Be Thee Not Unspoken
Sorry I haven't been my usual babbling self about this draft. To be perfectly straight about it, I don't want to guess about this class of draftees—I want them to hurry up and get in the league. I firmly believe that, after a down-year, the NBA is positioned to come clanging back more boisterously than before. The injuries will be gone, the new blood will be streaming through the league, movement might happen, and there will be a ton of chips floating around out there. At the risk of jinxing us all, I'll hold off on particulars until the moment is near. Suffice it to say, however, that this year the draft sort of just feels like making us wait for something grand and actual.
But what I really came down from the hills after my. . . three day?. . .hiatus for was to speak on the dreaded "R word." Shanoff sent me an email yesterday that really got me thinking about the utter relativity, subjectivity, deception, and futility of "rebuilding." Like we know that the T-Wolves have supposedly not been rebuilding, because Garnett wants to win. And yet the Celtics are, despite having Pierce, a young nucleus coming along, and being in a conference that lends itself to token success. It would seem that there are at these four variables at play, all of them sheltered by whatever the organization chooses to say officially on the matter.
No superstar wants to get rebuilt around. It's crass, ugly, and to some degree proves one's own failure. So instead, what goes on with the Lakers, or Wolves, or Celtics, maybe, is what one might better term "retooling." There's some truth to this muddle: in a league where LeBron can take out most of the Pistons himself, and Kobe can throw up fifty without even wanting to, a team is never completely out of the hunt if they're packing that caliber of single-axis talent. And certainly, it is the removal of said player that truly signals practical and psychological rebirth for a team.
But we have also seen time and time again that there a one-man team is ultimately limited, and that making the playoffs (in the East) is quite a different thing from contending for a title. In truth, all teams churned by a single imperial engine are on that slippery slope between rebuilding and "retooling," totally at the mercy of their GM's retlative incompetence. What they say in public is, primarily, to save face for the front office and the star. The star never wants to feel like the team has sunk so low, because it in part will rest upon his shoulder. And while management's expectations are relaxed when rebuilding is at hand, having squandered a playoff team is the kind of small-scale failure that gets heads flown in the lesser parts of the league.
I'm getting out of order here, but the question of "toward what" is the unseemly punchline of rebuilding. Like really, these teams think they can gun at a championship? Fat chance 'o that! Most teams would be content to make the postseason, and then hover around there regularly--a goal that only backfires if the team fails to crack through to the second round, or makes it too far into the depths (KINGS) without winning. Realistically, though, most teams are content to be known as "winners."
And then, the Wizard of Oz moment: the whole highly-politicized tap dance over whether or not a team admit its rebuilding. So find, the Lakers didn't tell Kobe that were doing that. What the fuck? THEY HAD NO TEAM. Bryant's not stupid; maybe he was counting on them to make a big move all along, or maybe it's just a saving face thing. Seems to me that there's the rebuilding of words and the de facto condition. Somehow, no one qualifies for the former, and everyone is very nearly consumed by the latter.