4.20.2008

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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7 Comments:

At 4/20/2008 2:52 PM, Blogger Brickowski said...

Regardless of the French fat, yesterday's pregame post was prescient, both in terms of calling the Double OT thriller, and the contrast between East and West. I'm in the thick of law school finals and promised myself I wouldn't watch Cavs-Wiz. Then Gilbert comes out hot and lasers in a 40 footer, and Bron follows suit with that oop I was sure he couldn't reach, and I was sucked in for good. It was joy for joy's sake and made for such a nice appetizer to the weighty Spurs-Suns clash where every possession was so fraught with meaning and history. You couldn't ask for two better games to let the world know "The Playoffs Are Here."

Also, the Jordan commercial got me too. Maybe it would've made sense in that odd time when Starbury, Franchise and the Carter were leading teams, but that seems like so long ago. And who even cares about Jordan when we've matchups like these or Iverson saying things like this:

‘‘Let’s go. This is what it’s all about for me. You can’t draw it up any better. People say he’s the best basketball player on the planet, so I’m definitely looking forward to the challenge. Especially with me believing that about myself, so let’s go. This is what it’s about. If you’re scared, get a dog. If you’re scared, go to church.’’

 
At 4/20/2008 3:59 PM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

Um, I'll confirm. Making jokes about Jordan's influence is already about one or two NBA generation too late; it's like Iverson's "Practice" speech; it's just a sample for Jazzy Jeff now. A relic of an argument that is no longer argued.

I enjoyed Gilbert's end of the first quarter, 40-foot bomb. But the casualness of it reminded me of the difference between the Spurs-Suns, and the Eastern Conference games - there is legitimate urgency in the Spurs-Suns series. From game one. It means something. Those teams are fighting for more than another round; they are fighting for the title, right there in the first round. What is Cleveland, or Washington, really fighting for? A chance to get whupped by Garnett? A bigger playoff share? You think Arenas is really feeling the urgency to win, when he's shooting a showboating casual 40-footer?

It's the difference between legit contenders playing, and make-believe contenders playing.

It's the difference (to borrow an analogy I've used here at FD before) between The Matrix and the sequels to The Matrix - the real sense of urgency that commands the first movie from the get go, can't be mimicked or recreated artificially in the second and third movies. Urgency is the hardest aspect of any story to sell to an audience. Even intense love/hate is easier to make up... either the storyline has urgency, or it doesn't.

 
At 4/20/2008 6:54 PM, Blogger Babydaddy said...

I can't, or won't, watch all of the games, but I'm catching some amazing glimpses--Pau putting on a clinic against Denver, Nash hitting a ridiculous 3 followed by Manu's beautiful layup. Mostly, though I'm dependent on the box scores to tell me some stories. And while there have been a number of sick stat lines already, I can't get over Duncan's. That I keep bringing this up must make me seem like some huge Spur homer, which I am definitely not. It's just that he has the least to prove of anybody this postseason, plus he's supposed to be winding down his career, and yet he is still waving around the proverbial nine inches of limp dick. Respect.

 
At 4/20/2008 9:30 PM, Blogger Jason said...

But in the Spurs-Suns game, you had the teams AS WELL as the stars. You didn't have to choose at all.

 
At 4/20/2008 10:07 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I didn't mean to imply that at all. I would say, though, that in Suns/Spurs the stars always relate back to a bigger whole. And they wouldn't have an individual narrative going throughout the game (e.g. Amare) if that weren't the case.

 
At 4/20/2008 10:33 PM, Blogger rebar said...

so fitting that bio-dome was airing at the same time as the hawks/celtics game. nonetheless, the hawks played well tough in the first quarter/half. you might just see your sign bethlehem.

on the jordan commerical: it makes me think about kobe/lebron and all the other players who wear 23. bsimmons (definition of a homer, the dude actually celebrates that heartbreaking game 5 versus detroit) thinks lebron will unleash himself once he loses the headband and "grows up." more like once he stops trying to be jordan brand 2.0 and changes his number. jersey choices define players, no doubt.

 
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