State-Based Sneezers

I feel like I'm going to puke, and I'm really busy. This book is getting hectic, and I say that both for the sympathy vote (what vote?) and as a teaser.

About Suns/Warriors: Amare is still the best undersized center in the world. Against a team like Golden State, the Suns can go small, use Diaw where once Marion existed, and pray that defense gets lost in the shuffle. It just doesn't seem that Shaq gives them the best chance to win in that kind of situation. Against the Spurs, on the other hand, they go big from the outset.

I just wonder, though, if it can really be all that simple. If this team's going with the dual-consciousness approach—and after a game last night, it's hard to imagine them not doing this—then don't they have to establish some kind of hierarchy, or overlap, or intersection, of the two? Let's face it, while Shaq has been active, he still impedes Nash's natural flow. It becomes a paint-centric team, where the lane's a fort as opposed to a fly-over. With time, you have to assume that the two worlds will draw closer to each other, and yet "opposites attract" doesn't always make for harmony. I always thought that said Paula Abdul song was about rough sex and flying dishes.

I'm assuming Nash will ultimately adjust, and look right playing with either approach. But you have to wonder what's better: To make these two different "looks" separate but equal, or view Shaq as a weapon of necessity. Given how much of a role psychology already plays on that team—Diaw's inability to produce off the bench, for one—it seems like most obvious basketball solution might end up corroding this team from the inside out. Does Shaq really want to be seen as a guy who shows up only when the fun stops, the cops show up, and someone needs rescuing from the clink?

As I was saying about Houston this week, I think identity is very important to teams. In that case, it was how teams can rally around, or be subconsciously set into motion by, a very particular stylistic ideal. Here, we might see that working in the negative: How Phoenix defines itself could end up adversely affecting some player's brains. The human mind is the ultimate liability.

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At 3/14/2008 5:10 PM, Blogger joshspilker said...

to sound cliche, shaq will do what it takes for the team to win. if that meant trading marion for shaq off the bench for a chance at a championship--who knows if it will be worth it if they don't win. but if the suns play the lakers in the playoffs, there's no doubt Shaq will push Bynum or Gasol around while Amare handles the other, and Raja tries to play Jedi mind trix on Kobe.
Diaw is the replacement for Marion, so if he has to start right now to contribute, then that's how it has to be.

At 3/14/2008 7:12 PM, Blogger El Presidente said...

The Mavericks haven't had an identity (besides chokers) since Mark Cuban bought the team. But you get labeled a choker every year, and eventually you just shrug off the label.

On an somewhat unrelated note, I loved this quote:

"Popovich, who has a close relationship with Dallas coach Avery Johnson, said the Mavericks have given themselves the best chance to improve because they acquired a player who has a lion's heart. "I've always thought of Jason as a fearless point guard," Popovich said. "If he thinks something's there, he's going after it. And if he makes a mistake, he's great in that he doesn't care. All that matters is the very next play. He doesn't linger in the past. All he does is compete. "He has the same juices flowing that Manu Ginobili has – very unique people. They would have been great warriors in the middle ages."

Fuckin' barbarians. From Hoopshype.

At 3/14/2008 7:22 PM, Blogger Carter Blanchard said...

MC Skat Kat agrees.

At 3/14/2008 7:54 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

"Chokers" isn't an identity, it's an epithet thrown at them by bloggers and other sports pundits.

They've been eliminated the past three postseasons because Steve Nash, Dwyane Wade and Baron Davis went off on them in succession. Their piss-poor perimeter defense is more responsible for coming up short every year than any faults or shortcomings inherent in Dirk Nowitzki.

At 3/15/2008 2:22 PM, Blogger oliver said...

Hey! Quick question. Do my Sixers qualify as FD, now that they've stumbled onto an identity of sorts... that identity being Warriors-lite. Or Warriors-East. (Take your pick.)

And wouldn't the Suns have been a thousand times better off if they had traded for Dalembert instead of Shaq? I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'...

At 3/16/2008 8:28 AM, Blogger db said...

Sorry Zeke, the Mavs have always been able to be pushed around, and when your only truly go-to crunch option against a team trying to punk you is Jerry Stack, that's just not good enough, and the league knows it.

At 3/16/2008 1:43 PM, Blogger filkaplan said...

Since Shaq has joined the Suns, when he's on the floor, it's not only that PHX is a different team, it's like it becomes two smaller satellite units of 2 and 3, at worst 1 and 4. The Shaq Suns are a miniature, bastard Pistons mixed with a babysat and ritalin'd PHX.

At 3/16/2008 2:35 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

The Mavericks have *always* been able to be pushed around? Somebody tell San Antonio this. Seems like you would have to be exceptionally mentally and physically tough to withstand what the Spurs will throw at you.

Did Dirk Nowitzki guard Baron Davis? Did he guard Dwyane Wade? Did he guard Steve Nash?

Back to the Dubs series, did anybody else on that team step up and hit a shot when he was swarmed with double and triple teams? The Mavs lost that series because they fell into Nellie's briar trap of getting into half-court sets and having Dirk post up smaller guys when they should've been running with the Warriors. No team should be afraid of playing at Golden State's up-tempo pace.

The Warriors are going to run off a make or miss,so you might as well not waste the shot clock and get the best shot possible. It makes no sense to have Nowitzki set up on the low blocks and wait for the double team to arrive, and then have to scramble to find the open man before the Warriors rotate back. He's a shooting guard in a power forward's body, so it makes more sense to get him the ball on the wing, and drain a two-step pull-up jumper on whoever's guarding him because you can't bother his shot there. That series loss is on Avery more than it is Dirk. And the results bear that out: the Mavs actually won the two high-scoring games in that series, whereas Golden State won the four games that were lower-scoring affairs. The Warriors are not a disciplined team with impeccable shot selection, while Dallas is. Avery made a conscious choice to shy away from utilizing his team's best strengths and the Mavs played dearly for it. Switch the coaches and are you sure the Warriors still win that series?

Why don't you look at what Dallas has done against Golden State this year when Dirk isn't hobbled by bone spurs, and the Mavs have decided to run with the Warriors? Dirk didn't have any problem abusing Stephen Jackson the first time they met this year, and as long as he's healthy, that'll continue. If Dirk was as soft as people say he is, then he would've never have had the playoff success he's accrued up to this point in his career. Let's see what happens this year when he's not playing hurt and his coach doesn't have his head up his ass. They probably won't win a title, but they won't be pushed around or embarrass themselves.

I would be willing to bet that the kind of black fetishists that populate freedarko's comment forum would give Josh Howard a pass for being beyond awful the past month when he was suffering from a back contusion and his college coach, the woman that raised him and another immediate family member all died within a six-week period. But Dirk playing on bone spurs because it was the playoffs and his team was toast without him, an injury bad enough that the Mavs DNP'ed him three times the last month of the season, an injury bad enough that the Spurs shut Tony Parker down earlier this year when he had them rather than having continue to play, while his dad was having open-heart surgery in Dallas, that's inexcusable somehow, probably because he's a "soft Euro." Playing hurt because your team needs you, not using it as an excuse when you had to accept the MVP trophy at a press conference instead of before your fans during halftime of a playoff game, you still want to go with the Dirk is soft meme?

It's funny how people are quick to masturbate furiously over a second-round virgin whose teams have blown leads of 3-1 and 2-0 twice, and a gritty Canadian point guard with a far worse playoff resume than Dirk. You can't cherrypick Nowitzki's failures and ignore his successes. Dirk is a "soft, pussy choker" is something I'd expect to read on ESPN's boards.

At 3/16/2008 8:49 PM, Blogger Folkhero said...

I'm not sure I understand how Nash's playoff resume is so much worse than Dirk's. Since Nash left the Mavs, he has won 5 playoff series, meanwhile Dirk has only won 4. In head to head match-ups, its one and one. The series where the Suns lost to the Mavs, they were missing Amare Stoudemire, Kurt Thomas and Bell was well under 100%

At 3/16/2008 11:41 PM, Blogger T. said...

Zeke - that's all well and good, but El Presidente pointed out that the MAVS were chokers, not Dirk. So that would make it pretty much "so what?" with regards to if it were Avery, Dirk, Cuban or even Keith Van Horn who was responsible, no?

Labels are often unfair. I point to TMac's myself. Do you think he would be so labeled if he hadn't made those comments about aleady being in the second round up 3-1 against pistons in '02? (or was the '03?)

At 3/17/2008 12:01 AM, Blogger Zeke said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 3/17/2008 12:05 AM, Blogger Zeke said...

Labels are indeed unfair. I can live with that. But they don't automatically equal an identity. And Dirk is the one who has been assigned sole responsibility* for those ignominious playoff exits, so that's pretty much who people are talking about when they say the Mavs are soft and can be pushed around.

* His share of the blame is substantial, but his faults and shortcomings as a player have been over exaggerated as a result.

At 3/17/2008 5:43 AM, Blogger Todd Spehr said...

Is there another team in the league that can actually play "two" styles as effectively as PHX right now? I mean, sure, identity is important, but is it possible to have two of 'em? Also, the Suns now have three barometers since the Shaq deal: 1) Opp. FG% (if they keep that below 45% or so, regardless of what the team scores, Suns win); 2) Rebounds (self-explanatory); 3) TO's (which they have controlled somewhat lately. 997 times out of 1000 they do those three things right, they win, and it's the reason there going on a little streak right now.


At 3/17/2008 11:24 AM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

I think the Suns still have a hell of a long way to go to prove they can play that other style of basketball. One win against a suddenly slumping Spurs team doesn't prove that they're now the masters of the slow-down, low-post game that they'll need to be in the playoffs this year. Sure, they can still go small and run with anyone, but only if Shaq is in foul trouble.

Shaq has still not proven yet that he's in any way a return to the dominant post player he was, as he isn't really pushing anyone around. If the Suns run up against the Lakers in the playoffs (and LA is healthy), Bynum and Gasol are going to absolutely have their way against Phoenix, and you should expect to see foul trouble not only from Shaq, but from Amare as well. And if Shaq does get in foul trouble against LA, the Lakers can run with Phoenix without having to go small. Phoenix may be closer to the Spurs now than they were a year ago, but I think San Antonio would beat them in a series as well. Duncan would figure out a way to win that post matchup, it's almost inevitable.

The Suns have got a semi-tough matchup tomorrow in Portland, then they should have an easy one on the 2nd night of a back to back Wednesday in Seattle before things get ugly again for them. At home for Houston then road games in Detroit, Boston and Philly could very easily be a 4 game losing streak. We'll soon see if the Suns have really turned it around and figured things out or not.

At 3/17/2008 6:44 PM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

At risk of skipping ahead, did anyone in the crew witness 168? I was fully expecting some thoughts on it. It felt like some type of triumph when I saw the score, but I figured this would be the place that would summarize my feelings better than I could myself.

At 3/17/2008 6:51 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I didn't see 168. Was watching "Black Magic" (expect a long post after part two tonight) and then John Adams. That was quite a juxtaposition.

At 3/17/2008 11:48 PM, Blogger Folkhero said...

168 would be more of a triumph if it wasn't in a 52 point win. At some point it just seems like running the score up.

At 3/18/2008 7:25 PM, Blogger Jack said...

Oliver: Yes, our Sixers are pretty awesome right now. Watching Dalembert grab a board and throw the outlet to a streaking Igoudala, Miller, or Young is pretty awesome. Andre Miller is playing at possibly the highest level of his career- is he this years Baron Davis, finding redemption in a haphazard scheme? Well, Mo Cheeks is no Nellie, but who cares?

Thaddeus Young is the real deal, and will possibly be the link between Hollinger stat-geeking and FD star-gazing. His is a damn efficient and awesome-to-watch 13 and 8 every night.


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