Cyclical Banding In His Absence
Does anyone else feel that tremor? Yes, that was the sound of Chauncey Billups' hamstring turning to laffy taffy, LeBron's hands turning to stone, Byron Scott rapping three championship rings on the table, Kevin Garnett pounding his chest, and Michael Finley hitting nothing but net. I think it's clear what is going on here. We are inching ever more slowly to a Celtics-Spurs final that will feature none of the drama of a KG-TD once-and-for-all smackdown, and all of the theatrics of Manu and T-Pain flailing through the air to hit that sweet TD Banknorth parquet. Picture 5 or 6 bumpin ugly games with combined point totals around 170-180.
Last night I felt like I was eating a delicious potsticker, then all of a sudden, I got a tooth knocked out. I looked around on the floor for it, then went to sleep hoping that tomorrow I would find it amongst all the laundry and paperwork on my floor. But I woke up this morning with that same longing feeling. Something in this NBA universe feels off kilter, and I am continually looking over my shoulder to see whether the apparition of Kerry Kittles or Sean Elliot is following me.
Too soon to panic? Of course it is, but not for the reasons you think. Make that, "reason." Ironically, the one man who can save us from our impending fate is the man who has made a most remarkable ascension to superhero to the point that many can still not accept it. Yes, Kobe Bean Bear Bryant is our only hope now. Does anyone else feel a Robert Downey Jr. comparison here? Kobe can rise above all of the mishmosh about pace, defense, experience, poise, mismatches, confidence, body language, because he owns something right now that is much more powerful and in a much greater quantity: talent. KG has it, Dwight Howard has it, Chris Paul has it, but Bryant can win on talent alone.
This is not as obvious a point as it seems. Kobe right now is playing pretty much every quarter right now like LeBron did in that fourth quarter versus the Pistons last year. Except Kobe has better teammates too, so he can spread the love around. These playoffs are only as exciting as Kobe's presence is in them. This was made painfully obvious last night, when dude was at home chilling out, eating a veggieburger. Sure, I'll admit it, that Hornets/Spurs game was exciting to a point, and as much joy as I get from Chris Paul, I feel like too much of the game is not his to dictate. He must rely on Peja Stojakovic being a reliable third option every night, he has to rely on his coach Byron Scott matching wits with the--fuck I'll just say it--GENIUS Popovich (guy proved everything to me last series against the Suns). He has to rely on his guys recovering to guard three-point shooters after doubling Tim Duncan. Kobe, on the other hand, is playing these games like he alone is controlling the Wii.
And don't even get me started on Celtics-Cavs last night. Isht was so ugly I actually tried to watch The Office for a bit instead, and I have as much disdain for that show as anything (will save it for a later post). At any rate, the way LeBron is looking, and the way the Celtics are reminding me of pre-handchecking-rules hoops (KG's FD quotient has dropped dramatically by the way, stated Shoals in private), the fate of these playoffs' watchability is in his hands. And for that reason, I am hoping that the Jazz win tonight, and extend this series, just so we can get a few more games of K8 in action.
Something else I wanted to address, that I didn't really know where to fit in is Popovich's characterization of Byron Scott as running an "organized playground." What exactly does that mean? Yes, the obvious point to make is how this description infantilizes and perhaps demeans the CP3-to-Chandler alley-oop style of play, racial connotations of that style of play and all. Besides that signature move of the Hornets' offense, though, I am not sure what Pop is referring to. David West, as a big, fits more of the KG/Bosh mold of solid mid-range jumpshooter, Mo Pete is spending the majority of this series spotting up, and Peja Stojakovic is about as far from Hot Sauce as one could get. Bonzi Wells, Melvin Ely, Jannero Pargo? Julian Wright has some unbridled looseness to his style, but that is only because his precise role on the team is to be the "energy guy." What's more offensive is the notion that Byron Scott, great coach as he's been from a spiritual/motivational standpoint, is running anything at all. The team lives or dies with the guidance of Chris Paul, no matter how many elements of the game are outside of his control. And, oh yeah, the type of defense Tyson Chandler is playing is NOT something you see on the playground. Not sure if I've come to a conclusion here, but I've been hearing Pop's statement being bandied around as somewhat of a hee-haw compliment, when in fact, it's a tad pejorative if anything.