5.18.2007

Your Whistle Needs Some Snot



I'm not going to run and hide from people claiming that FreeDarko isn't built for the playoffs. In fact, I distinctly remember having typed that same sentence a year or two ago. Let's face it, the playoffs are, as one commenter pointed out, "a slow grind." It's the same faces, doing very similar things, for weeks on end. While I don't think FreeDarko is just about jumping on novelty, there's something to be said for the power of surprising, hitherto unimaginable, basketball events. For lord's sake, a major part of my NBA outlook circulates around the hollow god of potential; what makes Detroit or San Antonio maddening isn't just their style of play, but their sheer consistency.

On the other hand, there needs to be some continuity for a narrative to emerge, and I know that the playoffs are the only part of the season that really yields thus. There's a major difference between hailing Golden State's performance one game in, and considering its ramifications once the series is in the bag. Again, though, I'd argue that the teams that leave me cold just lack the unpredictability necessary to form a decent narrative arc. Steadiness, steadfastness, diligence, and a refined sense of focus are great from a competitive standpoint, iffy when as a fan, I want some surprises. At least a completely scattershot showing, like, say Denver in the first round, leaves with all sorts of questions and possibilities. Certainly not as compelling as the Warriors, but more intriguing than a team that rarely falters—especially when you've watched them stay on the straight and narrow for two rounds already.



Here's where I'll admit a problem. I get that the Spurs appeared somewhat vulnerable against the Nuggets, and that Detroit wasn't perfect this round. But after multiple years of relative fixity, it's hard to put much stock in little tiny hiccup. Just as, when the Warriors crapped out, their lack of track record kept me from believing this was part of some grand regenerative cycle.

As few things do anymore, this comes back to LeBron. He entered this season nursing a healthy clutch of storyline ammo, and then proceeded to piss a lot of that away. These playoffs, he's teetering between meaninglessness and the dawn of an even deeper tale than before. That's why the nation will soon hopefully look toward Cavs/Pistons, wherein LeBron can reclaim his spotlight with a couple of single-handed wins. I can safely say that, had he plowed through the reg seez and round one, the stage wouldn't be set like it is. But this is a gamble, for now he's in a position to seal his irrelevance.

17 Comments:

At 5/18/2007 3:26 PM, Anonymous Petey said...

"for now (LeBron is) in a position to seal his irrelevance."

That's unfair.

I think LeBron is on a path to prove someday that's he's every bit as good as Vince Carter.

 
At 5/18/2007 3:35 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

While FD may not be made for the playoffs, there's definitely been something lacking from the playoffs lately, which makes it all the more difficult to canonize here (or anywhere else for that matter). LeBron and the Pistons seem to me to perfectly embody what has been lacking, because both have seemed in the 2nd round (and during the season) almost like they couldn't be bothered to give a damn. Is this a result of players having too much money (being fat and happy) as opposed to previous generations of NBA'ers? Is the talent pool too watered down in the current NBA? Something contraction might cure? Have teams become too fixated on the distant future (tanking) instead of what's currently on their plate?

Simmons has a great challenge in his entry today in which he asks anyone to come up with a top 10 moments from this year's Eastern Conference playoffs. Have there been any really moving or great moments in the East bracket this year? We're all hoping Cleveland-Detroit can give us some, but even the participants seem disinterested heading towards it. Maybe there's too much of an attitude of keeping something in reserve for "when it counts" that's diluted the entertaining aspects of today's NBA. The problem with that attitude I think is that if you don't get yourself on a roll to where you're peaking at the right time, who's to say you can summon greatness at a moment's notice like that? There's definitely something wrong with the league though, like it's slowly rotting from the inside or something. I'm not sure exactly what it is, but there shouldn't be so much apathy about the sport from the fans and the players at this time of year.

WV - afanx: a rather appropriate descriptor of this site, don't you think?

 
At 5/18/2007 3:38 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i haven't read simmons yet today, but was going to make that same point about moments. i guess it's good i thought of something else.

 
At 5/18/2007 3:54 PM, Anonymous Sean said...

Wild Yams: I agree; there is definitely something wrong with the NBA this year. I thought the last two seasons were the start of a new era in the League, but this year has pretty much destroyed all that progress. From the injuries to the new-ball controversy to the apathetic play of some the NBA's biggest stars, this season has been an unmitigated disaster.

My only hope right now is that the 2007 Draft will infuse some life into the Association. That's unlikely, though; it's problems run too deep at the current time.

 
At 5/18/2007 4:02 PM, Anonymous Sean said...

The NBA seriously needs to start emphasizing teams instead of individal stars in its propaganda. Paul Shirley pointed out on Slate that the reason the NFL has been so successful is because it has cultivated a sense of loyalty to one's hometown team. The NBA, on the other hand, has based all of its advertising on individual stars.

Now, this would be fine if there was some sort of balance with what the NFL does. It's great to promote a Shaq-Kobe rivalry; it's even better to promote a Celtics-Lakers or Pistons-Bulls rivalry.

 
At 5/18/2007 4:15 PM, Anonymous Petey said...

"Have there been any really moving or great moments in the East bracket this year?"

I'd say watching Rasheed play defense like a bizarro Tim Duncan in Game 6 was somewhat moving and great...

 
At 5/18/2007 4:38 PM, Anonymous tom said...

"Have there been any really moving or great moments in the East bracket this year?"

Yes. Vince's quote: "The defense caught fire in the 4th."

 
At 5/18/2007 5:23 PM, Blogger Matt said...

self-immolation would certainly make the zone a little more interesting...

 
At 5/18/2007 5:54 PM, Blogger Nate said...

IMO injuries are what killed this post season:

Wizards: No Gil, No Caron
Heat: Shaq, Wade and the rest
Lakers: Walton, Kwame and especially Odom playing hurt

And during the year a slew of guys were out from Michael Redd to Ray Allen to Yao and T-Mac. Just look how many injury replacements this year's all-star game had.

On top of that, I think we all are just coming down from the high that was last year's playoffs. Last season it seemed like every series went at least 6 games. In almost every series (even the 1/8 Bulls/Heat and Spurs/Kings match ups) teams felt like they had a great chance to win. There haven't been too many series where both teams felt like they had a great chance to win. Also last year was a great combination of individual and team acheivement in the playoffs. Dirk, Kobe, Wade, Bonzi Wells, LeBron, Steve Nash, Sam I am, Elton Brand, and Tim Duncan all had spectacular playoffs. This year, I don't really feel like anyone is stepping to the forefront like that.

 
At 5/18/2007 5:56 PM, Anonymous Petey said...

Simmons stole the "musk" bit from you in his column today...

 
At 5/18/2007 6:49 PM, Anonymous eauhellzgnaw said...

You people kill me with the Lebron stuff. I know the hype is overkill, but come the fuck on. Lebron "irrelevant"?

 
At 5/18/2007 7:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think that musk stephen jackson bit is from anchorman unless there's another musk bit i missed

 
At 5/18/2007 10:33 PM, Anonymous torgo said...

In terms of those "moments of the eastern playoffs" I'm a bit limited because the glories of Japanese television have limited me to one freaking game, but in game 5, bulls-pistons, Tyrus Thomas jumped over a pistons player, grabbed a bulls miss off the glass and slammed it home, this coming (if I recall correctly) the play after he blocked a shot and came down with the ball. Top ten, at the least, even if I only saw one eastern conference game.

 
At 5/19/2007 3:05 AM, Blogger Colonel D. Williams (Ret.) said...

As a Spurs fan since the 80s when they sucked donkey ballz and the most exciting player was Walter "The Truth" Berry (FD before Darko wasn't free) its odd to now be able to sit here atop the ridge and look down to the valley and think, "is it lonely at the top?"

I understand the Spurs have always been boring like tax season, but now its turned ugly, like an...audit? Evil, I'm learning, has its own dark appeal. I think the suspensions were crap but it helped define the narrative. And as much as we're now despised, well, at least we're getting attention.

I applaud FD for finding ways to stay involved in the playoffs. I somehow feel responsible for being too harsh in past comments...I'm rambling, I'm drunk on success...

 
At 5/19/2007 1:49 PM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

I think Sean brought up a good point about building team up in the NBA. In the NFL, you have a fanbase association for almost every team; think Cleveland Browns fans, and you and I will picture the same thing; Oakland Raiders fans (the black hole comes to mind, right); Steelers fans, etc - you can do this for almost every franchise (even the J-E-T-S).

Now try that with NBA teams. Besides Lakers, Knicks, Bulls, Celtics, what else do you have?...

 
At 5/20/2007 9:36 AM, Blogger William said...

That Wise Lebron add where he talks about having to go through Detroit like Michael is really weird. I think even if he does go bananas in that series, I would feel let down by him. He's bricked too many bad shots in big games already to turn in around now.

In fact, that the Cavs are even still in the playoffs, especially with the way Bronny has played makes one feel that something is seriously unright with the playoff structure.

 
At 5/20/2007 2:17 PM, Anonymous pyrex chapman said...

seems to me that people are being a little tough on lebreezy. he's averaging 26/8/8 and his team is 8-2 in the postseason. washington was a toothless foe, and the cavs dispatched the nets with a similar, if equally torpid, lack of difficulty. i'm not arguing that any of it was remotely watchable (pun unintended) -- just that neither of those series were particularly the kind where gods stiffarm-mush us mortals in our unshaven faces and elegantly soar into the heavens bouyed by the warm zephyrs of our breath.

 

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