When All Glare Fizzled

If you watched last night's Suns/Spurs welt-farm, you felt the omen. The Suns have not only died as an idea; they've even ceased to matter, vestigially, as the nut-case whose sober child grew into a prince. That team was just plain trounced and flummoxed, by a Spurs powerhouse that, were Phoenix the powerhouse they'd supposedly become, wouldn't have had it so glibly.

And now, D'Antoni's leaving town. We can argue for days about who defined the Suns, but it comes down to D'Antoni, Nash, and either Marion or Amare. There's probably some sort of father/son/ghost thing going on here, but if you had to pick the one essential element, it would no doubt be Coach. Before Phoenix, Nash was breezy and occasionally possessed; here, he flourished as the practical hand of D'Antoni's vision. Amare and Marion were symbolically important, and made the contours all the more fantastic. In the end, though, it was Mike's team.

So while we always heard that D'Antoni pushed for Shaq—a betrayal of self? bottom line over idealism? function over form?—he both pushed himself out of the picture and gave himself the high road for exit with that deal. The night they drove old Phoenix down might have shown that Nash was finally fading—where was his venom down the stretch? But that was no longer a team that needed an idiosyncratic vision or direction. Go ahead and buy Larry Brown from Charlotte. Big man, slowed PG, scoring machine, shooters.

It was only fitting that D'Antoni would exit now, since Kerr and Sarver have all but robbed that team of its original god-head. Now they can be the brains, having underestimated how far-reaching D'Antoni's influence was across that operation. It was coaching, and personnel, and making certain players, like Diaw, what they might otherwise never have been. You see dictator-ship, I see the old-style guru, or the kind of visionary to whom smart people defer and let run a little amuck.

What now for D'Antoni? Please don't let it be the Bulls. The Knicks would be no less painful. Remember, he inherited a young, inexpensive mess of a team, then got a chance to bring in Nash and let the gossamer empire rise. Both of these teams have clumps of intractable personnel who, frankly, will only ever give us a rough approximation of D'Antoni's idealism. And maybe, because he's only had this one big moment under the coaching sun, I like to think he's got that much integrity, or that irrepressible an ego.

I nominate Miami. Riles can't be bothered to buy the team toothbrushes anymore. Arm D'Antoni with old pal Marion, and what's left of Wade, and either Beasley or Rose. And oh yeah, that Wright guy could fit in well. Watch them instantly create a tiny temple in the East and then set their sights Westward?

But for now, let's admit it: An era has passed, and the team that created this site has ceased to matter. It's only fitting, then, that amidst all the "West is a letdown" chatter we're hearing a new generation definitively assert itself. Nash and Kidd are dead, long live Paul and Williams. Dwight Howard might be better than Shaq in his prime by the end of this summer. And while the odds are still against Atlanta marching on, they've got the kind of subversive, utterly flabbergasting vehemence that makes you think change might be in the air. Or at least rearing its bejeweled, strange, and confounded head when, with us all now adrift, it's so badly needed.

So stay still. Breathe deep. And remember, tonight is for everything. Everything we've lost, and everything that's still yet to hit us down the road.

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And the Sky Shall Rustle Its Own

The Suns were a movement, one that threatened to alter the face of the league. The Warriors of their moment, god bless their soul, got that one perfect chance to prove their credo sound. Theirs was a principle, a perspective, even an outlook, that stayed marginal but boogied its way into rational discourse. If only as a cautionary footnote.

Even J.R. Smith "going shot-for-shot with Kobe," which I fully believe and more or less predicted last week (why J.R. can talk shit to Bryant), is potential coming home to roost. Anyone who pays attention to the league knows that Smith can score at will, and could, given the right amount of guidance and freedom, lead the league in scoring. There is a certain amount of scientific rigor in my thinking on the J.R. question—talented, but troubled, player who will one day find his way into the light. Even if no one else knew it yet.

And then there's these Hawks wins, in which the known universe did an end-around on my wildest hopes and dreams. There's really no way to explain this expect by resorting to signs, miracles, and photos of the Six-Day War. Eff a Billups punchline post; I've spent the last several seasons watching this Atlanta team, often to the detriment of my well-being, waiting for something like this to unfold. For their long, up-tempo versatility to coalesce into a five-man front. For it to make sense when everyone jumped straight up on every single opponents' shot attempt. And, maybe even more unrealistically, for Joe Johnson or Josh Smith to just run shit in the half-court, step up in an orderly fashion that would cement their status as rising stars. Plus enjoy it a little.

It never, ever happened, until these last two games. Against a team that Shoefly described, with grudging reverence, as "the hammer." I really have no socio-political point of reference for this—it's not the American Revoluution, or even an untidy explosion of Black radicalism. These would've been Phoenix and Golden State. This is so unexpected, even to followers like myself, that it's like a leap of faith that even I was unwilling to make. I wanted Josh Smith to block KG once, or Joe Johnson to have one nationally-televised game that validated his All-Star status. Even that was hard to commit to—taking the Hawks that seriously risked tarnishing the realm of fantasy they've always inhabited.

But here we stand, with this team all grown-up in a span of days, and the strengths and weaknesses I've come to know so well suddenly figuring prominently in THE storyline of the post-season. I feel like a failure, for having so much trouble making this switch. For not having said all along that, "yes, the Hawks can." And, perhaps, for not having entertained the possibility that Atlanta could make an impact simply because I want them to. My basketball idealism is already so warped; why the trouble getting this utmost fringe to fit into a remotely responsible worldview?

And that's the problem. The Hawks transcend principle or philosophical systems. They are without precedent and supernatural in their arrival. To try and make sense of them, or to have viewed them as grist for match-up columns, would be to miss the point of this otherworldly occurrence. They have flourished not because basketball needed a savior, or because they were tailor-made for the job, but because sport is not politics, economics, or the academy. Nor should the NBA be a haven for college-style chisel jobs (sorry, Thaddeus). Even I can't convince myself I've known all along, or that this stands for anything other than itself.

For Smith blocking Garnett. Pachulia, so kind, getting up in KG's grill. Johnson's slow-mo isolations that hovered somewhere between smooth and drunken. The Hawks' negative ball movement in the fourth. Boston's seeming shock in the face of a team that had suddenly unlocked its infinite potential, and might never do so again. Anyone who believes past this week just doesn't know a whole lot about Atlanta Hawks basketball—which, of course, only makes the whole thing more overwhelming, and causes a crisis of faith in long-time fans. Like, have I been remiss in my goofy passions?

It's also damn hard for me to write about this objectively. The Hawks have been a weird fetish of mine for some time, an inside joke that suddenly shocked the world with the idealized version of them I'd always waited on. Hell, it would be a lot like if some mangy, turgid NBA blog with left-leaning politics and purple prose got a book deal.

So there you have it. The Hawks are FreeDarko. There's your State of the Union address, and why this series fills me with both ecstasy and dread.

UPDATE: Sporting News column on the surreal East, and yes, more Hawks. Also, please be reading my playoffs recaps at TSB.

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Triage, So They Might Lead

Some major shifts on our cosmological landscape this weekend. No, I'm not talking about the Hawks, which was a truly transcendent human occurrence that, justice willing, is irreproducible. I'm thinking instead of my new take on McGrady, which began when he made his side-splitting "beer is my fault" comment. He seems strangely free at this point. If the media wants to paint him as a loser, or a slacker, that's fine; the fever pitch it's reached has only allowed him to step back and either confront it or shrug it off as hysteria. As I've said a few times, it's just the first round. Once he does do it, it's not like a parade is waiting in the wings. Then the championship cringe begins.

I suspect that McGrady, like most players, is concerned mostly with winning and losing what in front of them. When he got knocked out in Round One last year, the crying wasn't about his implacably morose place in history. It was because they had just lost a close series that could have been theirs. If he's not more upset this season—as the curse gets thicker and thicker—well, chalk it up to the fact that the circumstances at hand aren't nearly as tense. It's the difference between backdrop and background; the series at hand is what registers most with him, and what T-Mac reacts to primarily. That other thing occurs to him out of the corner of his eye, but isn't forever crushing his spirit. That's for each individual game, and the rest of the immediate future, to do.

I also have decided that, somehow, Josh Howard had suddenly entered McGrady territory. I don't expect this pot thing to last, but his play has been absolutely miserable for the last few months. [Insert tennis pro Tennenbaum brother reference here]. The back problems, the recent deaths, the burdened "just speaking my mind," Howard is nothing like the ball of spikes, rubber bands, and gangles that's won us over since '03-04. Howard's an even more complicated figure, because—no disrespect meant to Tracy—the young Mav isn't so easy to paint as merely an imperfect athlete. If there's one thing this whole weed episode taught us, it's that Howard just wants to kill the bullshit. This isn't about swagger. It's the past's radical athlete principles delivered with this era's off-handedness. And Howard, I'm beginning to think, speaks out because he's upset, not angry.

For today's Josh Howard, tune into the Julian Wright Show. Tayshaun Prince waited till crucial playoff games to make his rookie year count for something. With last night, Wright started to do the same. His game is every bit as awkward and elastic as Howard's, but somehow steely and capable of square-jawed wonders when you least expect it. Wright also has that thing that the younger, less stricken, Howard had, where his every move seemed to kind of freak out all the other players on the floor, who weren't ready to let their every pore combust.

(Here's a book teaser: When you see it, you will understand why these events are kind of making me nervous)

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Mark the Day

Why don't I care about Philly? Because that, dear friends, is what I want my dark horse to look like. I wanted a sign, and I got one. This is the happiest I've been about basketball in a long, long time.

I still stand by all the informed fatalism I've been spreading outside of the confines of FD. To me, the underdog isn't just about beating the favorite. It's about showing strength, and a strong sense of purpose, in doing so. So it doesn't seem like a product of contingencies, like the Sixers' first win did, or can't be blamed on the bigger gun backfiring on itself. You need to be your own fucking charter school that runs on pure magnesium dollars. Then there's something being validated, other than the other team's ability to lose, or your plucky resourcefulness. I want an army that no one takes seriously but on this occasion.

Fly by the sun and burn up. That was Horford, screaming in the fallen Pierce's face; if the Celtics weren't already planning to clamp down and play serious, that ensured redoubled efforts on their part. But if only for one night, damn it, the Atlanta Hawks are somebody.

Also, I am 200% behind Doris Burke. She has my vote, and actually got me wondering if Josh Smith isn't best explained as a retarded LeBron. And now, everyone who gets by without League Pass and thinks they know their sport, can say they've been living in darkness.

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The Orderly Exchange of Grip-Taped Hatchets

I'm taking a wild guess that this Josh Howard non-event is a defining moment for the FD community. Namely, there's really no need for me to come on here and grandstand about how uninteresting weed is, how in Howard's case it plays neither to a racist image or questions about his attitude. Or how, as most of us know, Howard's second-half slump is a function of back problems and multiple deaths around him that he's decided to play through—both of which, from what I hear, are good therapeutic uses for pot if he were to smoke during the season.

The outrage most of us feel at the bristling know-nots is encapsulated perfectly by Henry's post, which mentions a certain Deadspin piece of mine. The whole controversy almost feels like a manufactured campaign trail issue, what with the push it's getting on local news channels. I also find it odd that, in football, it's now become common practice to admit to past weed use before the draft, to get all the skeletons out there. This isn't quite the same, since Howard stressed continued (if declined) use, and implicated others. But, as Devin Harris said on the sidelines, this is just Howard speaking his mind; he just does not give a fuck about bullshit delicacies and inference because he "knows they're not true.". Like Henry said, it's only a shock if we pretend we didn't know, and reward those who play along on what should be a relatively minor issue. Grow the fuck up, AmeriKKKa!!!!!!!

Where is Bill Walton in all this? Why did Howard have to go on the show of an avowed high-steppin' 12-stepper, whose tone and languge were straight out of smug intervention 101? It's a credit to Howard that, while Irvin was insisting that pot would break J-Ho's heart, he didn't once say "fall back, Old Crack, I've got this." He didn't come off so well, but partly because his disdain for the whole dog and pony show was evident. Drinking is rampant in the league, and that for sure fucks up your play worse the next day. It was telling to see the ESPN studio crew weigh in. Jalen giggling, more or less saying "young buck, just keep that among us," but clearly kind of enjoying the whole confrontation. SAS seeing it as a PR blunder that showed poor judgment on Howard's part bringing it out now.

What I'm really driving at, though, is that this flare-up feels like it's going on in a different dimension. I like sports, but I've also been around drugs a lot. I haven't smoked pot in over a decade, but that doesn't mean I have any strong feeling on it one way or the other. It's like, people thinking rationally can see the difference between fun intoxication and life-encroaching, job-wrecking problem. For Irvin to sit there and judge Howard like the latter's in the same boat as him—at best, it's solicitous, at worst, fear-mongering. Alcohol is the real scourge unto our nation, and it's a 24-hour source of pride. If Howard is going to have the decent to talk straight and off-the-cuff, at least have the decent to meet him head-on.

More playoffs fun: Some of you already think I've fallen the fuck off, and hopefully, once the book drops I'll be branded a sell-out. But when that happens, I invite you to go back and listen to this interview I did with 1420 ESPN Radio in Hawaii, where I proposed NBA Shit-Talking Semiotics to differentiate between Stevenson's war on Bron and J.R. popping off at Kobe down the stretch. The reasoning: Stevenson can't stop James. His one good offensive game was nice for his ego, but his bragging was based on their match-up. Smith, on the other hand, was guarding Kobe when Bryant already had established his unbreakable stranglehold on the game that night. No way J.R., who while much-improved on defense is hardly associated with that role, was claiming he could shut down Bean Thousand. So the flap most like becomes an abstract back-and-forth about general court prowess, and fuck it, when J.R. gets going he CAN score like Kobe. Thus, I deem the latter altogether more acceptable.

I have no mortal explanation for what's going on in Philly/Detroit. The Sixers still looked ragged and choppy last night, but unlike the past two contests, I had a real sense that it was working, leading somewhere, part of the plan all along. They're not the fluid team they were in the regular season, the one us dreamers had hoped to see make noise in the post-season, but this weird combination of athleticism, guts, and demolition derby might yet turn out to be an interesting contribution to the canon. Also, it's become abundantly clear—Matt Watson even agrees with me—that Amir Johnson has become the key to this series. Everything that's "wrong" with him is what Philly is using to shunt the Pistons. Sort of how J.R. Smith has become absolutely key to any Nuggets hopes. E.G. I control the universe, if you didn't know.

I've been getting a little annoyed at my fatalism throughout this first round "Jazz will take it, easy"; "Philly's done"; "Phoenix has looked too dominated". But I don't think it's too strong to state that we should go-ahead and start packing away our Suns keepsakes, our Barbosa autographed lapels and Nash surf goggles. Amare has risen above it all, and despite last night's ugh, should be able to dominate on his own for years to come. As a unit, a family we've come to love, that's all meandering out the door. Get stricken.

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Leopard Lessons

Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith have both been yapping to Kobe throughout the first two games of the Lakers/Nuggets series, prompting him to state, with a typical Kobe mix of wisdom and bullshit, "Better learn not to talk to me. You shake the tree, a leopard's gonna fall out." Obviously, that's a badass thing to say, but the curious thing about this quote is that the structure: "You shake a tree, and X falls out" usually means that X is something that's in great supply, e.g., "If you shake a tree in Bahia, a musician will fall out."

I've been madly Googling for the past half hour to see if Kobe's usage is some African proverb or something, but I haven't been able to find anything. I have, however, found numerous other African proverbs involving leopards that I hope he breaks out in Game 3, such as the Nkundo-Mongo zingers: "The foolish little antelope cut firewood for the leopard" or "The small spotted wild cat mistook the leopard for a relative!" To which J.R. could reply with the classic Baluba retort: "The leopard's skin is beautiful, but his heart evil."

Also, read the new Quotemonger, and the McGrady quote that helps a little (found via Mutoni).

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Satan Is Real

To paraphrase a friend I watched the game with, in two days this has gone from the most amazing playoffs ever to one of the saddest on record. Where did our love go? Where is the music? Just as, with these Pennsylvania results, a crucial moment in our history has officially turned into the usual tedious slog.

I know, the Suns going that cold is almost grounds for loss of sacred status. And, as I said already this week, it's natural to over-react to each win and loss, to forget that even 0-2 is far from definitive. With a Suns victory at home, we'd be at 1-2, which is hardly murder, and with a little bit of spin—the same kind that makes 0-2 into utter bleakness—all of sudden it's 1-2, but with the momentum going Phoenix's way. That's some real Hilary '08 shit, isn't it? Actually, the Spurs are totally Hilary, both in their chameleonic style and their overlord/underdog/fighter/victim flux.

My one useful Chris Paul observation: You literally can't look away when he's playing. Everything he does is at worst supremely instructive ("this is how you draw an entire defense to you"), at best, absolutely sublime. I generally hold that basketball should always be watched with full attention, due to the nature, feel, and aesthetic of the game. But realistically, even with someone like LeBron, you can take a few possessions off here and there. Not so with Paul.

Anyone who watched him all year shouldn't be the least surprised by tonight. I get bad omens thinking of the Hornets going up against the Spurs or Lakers. But whatever. For now, Paul could yet make these playoffs take on another face. From CLASH OF THE TITANS to TOTAL BUMMER to OBAMA OF THE BAYOU. Except unlike Barack, CP3 is kind of an asshole, and knows how to keep that and luminosity going without any compromise. Beyond FBP, indeed. Or is that the iverson of the metaphor?

I meant "iversion," but that was more than a typo. Paul's the next great PG, but he's also got Iverson's level of dominance, intangibles, and messianic potency. A whole other avenue through which to keep hope alive tonight.

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He'll Never Walk Alone

This conversation started the second the Rockets lost. Look for a related TSN column tomorrow, too.

Joey Litman: It's never going to happen to Tracy
Bethlehem Shoals: I can't take it
JL: He is just never going to seize the moment and become bigger
JL: I am destroyed by this
BS: I want this series to end
JL: A 2-0 sweep. Just call it already
JL: I don't feel as though I've failed, but I also feel personally defeated in some way
JL: It's like my brand as a fan has been tarnished. And I don't mean that to sound accusatory. I am not mad at Tracy. I just want to give him a hug. For him and for me. JL: I need that
JL: no homo
BS: I can only hope, at this point that he reads the essay i wrote on him for the book
BS: And knows that I care

JL: That is well said, because part of my yearning is not even for a playoff-series win. I want him to know that he's appreciated and loved
JL: And really, I empathize with him. It was crushing—I honestly keeled over—to see him dish to Scola with his team down three and with an open lane to the basket
JL: The best left-handed finisher among righties, in crunch time, chose to meekly dish it to Scola instead of trusting a move he's made so many times
JL: Do you know how helpless that made me feel?
BS: I think his shoulder is also kind of fucked
JL: I guess so. But you only hear about fucked shoulders from NBA lore when it enhances the heroism. I so wanted this for him. Which human in the NBA deserves it more?
BS: No one. I wonder if there's a critical mass to be reached with this. Like eventually, the NBA gives him an honorary pass past the first-round
JL: I think that would make me feel bad. Like those debates among little-league dads concerning whether you treat the gimpy kid like everyone else or whether you underhand it until he makes contact
BS: That's the paradox about McGrady. I know he's a man and a total bad-ass. But i just want his pain relieved. Like why can't things go right for him just once?

JL: I guess that tonight, I finally had to accept a certain fear that permeates Tracy's game. He can mask it with the reasonable assertion that passing to open teammates is both strategic and good for morale, but it nonetheless underlines that he isn't taking and isn't hitting the shots that ultimately win games and series. That's a failure of a star, and it has become this sad yoke.
JL: I kind of wanted a T-Mac telethon to replace the post-game show
BS: But he's so good. He's not perfect. But fatally flawed?
BS: That fear has to get him every fucking time?
JL: I don't speak with him, so i can't say for sure, but watching him, he projects the sense that he's tried, tried some more, and is resigned. I thought that two years ago, against Dallas, he was valiant in defeat
JL: And the number he did on Dirk as a defender seemed to earn him widespread respect. i thought that emotion would foment and carry him on to something greater
JL: But then he could get over the hump, and he positioned last season as a referendum on his ability as a leader and a winner. When that fell through, especially after going up 2-0, I think it might have made him figuratively throw up his hands is desperation.
JL: It's almost like he is us--WHY? EVERY FUCKING TIME?!

BS: But he played his ass off tonight. And the jazz are a far superior team, and doubled him all night with kirilenko. Plus the bum shoulder
BS: Like, that's tough
JL: Look at how he ended the game, though. That rushed three that was hasty and grazed off the rim; that total cop out drive when he dished; some of those laconic drives. Some of it is just how he plays, but it all belied the notion of burning desire
JL: I realize he played well, overall, and i know it was a difficult circumstance for the reasons you cited, but come on.
JL: Did he resemble a Kobe or LeBron? Not necessarily in form, but intensity? In the manifestation of his will? his effort? Not in crunch time, he didn't. But i am not mad. i am just crestfallen.
BS: The other thing is, we're not talking about winning a ring. Just getting past the first round
BS: The tragedy of McGrady is that he's a monster so much of the time
JL: I can't believe someone as good as mcgrady, and as effective as he is, can always lose like this. The tragedy is that what he can do will forever be obscured by what he can't, and he deserves better, as a player and person
BS: If he were only a little better, it would happen. That's the tragedy. He's not essentially flawed, just always a little off.
JL: I was thinking about that as i watched him miss a few jumpers. It's not mechanics or physical ability—it's almost something ethereal that separates T-Mac from the guys who are just a little better and correspondingly more accomplished.

BS: I don't think i'm going to put this chat up. I'm beginning to feel like doing this every time McGrady goes down is taking a toll on me
BS: I mean, emoting like this in public. This whole McGrady is extremely personal to me, for some reason. Do i really want the whole world to see me suffer?
JL: The only reason it would be worth posting is that in some small way, I hold out hope that when i publicly mourn his plight, it could somehow make it back to him and he'd know that he is treasured.
JL: Just so dearly want him to know how deeply he is appreciated. For whatever reasons, he's been the anchor of my basketball identity for so many years, now. Only he and Scottie have ever affected me like that
BS: Is this what real fandom feels like?
JL: It must be.
JL: I think that a lot of times, even passionate sports fans immerse themselves in the rituals of following sports but aren't necessarily drawn to it as a result of inescapable emotion. Like, i get excited about watching the Nuggets and the Lakers, but I don't feel it in my body and my heart the way i do when i watch Tracy. And the only other time i am as affected is when i watch Michigan football.
JL: Like I said, I want to contribute to the catalogue of recorded words that demonstrate how dearly McGrady is loved
BS: (fin)

UPDATE: Sporting News column is up.

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Curdle Central

Here's one of the better shirts that's ever been emailed to me, from the minds of The Lenin Closet. At one point, we wanted to have a giveaway to see who could come up with the best conceptual twist on that Undrcrwn template, a la the Kobe&Kobe&Kobe&Kobe&Kobe stroke of genius. I think this dude won.

Anyway, here's the photos.

More posts later, maybe. You can always scroll down.

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No One Will Perish at Night

Let's get all pale and reflective for an instant here about this weekend. Well actually, I just want to weigh in on the Sixers. Contrary to what some of you may believe, I have paid attention to them some during their little flare-up. For the first few minutes of today's game, I was shredding pure plant. That's how much fun it was. However, like everything I've seen of them this year, it's a ridiculously crude form of up-tempo that tells us more about the Eastern Conference than those men in red, white, gold, and black.

Ask the Recluse, my Thaddeus Young color don't bleed, which is part of why I'm so nonplussed by that win. You heard the announcers (sorry, I lost track): They made that Korver trade to play Young, and maybe even Carney. Shit was stylistic cleansing, plain and simple, and it worked. So why did he semi-vanish as soon as that opening assault faded?

The truly depressing answer, that everyone already knows by now: The Sixers won that game with Reggie Evans, Andre Miller's palsied slashes, and some good luck at the line. I guess that's baby steps playoff basketball, but is that why a team burns up the map and turns instead a pyrotechnic souffle? That, good people, is the movie where robots take over the state house, not the one with the aliens whose eyes secrete Rembrandts.

I look forward to Game Two, which hopefully brings more Thaddeus Young, for he is the J.R. Smith-like key to that team's identity. And without identity, what has one but toil in the shadow of the master, hoping to rise up only by tracing out imperfect fractions of his designs? So Sixers, you are not in Heaven. You have been dragged into Hell with the promise of nobility. Kindly flutter, flutter up, and bring fire to where it does not belong!

Sidenote: With all as my witness, I hereby acknowledge officially that Amir Johnson isn't going to save the Pistons. At least not this year. I guess this means I have to stop talking him up in polite media circles.

Part of what I love about the Playoffs is how quickly fortunes, or at least their appearances, changes from game to game. 1-0, that's momentum; 2-0, done deal. 2-1, back in it. 2-2, one team in collapse, and so on. My absent-minded ravings aside, it's either the perfect—or melodramatically imperfect—example of this effect. So the upset happened. Does anyone seriously think that the Sixers are the better team, especially after that underwhelming performance? Hopefully, not. However, what combination of numbers will it take to loosen that judgment? If they go up 2-1 once back home, do we jump to conclusions?

I think with Golden State, it was so easy. You could feel it in the air. And yet in any series, there that world-unto-itself quality, a new reality where virgin rules are set and relationships forged afresh, on totally self-contained terms. If this is the case, or at least part of it, it's hard to overestimate the ebb and flow of a series. It would be just as wrong to tune out the first three quarters of a game (playoff or otherwise), then pay close attention to the forth with only broad history in mind.

It's why the series will always be superior to the single-elimination, and why basketball's 48 minutes and 100 points will always excited me more than 2-0 in the 9th. Process counts for something, damn it; a playoff series is resolution through process, and any NBA game is a process that spits out a final product. Maybe I'm just not smart enough to appreciate tension, but this is why I'm all for this sport, in which rash conclusions are simultaneously buttressed and undermined by constant activity. Otherwise, we live in a universe where there is nothing, then something, then nothing again. That's not for me. GO SIXERS, be unto rightness.


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I Can't Feel My Sense of Scale

I'm not sure if I adequately explained myself yesterday. Friday, I ate so much pricey French fat that my limbs seized up. Then yesterday, I went into basketball shock. I don't think I had a coherent thought, or a word stirring within my head, for all four games. It didn't help that the last thing they needed was commentary. Plain and simple, these games spoke for themselves, or at least did little to change the terms set forth in a billion season previews. They were the script brought to life, and it was hardly our place to leap up there and edit.

But looking forward to a day of televised clap-trap, and feeling my body and mind much returned to its normal state, I'm getting down to business here. The post I deleted—and still might delete again—went off of this earlier line (from a totally forgettable post you should all forget):

obscuring the simple pleasures (or the simple pleasures becoming big pictures in their own right)

The contrast was most sharp between Wiz/Cavs and Suns/Spurs, but I think there's a valid distinction here. The first game was really just a series of well-defined forces reporting for duty and colliding for hours. The only narrative, or temporal, dimension to it was "after Bron got fouled again." James, and to some degree, Arenas, had GAMES, but their identities weren't up for issue at every single juncture. Spurs/Suns was a game of PLAYS, ever second offering the chance to affirm, deny, enhance, or corrode their team concept. Everything the Spurs did fed right into their legend, while for the Suns, you had to keep a rigorous pre/post-Shaq balance sheet going in your head. This was the ultimate in narrative basketball, probably from the third quarter on. Every play was more than a play, not just because it all seemed to be leading somewhere, but because each team was defining itself at these junctures.

I don't know if this atomization is a function of intense scrutiny, the Spurs' deliberate style, or just plain old feeling that we care about a story being told here, an old-fashioned play-by-play ballad that will echo down throughout the ages. And yet Chris Paul's performance seems exactly in line with LeBron's: Unstoppable force with a minimum of backstory, brought to life and coasting through four quarters in one overwhelming, impossible blur. Even Arenas, who may or may not had an impact, had this presence thing going. I don't want to call it consistency, more settled identity, or a team for whole identity is not always at issue.

And that might be the major East/West difference, what I got tripped up over last night. We want to define the Western teams, at least the clear-cut contenders, because they are somehow more real, more deserving of executive treatment. The class of the sport deserve expert diagnosis, or at least our utmost care. But, as I tried to get at earlier, there's something far more charismatic about a star turn like James's or Paul's, where the basic assumption is that they transcend criticism. Where, in either the dead spots or black holes of the league, their mere presence serves as a monolith of basketball importance.

Plays make stars, and stars make plays. These are two wholly different lenses for game-viewing, and I'm not sure we have any control over them. If I've got one thing to guide me through the next month plus, it's going to be this contrast. To what end, I'm not entirely sure. Shit, is this all leading to an especially dire style/substance contrast?

And will someone please confirm or deny this stupid Jordan joke? Thank you.

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A Grim Welcome

This day is way too much like the big French dinner I had last night. Both have left me stupefied, and capable only really of reflecting on my own mortality—or, as it were, the mortality of my ability to process basketball in a meaningful way. I've taken down that other post, since it confused me.

Did want to mention this, though:

"You can say I destroyed the game, but maybe you need to stop making excuses."

I don't think any kid says "Jordan made such a mess of this sport that I don't need a jumper." It would make more sense if MJ were addressing a roomful of old white men, trying to convince them that really, they do like the NBA. They just don't know it yet, or won't admit it.

Hey, here's our Deadspin preview of Nuggets/Lakers.

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Strafed Judgment

If this isn't the best game I see all day, I'll be disappointed. Teams in the West stand for something. They're cohesive, consistent--even if only in their inconsistency—in part because we spend a lot of time developing these models for them. That's where the good product perches.

But it's also tiring. Yeah, I said it. Always pondering the end or beginning of the world in each series, the big picture obscuring the simple pleasures (or the simple pleasures becoming big pictures in their own right), it take a toll. That's why, as sick as this sounds, there's something endearing about the possibility for GOOD Eastern ball. The conference is a wasteland. But then you get a series like this where, despite long stretches of dross, there's that frontier-like feeling that, with the right character plopped into the scene, anything could happen.

Maybe I'm biased, since I used to live out East, and still have very fond memories of Iverson/Carter, or 2006's Bron/Arenas. There's real, unstable suspense here. So much room for both brilliance and calamity, for the Cavs to trundle along until LeBron's awakened with you-know-what. Arenas, Willis as fuck, reminding me exactly why he's my favorite player with that patented combination of guts and perversity.

Granted, this is best case scenario for East ball, circa 2008—flighty stars, a rugged backdrop, and genuine kill-or-be-killed stakes. Until SAS/PHO goes into triple OT, though, I'm sticking to this as my local branch of basketball heaven. Or maybe that's just because it's the first game on, and I know I'll get progressively more and more sapped as the hours roll on.

My preview of the series. Read the other ones, too.



Get Loose, Igor

Isiah out: We all saw it coming, and that plot long ago went stale. I'm equally stoic about the Sonics relocation vote, which was a mere formality. Clay Bennett is scum, and David Stern is no longer my idol, but Key Arena looks like a high school gym and this all started when Nick Lacata told Howard Schultz that "basketball has no cultural value." More proof that Seattle exists in a bubble: During drive-time sports talk, the host refers to this comment as "at best, arrogant, at worst, racist."

So let's look past these mounds of grave and watch some playoffs. Here are some links that might help. First, our Deadspin previews. I'll update this list as they go up:


Here's my Sporting News page, where you can read some decidedly more sober previews.

A brief Quotemonger you may have missed.

Please, meet the best NBA video ever. Congratulate Matt Watson for Free Amir hype, but eff the Freep for still not getting "Free Darko."

Anyway, I plan to check in periodically over the weekend. Hopefully, some others will, too.

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FD Guest Lecture: Players Club

The MVP race is wide open, and we mere fans could spend days debating the candidates' relative merits. Good to know that those more directly involved feel the same way. Courtesy of The Dugout, here's an invaluable glimpse inside the conversation between these truly peerless peers.

Also, keep an eye on Deadspin starting tomorrow, when our playoff previews invade.

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Storky Partners

Hi, welcome back, Shoals. If you live in Los Angeles, I'll be on ESPN Radio at 12:45.

Kindly observe my newest Sporting News column, which is about playoff anti-heroes. If you felt my previous efforts were a little too straight-laced, this should come as a pleasant surprise.

Also, Obama on HBO tonight talking about his relationship with hoops. Expect a post later. I also want to do a "State of FreeDarko Heading into the Playoffs" monster before this weekend. I hope it happens.



Of Golden Eagles and Maltese Falcons

I've been on this planet for sixty-three years now, and I've found that there are only a few rules that are worth following as closely as their nomenclature would dictate. I mention this because at the beginning of the events in question I was knowingly violating one of the rules I'd made for myself. It wasn't yet noon, and I was locked into a coaches-only meeting with my assistant, a Mr. Jack Daniels. Those who had worked with him extensively often found that he was a whole lot of fun to have around and could lead to some extreme short-term success, but in the end would leave you worse off than when you started with him. But he was always there when you wanted him to be, didn't run his mouth, and he at least gave you the illusion that you were always in control. In my book, that put old Dr. Jack at least one up on Larry Brown.

As I mentioned, I tried to refrain from the bottle before the Miami sun reached its throne and enticed the lifers to enter the safety homes and the Spring-break crowd to leave their clothes, but when you're staring down the barrel of a 13-win year, sometimes you have to remind yourself why you had to make the Goddamn rule in the first place. I explained this logic to my doctor. He told me that if I could convince my liver to only have trouble processing what I drank when we were over .500, then there wouldn't be a problem; but seeing as to how I wasn't even able to get Dorell Wright to provide consistent weak-side help I'd be better off just limiting my minutes, if I knew what he meant.

I thought of this as I poured out my drink. There was a knock at my door, and it swung open before I had a chance to respond. My first reaction was a sense of relief that it wasn't Dr. Greenthorpe, which in retrospect was somewhat inappropriate. She was taller than at least one of the players I had on payroll, with legs that looked like a pair of Eucalyptus trees. Shit, I know I'm getting old when a pair of legs like those reminds me of Central Park and not a co-ed named Lacey back at the UK who, I'm told, runs a Whole Foods now but wasn't too picky about what she put in her mouth back in 1964. Well, that and Joe Smith being underrated lets me know I'm getting old. And yet I digress.

"My name is Nicole. I represent the interests of the ownership group."

I thought about wondering aloud just which of the owner's interests Nicky represented, but thought better of it. Even old guys like me have to watch our mouths nowadays.

"As you well know, this upcoming draft is going to be a defining choice for this franchise in the coming years."

Oh yeah, I knew. Everyone knew that. Paul from accounting knew it, and I don't think he could tell you the difference between Kobe Bryant and Kobe Beef. Kina from ticket sales knew it, and she thinks God Shammgod was the guy Lew changed his name for. Ricky Davis knew it. We even shut down The Kid, Udonis, and Marion so as to better help ourselves go for dead last. Like I told Chris the one time I can remember looking up at her when both of us had all of our clothes on, if you're going to do something, you might as well go all the way with it.

"I've been sent here to provide you all the best knowledge on the possible prospects and make sure you have everything you need to make the decision that will best benefit this franchise. I've obtained game film, recommendations from coaches, and comprehensive statistical models so as to give you the best possible information on all the prospects. Right now management is really high on this K-State kid, Michael Beasley, and…"

"Hold it, right there, Nicky, I don't have many rules but the ones I have, I stick to. And one is to not trust anyone under 20 with significant responsibility unless there are clear labels."

I punctuated that by finishing my drink. Hopefully Nicky hadn't attended any of my speaking engagements, but I'm pretty sure I'd have been able to pick her out of the crowd that usually shows up at those things.

"If I'm going to break my rules for this B-Easy, I'm going to make sure I know what the kid's deal is."

"Well that's why I'm here, Mr. Riley, I'm to give you game tape and…"

"Nicky, Lew Alcindor didn't learn the hook by watching Better Basketball, Magic didn't learn how to pass by hitting tires or learn to screw from Beyond the Green Door, and contrary to what you may have heard, I didn't learn principles of leadership from MacBeth. I didn't meet my wife on eHarmony and I'm not making a top-three pick based on tape. Get your coat, Nicky. We’re hitting the road.”

She gave me a look like I’d just suggested we trade The Kid for Jermaine O’ Neal. I don’t know if it was because she thought the idea to be out was insane or because she’d never seen any possible benefit in covering herself up, but she thought I was crazy either way.

“But…you’re the coach. Don’t you have to stay here until the season ends, to watch over practices, or set the rotations, or make the substitutions, or something?”

Just then she looked out my window onto the practice court, where Chris Quinn was taking bets on whether or not he could dunk. By the time Mark Blount and Earl Barron were engaged in a left-handed 3-point contest, my point made itself clear to her without me needing to say a damn thing. She put on her coat, although it’s worth noting that the ensemble she chose made me a good deal warmer than it could have made her.

On the plane, Nicky kept asking me about everything; my past, the Lakers, the Knicks, my marriage, everything. At one point she put her hand on my knee and her mouth told me that she wanted me to know that she had my best interests in mind, while the rest of her told me she also had my worst interests in mind. I told her she seemed like a nice kid, but that I was going to be making the decisions on this trip. I’ve got six rings, but the only one I could lose would be in serious jeopardy if Nicky got what she wanted out of me at 30,000 feet, in between the mini-bar and the film room. Not that I thought about it or anything. I used to only trust women as far as I could throw ‘em, but after my second kid I decided to stop performing that particular test. Now I don’t trust anything with an A-cup, up to and including Shaq.

We set down in Omaha. Not my kind of town, but I could deal with that. When the tournament rolls around, everything’s such a corporate dog-and-pony show that there’s not too much of a difference. It was, after all, the NCAA tourney. I remembered playing in it when I was a kid, running off screens and playing defense for ol’ Coach Rupp. Of course, Hollywood would have you believe that Coach Rupp took our defensive sets out of The Triumph of The Will. Of course, I picked up a USA Today when I took my seat, and read articles about “The Ultimate Hard Worker” Tyler Hansborough, “The Consummate Teammate” David Padgett, and “The Humble and Polished Student of the Game who dominates not through talent but through intelligence and skill” Kevin Love. Coincidentally, they’re all white. The more things change… Anyways, I wasn’t there to ponder whether or not T.I. would play the role of Mario Chalmers 15 years from now. I was there to find out about Mike Beasley, and just what this kid's "character issues" entailed, the old-fashioned way. I found an old colleague of mine in the stands who knew these kinds of things.

“Hey, Bob, I like this Beasley kid. Acts like the ball is the orb from Sleeper but can flat-out score the rock and pull down boards. Only thing is that I hear he’s got some skeletons in the closet. What can you tell me?”

I brought up Sleeper because I knew Bob was one of the few guys still in basketball who knew Woody as the guy who’d beat Star Wars for an academy award and wrote Side Effects and With Feathers, not as the guy who married his daughter and still got seats almost as good as the guy who made She Hate Me and those commercials for sneakers that cost almost as much as my loafers. I've always had a bit of a weakness for spending money on clothes, but when I buy my shoes, I'm trying to pick out the ones that make women go lower, not me go higher.

“Riles, cat went to six high schools. Dude’s got skeletons in his foyer. You ask me, I wouldn’t take a guy with an attitude like that on my team.”

“Yeah, I know exactly what kind of a guy you want on your team. I saw your reality show, Bob. How does it feel going from Dean Smith to a poor man’s Flava Flav?”

“Straight to sabers, eh, Riles? Y’all might want to pick up a win soon, 13’s an unlucky number to finish up with. Not because it’s cursed or anything, because it means your team’s a Goddamn insult to the sport of basketball.”

“Tell me, Bob, has studying under Digger Phelps improved your knowledge of the game?”

Bob broke out into a wide smile then, and I kindly offered him a red as a token of good will. We both walked out of the stadium to enjoy our cigarettes then, silently marveling at how much things had changed; 40 years ago, Red Auerbach lit up a victory cigar on the sidelines as his team strolled to its 9th championship. Now the best coach of the modern era, as I’ve been known to say when my modesty and sobriety have departed me, and the all-time leader in college wins had to act like 17-year old kids failing out of boarding school to have a smoke. Actually, scratch that. The coach of the worst team in professional basketball and a guy who wished he could get Erin Andrews' face time had to sneak out like kids flunking out of boarding school for a smoke.

“Seriously, tell me about this Beasley kid.”

“Nobody knows too much about him. Worst story we know is about him marking up the principal’s car back at The Factory.”

Shit, Oak Hill Academy. Back when I was in high school I saw exactly two notable persons: Big Lew and my home ec teacher. This kid had played with Ty Lawson, Brandon Jennings, Bill Walker, and even that kid Kevin Durant, who by those advanced stats was the next Wilt and to hear Jay Bilas talk showed elements Pete’s handle, Iverson’s first step, Drazen’s jumper, Pippen’s perimeter D, Kareem’s touch from the post, Shaq’s power, McHale’s moves, Jordan’s driving ability, ‘Niques finishing, Magic’s court vision and West’s savvy every time he took a 15-footer. I didn’t need any statistical models to tell me that the kid needed a cheesesteak before he’d be within spitting distance of Jamaal Crawford, let alone any of those other guys.

“Well, that’s the reason he left one school. That leaves us only four short.”

“That’s all I can tell you, Riles. You want to know more, you gotta find someone who knows.”

“Always fun to see you, Bob. There aren’t enough guys like us in the league anymore. What was the final straw for you?”

“Probably when Floyd pulled DeRozan by giving ‘Lil Romeo a scholarship for the pure hell of it. I’m all for pulling out the stops to get blue-chippers, but you gotta draw the line somewhere. And mind you, last year Tim had a kid who recruited himself. If I want a 7-footer with a left hook, do I have to give ‘Lil Mama my backup shooting guard’s scholarship?”

“I think it’s just Romeo now.”

“Way I see it, taking the ‘lil off your name is like Bill Walton trying to re-invent himself as an ‘avid reader’-you can act like William H. Buckley all you like, you’re still the dead-head who went on a hippie rebellion against Wooden and pushed his coach to allow him to use performance-diminishing drugs.”

“Those were the good times, Bob. On the bright side, we now have a legitimate hip-hop artist who goes by the name ‘Bow Wow.’ Shit is music’s answer to the Utah Jazz.”

“I really don’t care. Digger’s calling me over. If anyone sees these tapes 15 years from now, say the mob made me do it.”

I asked around about the kid all day, to varying degrees of nonresponse. I was getting frustrated; was the kid just not into social studies, or was he doing for his coaches what Peter Sellers did for his wives?

The kid was out after a quick roll over that Mayo kid in the first round, the one who was supposed to be the next Pistol Pete and who had pretty much made it clear the only way he was staying in college another year was if they found dogs in his basement. But after a second-round exit, it got even tougher to find any solid leads on the kid, until I saw a kid with a limp who saw my face and jumped clean over a chain-link fence to avoid me. I threw a ball into his hands, which made him stand dead still until I was able to catch up to him.

“Bill Walker.”

“What’s it to you, bitch?”

“That’s Mr. Riley to you. Back when I was a kid, we respected those who came before us.”

“Last I checked, your generation stuck those who came before you on reservations and gave ‘em casinos.”

“If I wanted smart mouth on this trip I’d have shared a room service order with Nicky and gotten the 25-dollar movie. What can you tell me about Beasley?”

“I don’t know the cat. He shows up, goes to practice, leaves. He shares details about his life about as often as he hits the cutter.”

I put my knee into the one of his with the type of crap going on inside of it that turned Elgin from being the good kind of unstoppable to the kind of unstoppable that gives Yaroslav Korolev 8 figures, only nowadays they had better ideas for fixing a busted knee then switching Elgin to the more nutritious Camel Lights. Mine probably hurt more, but I had the benefit of not giving a crap.

“Whaddya say, Billy? I’m ten seconds away from putting another one into your knee, telling Chad Ford you’ve got a stubby wingspan, and telling Clay you’d be a steal in the second round.”

“Okay, okay. There’s a guy. Beasley talks to him after practice every day. Calls himself Manny C. Nobody knows his real name, but give me your number and I’ll have him call you.”

“If I don’t get that call, rest assured, you’re going to be balling with Lenny Cooke and James White next year.”

Sure enough, I got the call that very night. It was a deep voice, not one I recognized. It just said to show up at the parking garage at 2:00 in the morning, and to make sure I wasn’t followed. One of my few positive traits is to know when I shouldn’t let my own inhibitions mess up a good thing. I gave Magic the ball, I let Patrick get shots up and women down, and I wasn’t about to do anything other than what this guy told me. It probably wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever had, but when you get to be my age you’ve got assurance that any idea you have won’t be the worst one you’ve ever had either. When I showed up, a tall guy with a hood on and a trail of smoke finding its way between whatever smoke detectors were in the building like Reggie coming off screens back in the day when lighting up the Mecca meant something other than Miley Cyrus coming to town.

I walked over to the van, and felt a crack to the back of the head the likes of which I hadn’t felt since I played football for the U, back when everyone didn’t act like KU was playing keep-away with a Faberge egg just because they let one of their basketball players do something other than practice pull-up jumpers and screw when I wasn’t busy playing ball. I didn't think of that at the time, because sudden and extreme physical pain rarely induces nostalgia.

I awoke to a pair of legs that ruled Hell out of the equation fairly quickly. My head drew up to find a dark skirt attached to what could truly and honestly be called a glower. That ruled out two of the three possibilities. I was still alive. Unfortunately, the other information I was processing kept me from being able to definitely see that as a “glass half-full” type of situation.

“Well, Nicky, of all the ways this could’ve shaken out, I sure as hell didn’t think I’d end up on my back before you.”

“Shut up, Pat. You’re going to listen now. You’re going to stop digging around Beasley. As far as you know, the kid enjoys to listen to Crime Mob with the volume at 14 and that’s all there is to it. We’ve got the thing set up, all the way to Stern. We’re getting Beasley. He’s the next big thing, and he’s coming to Miami with the kid and setting up a rivalry with King James. Mayo’s going to New York and he’s either going to extinguish or fan the flames of Isaiah. At this point, the big man doesn’t really care either way. Rose is feeding the skinny kid for the next decade. We appreciate all you’ve done, Riles, but at this point you’re really and truly an expendable resource. I don’t know if you’ve picked up a paper lately, but Doc Rivers is going to be coach of the year and Avery Johnson is looking into subletting options. Your luck can change just that fast in this league. In fact, you’re a 63 year old man with La Brea in your lungs. I don’t think anybody would be too shocked if you had a heart attack in your hotel room this weekend.”

“Nicky, I don’t play with Jerry West anymore, but I think I can tell when I’m dead, and seeing as to how you’re neither fully clothed or Stan Van Gundy, I don’t think I’m in the afterlife right now. And I know the big man-if he wanted me dead, I’d be on the sidelines in the sky. So I gotta think there’s a variable here you’re neglecting to mention, hopefully one influenced by my tan. What I’m saying here is that if I’m to go Rockefeller this weekend, I’d at least like the full experience.”

As I said all this, I’d closed the distance between us. A few seconds after I’d finished, the only laws either of us were breaking were biblical. I’d already broken most of my rules this week, so what was one more? And if you’re going to make a mistake, you might as well make one that involves enveloping. I wouldn’t have called what happened that night a good idea by any stretch of the imagination. But as bad ideas go, I had a lot more fun with this one than I did with Earl Barron.

I’ve always considered myself a fairly fortunate guy, and Nicky being a heavy sleeper after intense physical activity fit right in with being the 12th man with West and Baylor and taking The Kid being rated somewhere in between Darko Milicic and Chris Kaman. I had a cigarette, for tradition’s sake, and also because I'm addicted to them, and left one for Nicky. Then I put on my coat, grabbed my notebook, and went to see Memphis play against Kansas. There were no guards. The door wasn't even locked. Hell, I'd probably been checked out. That's what you've gotta love about Dames-the less you trust 'em, the more you end up getting out of 'em. I made a note to mention that to Stern. I walked unimpeded into the sunlight, got in a cab, and told the driver to take me to the airport, I was going to Manhattan, and not the goddamn Manhattan where Beasley played. I was going back to my town to pay the big man a visit. Somebody had messed with the wrong guy. The only thing left to find out was who.

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Skeets doesn't know this yet, but his live blog has, before it even started, motivated me to do one of my own. Of course, in FD-land that means I'll take notes, edit them heavily, and then post them an hour after the game's done. I wonder if Skeets knows that the greatest mitzvah is the one that goes undiscovered for several hours.

While I'm waiting for my cheesesteak to cool and sucking up my last cable news fumes of the day, let's talk about the scheduling of this game. Maybe I've said this before, maybe I haven't—I believe with all my heart that the East Coast is killing basketball. Late contests are hard to watch, especially if you're gainfully employed or a less-than-loony fan. Also, with the exception of the Lakers, Eastern teams are still more famous. So if shit basketball is what's at hand, and the Western teams are unseen and unknown, of course it would give the impression that the NBA blows.

Tonight's 5PM start is a present to the East, and a direct response to last year's Dallas/Golden State series. It changed the world, and no one saw it. They eventually heard about it, and might have tuned in for the last one or two. But by and large, America had no idea in advance, and it took a concerted effort for them to just watch the damn game. Come to think of it, they should have the Eastern Conference games later. Those are the ones that can't keep the casual viewer around. And only a die-hard homer cares about the Eastern Conference playoffs, anyway.

These notes will start once the game does.

-Question: Is this going to be one big, noisy, sleek game of chicken, or whatever the opposite of chicken is? I guess that would be "so much offense that it becomes passive and reflexive instead of aggressive"

-I don't think I've ever seen Marcus Camby with a man on him more than two feet from the basket. Ever.

-Monta has reached the point where you give him the ball on purpose for the tough shot.

-Seeing Kenyon Martin rage again is like finding out your favorite uncle got a haircut and quit drinking. Not because of the haircut, of course.

-Does anyone else remember that DIME article where Anthony Carter talks about earning money as a teen by playing on dealer-sponsored teams? Just makes you realize how utterly mundane shit like that must be around the league. Like everyone knew all along that Stephen Jackson was wearing gang colors. I guess in San Antonio, it might only have been Bowen who knew.

-I've got a new stat. It's what percentage of a possession is irreproducible, or at least unique and perfect like a snowflake. Like how much of it another team could ever/never hope to replicate. I'm assuming that, on the strength of Iverson alone, the Nuggets would lead the league.

-Watching J.R. Smith try and guard Baron Davis is so cute. Smith's so over-matched that he'd gone all textbook.

-Here, I'll say it one more time: The Warriors don't have the same swagger as last year. They're neither as reckless nor as gloriously imperfect. I blame it on Monta, who means they don't have to throw behind-the-back half-court alley-oops. A simpler way of saying that would be "Matt Barnes isn't on the floor as much."

-So far tonight Harlan and Collins have called J.R. "The Speed Merchant" and said "when he gets unraveled, look out!"

-Collins saying "the mood swings that are going to happen in this game" was kind of deep. For both of these teams, you get the sense that scoring (or not) and defending (or not) are a kind of personal momentum they can't really control. I'm not saying that they're monkeys governed only by emotions or something, but when they're "on", it's not just as clinical as "shooter finding his rhythm" or "having their opponent's number." Someone gets possessed, and it spreads. That's kind of how execution works here, or at least the preconditions it requires.

-I don't see how anyone could coach these teams without understanding that, which might explain why they have the coaches they do. And why I don't know if firing Karl makes sense, or exactly how you judge the job he's done. I want to say something about the inmates running the asylum here, but the whole thing's actually a rec actvity? Phil Jackson wishes he were this next level.

-That's probably too stark a distinction, but the Warriors and Nuggets are definitely at one extreme (paging Tom Ziller. . .) It's definitely consistent with Iverson's game, even if it makes Carmelo's whole master technician thing especially complicated.

-How about a sociological model: A popular revolution that starts overnight and keeps the old government around to balance the books? Not a bad idea, actually. Is that how the House and Senate were originally conceived of?

-Excuse me if this reads like a Baudrillard book about Nuggets/Warriors. I fucking hate that guy.

-Halftime. Time for some more MSNBC. I'll probably put this up sans pictures at the buzzer, and fill those in after 30 Rock. Typing on a couch is hell on my hands, so someone had better enjoy this.

-I'm boycotting the TNT studio crew. Barkley's funny, and does an excellent Tracy Morgan in the most recent T-Mobile ads, but being stubborn, knee-jerk and uninformed aren't exactly winning qualities. And they eat away at his whole "I'm outrageous and frank" cred.

-Welcome back. I'm man enough to admit that, in my mind, there's absolutely no difference between Chucky Atkins and Anthony Carter.

-If neither team can play defense, why are there so many bad shots flying up? It's not like these teams are incapable of ball movement.

-So I just tried asking Skeets, in flagrante de live blog, if Andre Miller really is the best oop-thrower in the league, because Collins won't shut up about it. He wouldn't answer.

-When Anthony makes a block like that, or suddenly blows past someone, I wonder if he doesn't practice some tantric, energy-conserving approach to athleticism.

-I'm not about to switch over to the Dallas/Utah game, but the box score makes it look like it's underwater, upside, and everyone's been chugging date rape drugs. Except for Dirk. Those thing all make him stronger.

-"Emotion and passion are two different things. Passion is unbridled joy that's kept under control" [sic]--Doug Collins. I don't remember what he said about emotion, but it was bad.

-That wasn't even cherry-picking on this last play by J.R. He was shuffling his feet right under the basket. Hadn't even thought about moving. If the game's moving fast enough, it's like it's not moving at all, right?

-I need to close this BDL blog, they're making me feel stupid.

-Wait, is this a third AVP movie? That's much more my comfort zone.

-Fuck it, I give up. I'm posting this and watching the rest of the game.

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No More Protest!

News everywhere, none of it here.

-QUOTEMONGER V, which is twice as long as the other ones and 8% less forced.

-New look for The Sporting Blog. I'm nuts about it—retains the easy feel of the old one while becoming about thirty times more navigable. Expect a Nuggets/Warriors post there shortly.