No Band Is Not Angry
Over the last two days, some longtime FreeDarko associates have nominated the Jazz. Their contention is not an idle one: this Utah team is like when Parker/Ginobili infected the Spurs. Superficially, the attitude is vintage Sloan, but the mechanics are nothing short of positionally revolutionary. Of course, one could argue that the old Jazz way then permeates their feats at a deeper level—attitude being both affect and perspective. However, that requires all sorts of franchise essentialism, coach over body doctrine, and belief in the enduring mist of history. These things are best left to the Reggie Miller's (hacks) and Bill Walton's (snake handlers) of basketball discourse.
In fact, the first thing I wrote after the Rockets' loss had to do with the Jazz's numerous charms. The second I saw the press conference, I felt horrible about it and got back on orthodox FD track. I did, though, manage to inject some modest nods into a couple of recent posts, which I would link to if the whole thing weren't so obvious. Maybe the Jazz's swag is largely implied, and Derek Fisher a key part of their rotation. But really, what's the qualitative difference between Okur's dead-pan three's and Richardson's? Said Turk has got more bright fatalism in his stroke than Dirk does these days. Kirilenko is back to his Gerald Wallace-like fits of disruption. Deron Williams may not have Baron's elevation, even now, but his sturdy insistence is hardly the stuff of leaden ideology. And Boozer, I know he's most hated, but that game of his is like Zach Randolph with a tether.
Last week, I called them my favorite NBA foil. I didn't just not hate them, I actually respected them. At some point, that morphed into appreciation, which then gave way to warmth. I can safely say that, in this May of 2007, I might well rather watch the Jazz than the familiar, and possibly doomed, Phoenix Suns. From a strict basketball standpoint, they are positive matter, not shadow or void.
Alas, this last four days of Warriors and T-Mac related upheaval has brought out something important: basketball can be devastatingly human without losing sight of the game. The Warriors fascinate us so because their screwy style seems a reflection of their coach and players; more than mere tactics, this is the nexus of style/psychology at its most extreme. Similarly, McGrady's making the sorrow of losing into an existential dilemma both elevates and humilates sports-in-itself. I once called the Warriors a team based on '06-07 Amare; 'twas meant as a means of descibing the fine line between discipline and chaos, method and madness. But I think it also applies nicely to what that team means on a person-level: Stoudemire's not just a greatly improved basketball player, he's a young man who now dresses weird and write poetry about the majesty of black women.
In the end, we might be looking at two different means to the same end. The Jazz have all the hallmarks of a FreeDarko team, yet no one suspects that they've been driven to it by idiosyncrasy and tribulation. Theirs is a revolution of necessity, not prophecy. And while the former is often the more successful, it's the latter that leaves behind the best paintings.