive rhythm and Kobe continued to bomb away, and suddenly the Lakers coughed up a 17 point lead.

There are lots of things the Lakers could be doing differently, but I do think the reason they aren't is due to the injuries. I think they had a plan in mind from the start of the season, but the injuries totally obliterated that plan and eventually it got to the point where if Kobe didn't step up and go 1-on-5 then the Lakers were gonna keep losing. The problem seems to me to be that once Phil let the Mamba out of his cage, he can't get him back in again (and quite possibly doesn't even want to). It seems like everyone on the Lakers from Phil and Kobe on down has just totally abandoned any semblance of a game plan and are just counting on Kobe to carry them to some sort of finish line; and with the utter lack of other scorers on the team (or defenders, for that matter), that's a losing strategy if ever I've seen one.

If the Lakers carry this "game plan" into the postseason they're going to get absolutely humiliated by either Phoenix or Dallas. The problem seems to be that it's a couple weeks too late to try to implement something new. If the Lakers don't play as a team they're going to get absolutely manhandled over the next two to three weeks. Maybe the silver lining in that scenario will be that Laker management will have their hand forced and they will absolutely have to make a blockbuster deal of some sort this summer. The best thing for the Lakers' future would be to be able to keep Kobe, Odom, Luke & Bynum and add a point guard who either can legitimately score or defend (or both), but that's looking less and less likely with every loss.

 
At 4/13/2007 3:47 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

there is no shortage of smush admiration upon my shores. i just don't think he's a point guard.

 
At 4/13/2007 3:56 PM, Blogger Nate said...

You're right, Shoals...Smush is not a PG. He'd be a great substitute two guard coming off of the bech as a 6th or 7th man.

 
At 4/13/2007 4:21 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

The most baffling thing about Smush is his attitude. After being cut by his first few NBA teams and having to play overseas he should have been humbled enough to not feel the sense of entitlement he does. He should surely realize the only reason he's started with the Lakers for two seasons is due to them really being over the barrel and not having anyone else to play in his stead (Farmar notwithstanding). While this has allowed him to start, he shouldn't confuse it with somehow thinking he's been legitimized as a starting NBA point guard just because he's on the Lakers.

Smush is definitely not a point guard, but he could potentially have been a "triangle point guard" due mainly to his size. The problem is that in Phil Jackson's triangle system the non-traditional point guard should be relatively tall, be able to defend and be able to shoot. Smush is not a good shooter and while he has skills on defense, he does not have smarts on defense and frequently makes unnecessary gambles to try for a steal. Smush's defensive IQ limitations might be helped if the Lakers ever practiced defense (which reportedly they've only done once or twice all year), and his offensive deficiencies might be masked if he used his height advantage over many opposing PGs to post them on occasion or if he used his athleticism to drive rather than settle mainly for long-range shots.

But I think a lot of that all goes back to Smush's attitude, because you can't help but wonder how much of this Phil and his staff may have tried to teach to young William over the last two years and how much of it has fallen on deaf ears. In the last Lakers-Nuggets game Mark Jackson was proudly talking about how Smush was a "city guy" being from NYC, and the other announcer sort of hinted at speculating that his being a "city guy" may have something to do with his attitude problems and his sense of entitlement. I don't know why Smush has the attitude he does, but maybe that guy was onto something.

 
At 4/13/2007 5:04 PM, Anonymous ZMarker said...

Nate, surely you could put the blame on Jackson for not correctly exploiting match ups with Odom, but it isn't like he doesn't know that there are match ups to exploit, I would hope. Put some blame on Lamar too, he knows who he can exploit and who he can't. And if he doesn't Phil, or Kobe (at this point I'm not sure if Phil does anything, it's clearly more Kobe's team than Phil's) should tell him. So it's Lamar's fault for not taking a more active approach OR it's Kobe's fault. I think it comes down to Kobe not facilitating anything on offense. Obviously, everything runs through him, but his ability to score, regardless of how bad the shot may be, is a detriment to the rest of the team.

 
At 4/13/2007 6:11 PM, Blogger DDD said...

When my beloved Jazz finally retired AD's number this week, Dantley mentioned Melo and Camby have been taunting him for years that "if he had been any good, his jersey would've been retired already."

Class acts, those two.

 
At 4/13/2007 6:33 PM, Anonymous Mavis Beacon said...

Mr. Shoals, you tease us. Just what corner of the basketball universe might be Smush's niche? Backup point guard for UCLA? "He Got Game 2" extra? Perhaps Lakers head coach?

 
At 4/13/2007 6:54 PM, Anonymous db said...

I'm reasonably high on Farmar but there's no way he's ready to take on the bulk of the minutes at PG. He hit the wall this year and he still makes so many rookie mistakes that come in bunches and sap the team's momentum. Parker is an idiot but there's something about a few years in the L which makes his poor decisions and marginal effort seem open to transformation through coaching. That may not be the case but that's how it seems to me. I think Farmar might be ready for some more time next year.

As for the point of the post: your desire to have the Nuggets without the grime sounds ripe for factoring into the recent hip-hop vs. judaism meme.

 
At 4/13/2007 8:02 PM, Anonymous jt said...

what is it with the Lakers this year and the plethora of dudes who are totally and undeniably unjustified going off with inexplicable tantrums and/or antics? I mean, Smush effing Parker? And Brian Cook? Is there a more woebegotten, miserable pair of NBA miscreants? And of course Vlad-Rad with a historically terrible and ridiculous off the court injury.

That seems like the perfect footnote to this Lakers season. Mediocrity was so prevalent that they couldn't even have quality problem players. I remember staring at the TV with absolute befuddlement watching Brian Cook go bananas. I mean, he's Brian Cook. He can't even crack a rotation consisting of a raw 19 yr old foul machine and Ronnie Turiaf (who rules, btw).

There was a certain perverse joy to watching the Lakers/Clips game yesterday. Sam Cassell, a wizened 58 yr old alien, coming back after a bazillion games off, plays terrible for almost the whole game and then starts blowing by Smush repeatedly at 5 mph. Whoever said that once Kobe is cut loose PJ can't/doesn't want to stop the beast he's unleashed is dead on. I think he played the entire 2nd half without resting. That's why KB was jacking up airballs at the end; also he was forcing up bad shots into doubleteams but what else is he supposed to do? Pass the ball to Vujacic or Parker for a bricked 3 or let Bynum get hammered so can badly miss FTs it seems. Still and all KB was enthralling to watch. He's like Klaus Kinski in Fitzcarraldo. Seriously, look at KB brooding. PJ comes in as Werner Herzog. Maybe after the Lakers fizzle out in the 1st Rd they can pick up a collective Palme d'Or.

 
At 4/13/2007 8:40 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

jt said - Whoever said that once Kobe is cut loose PJ can't/doesn't want to stop the beast he's unleashed is dead on. I think he played the entire 2nd half without resting. That's why KB was jacking up airballs at the end; also he was forcing up bad shots into doubleteams but what else is he supposed to do?

Kobe didn't just play the 2nd half without resting, he played the whole game without resting. And they've got Phoenix tonight on the back-to-back. I can't help but think that was in the back of Kobe's mind when he tried to stick the dagger in with the Lakers up 17 with 8 minutes to go in the 3rd. You could almost see him thinking "If I drain a couple threes here and push this thing to 25 or more, I'll get to sit the whole 4th quarter and be rested for Raja Bell tomorrow." If that was what Kobe was thinking, well as we all saw it was hugely stupid. Whatever his thinking was, up 17 with 20 minutes left in the game is no time to start jacking threes with reckless abandon. Yeah if you hit them you do get to sit the 4th, but if you don't, suddenly it's a game again (which is of course what ended up happening). This is why I'd still pick Jordan over Kobe, despite the fact that I think Kobe is a better scorer: Jordan was an infinitely better decision maker (and better defender to boot), even when he was in his "there's an 'I' in 'win'" mode early in his career.

 
At 4/14/2007 5:59 AM, Anonymous Mortimer said...

LAKERS CAN NOT BE IN THE LOTTERY.

A wise man once reminded me that if the Lakers fall out of the playoffs, you can rest assured that SOMEHOW OH SO LUCKILY WINK WINK they'll get a top two pick.

The NBA front office can't stand this middling shit the Lakers been on the last few years. Fuck that in PJ's broken hip, they say. The fix is in!

Then when they get Oden or Durant, they'll actually be a good team and the fans will come back and have that infuriating sense of entitled accomplishment every bandwagon Laker fan has.

I can't live in such a world. Lakers, my enemy, please make the god damn playoffs.

 
At 4/14/2007 1:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Sometimes it seems like they are the only team that understands this point: Feed your best big man in the post all day long."

Hey Iverson fan, have you watched the Mavericks once this YEAR?

 
At 4/14/2007 3:57 PM, Anonymous Amphibian said...

Then when they get Oden or Durant, they'll actually be a good team and the fans will come back and have that infuriating sense of entitled accomplishment every bandwagon Laker fan has.

Every team has bandwagon fans. However, the Lakers home fans are from L.A. That is sufficient reason to hate them.

 
At 4/14/2007 4:04 PM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

I agree with pretty much everything Wild Yams has said in this thread so far. Could not have said it better myself.

Also, I think Sam Cassell is on the wrong LA team. An offseason move like that might be all it takes for the Lakers to jump into a top-4 seeding.

 
At 4/14/2007 5:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone mentioned earlier that the lakers middling to bareley NBA calliber players throwing tantrums is fucked up.
The problem with the lakers is that besides Kobe, who on their team isn't a middling player. This is a team where there starting lineup looks like a weak bench. And where their weak bench looks pretty sad.
If there were some decent players on this team, players like B Cook, and Smush Parker wouldn't be throwing tantrums.
Does anybody remember a few years back when Larry Brown was coaching against the Lakers and killed smush while he was mic'd... it was unfoutunate but LB was just keeping it real. Lakers are mostly scrubs this year. Even though i like their team part of me is hoping they get into the lottery and win a high pick.

 
At 4/14/2007 10:06 PM, Anonymous Duff Soviet Union said...

Nate, you call Lamar Odom a "matchup nightmare". The problem with Odom is that he's a matchup nightmare for both teams. People always talk about how neither 3's nor 4's can stop him, but it works the other way when he has to play defense. Small forwards drive past him easily, while bigs murder him in the post. There's a reason the Lakers defense sucks. Enjoy your first round exit Kobe and Phil.

 
At 4/15/2007 5:40 PM, Blogger GentleWhoadie9000 said...

"Ladies, your intestines shine"

uhhhhhh, what the fuck?

 
At 4/16/2007 8:01 PM, Blogger Nate said...

Duff Soviet Union:

I watch every Laker game, and I can't remember a time Lamar has ever really been lit up. He's a good defender and a very good rebounder.

 
At 4/13/2009 4:56 AM, Blogger 平平 said...

^^Thanks!!

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