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.