5.09.2008

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.

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17 Comments:

At 5/09/2008 10:36 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

They also yell out PLAYGROUND every time Paul crosses someone over. While Manu has to receive that honor. Not sure what it meant last night when Doris Burke (I think) (I love her!) said something about Ginobili/Pistol Pete.

Also, I don't see how anyone could see the Hornets as "organized playground" after the Warriors. The Hornets have a transcendent, tricky point guard, extremely skilled power forward, crazed big man dunker, and a bunch of shooters and slashers. It could either way—the classic formula updated, or the Suns brought down to earth—but it's sure not a revolution or uprising in the streets.

 
At 5/09/2008 10:57 AM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

I guess "playground" is Right-wayers' term for what used to be called "uptempo". Paul is just a really good passer and dribbler, who is adept at dragging defenses where he wants them to go. I don't see how this is different than Bob Cousy except that CP3's finishers can jump.

And Shoals, I wondered if you noticed that not 24 hours after you testified on behalf of Bean's humanness, he shows up for an interview with two girls on his knees in matching sequined "Got MVP?" onesies. I'm not sure if his bridge is crossed yet.

DLIC, if Kittles' ghost is around, does that mean that it's okay to wear one sock all the way up again? I smile thinking back to the time when you could do that and not get a peep out of anyone.

 
At 5/09/2008 11:04 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Here's a TSB post on Kobe's comeback, including a link to Darren Rovell's assessment that it's time for him to get visible again. That's not quite the same as what I was saying, but related.

Also, if he can sit around with sexy chicks and it not freak people out. . . that's progress, no?

 
At 5/09/2008 11:09 AM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

Not sure if you're being sarcastic, or if you just didn't see it. They were like, three years old. I think they were his baby daughters.

 
At 5/09/2008 11:12 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

No, I didn't see it. . . I assumed that it was white cheerleader-types, because otherwise, what's the problem? You wouldn't wear a "MY DAD'S THE MVP" shirt?

For the record, I do not sexualize young girls. I do not even think that one's own children need be implicated in commerce or image-crafting paranoia, unless you think that little of humanity.

 
At 5/09/2008 11:17 AM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

It just seemed extra-scripted. As if they had these baby clothes in the locker room waiting, not unlike some kind of "NFC East Champs" New Eras. Then word comes out, and here's Kobe for the post game press...and ooh, his cute kids are with him! They also both had the side puffs like the girl from Boondocks. (Or ODB, your choice)

And I agree with you entirely on the little girl thing. I was not trying to accuse if it sounded that way.

 
At 5/09/2008 11:20 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I mean, no one's suggesting he's morphed into Iverson. He's still going to do standard shit like that. The question is whether he mollifies the artifice or reinforces it.

 
At 5/09/2008 11:54 AM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

Maybe I'm too sensitive, or maybe I have an anti-Kobe bias. It's one thing to bring the kids to work, another to dress them in an ad for dad.

Changing the topic: If Reinsdorf doesn't pony up for D'ant, I will be furious. I know the pieces don't totally fit, but I'd love to see what he can do with them. Plus I want the Knicks to be awful forever, history be damned.

 
At 5/09/2008 1:42 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

Re: Pop. I came to the conclusion during the Suns series that he doesn't actually like basketball. Actually, I suspect that he actively dislikes it. For me, it explains a lot about the Spurs.

Re: KB. I kind of don't want him to become more human. And I didn't see the press event, so it's hard to say, but little black girls with their hair pulled back into puffs and wearing sequined T's isn't that odd. Mrs. 8 is just as likely to have done their hair and gotten them the clothes with zero input from Mamba Leopard.

But further re: KB, it didn't seem like, at any point during the Denver series, people were chanting or yelling "rapist" at him. If that didn't happen, it probably says as much as anything about something.

 
At 5/09/2008 2:01 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

On the topic of salt_bagel's off-topic comment, I know that the Cavs just extended Mike Brown, that they can't make a change until Boston bounces them, and that it's simply not in Ferry's nature to do such a thing, but I really think they should hire D'Antoni.

 
At 5/09/2008 5:45 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

In the Denver series the Nuggets were surprisingly poorly represented in their home games. There were so many Laker fans there they actually were chanting "MVP" for Kobe during parts of Game 3. I suspect that won't be the case for the Utah home games.

 
At 5/09/2008 6:52 PM, Blogger Steve S. said...

I think we should recognize the playground pejorative for what it really is: a conscious and calculated counter-revolutionary comment (how's that for alliteration?). Maybe I'm just saying all this because I've thought of Popovich as a Bond villain for the last 6 or 8 years, but really, there are traces of Ernst Stavro Blofeld in a statement like that. "No, Mr. Paul, I expect you to die."

Popovich dismissing anything uptempo or interesting as "playground" basketball must be seen exactly like Hillary calling out Obama on his Reverend Wright connection. While you or I may agree entirely with what Wright has to say, it's tantamount to state sacrilege in today's political climate, and no matter how tenuous Wright's connection to Obama is ideologically, or the Hornets' connection is to actual revolutionary basketball, it's a calculated attempt to shift the frame of the debate further to the right.

Speaking of revolutionary basketball, with all this talk about the Death Of The Revolution in Phoenix and the continued triumph of the Spurs and their exploitation of institutional violence, I think it's important to understand exactly what the Revolution is today, and what we want it to accomplish.

If you've read any David Graeber, especially his piece in the latest Rolling Thunder, you know that the real revolutionary movements these days pretty much ignore The Revolution a la 1917 or 1939 as their preferred vehicle for radical social change. We dismiss the "break from history" as outdated, pre-post-modern pastiche at best, and ideologically self-important vanguardism at worst. What this leaves in its stead is the Seattle 1999 model of networks of solidarity based on shared affinity. In practical terms, this means revolutionaries entering the realm of what was previously thought of as "liberal" activism in order to create autonomous communities of resistance which challenge societal power -- thus anti-war, labor rights, living wage, and so on become revolutionary struggles. Liberal reform filled with revolutionary spirit.

And now, look what we have in round 2. Last time the Lakers and the Jazz met in the playoffs, in '97, it was a grinding, crushing battle of Right Way supremacy between Shaq and The Pick and Roll Dramamine Squad, Stockton and Malone. Now the two teams are scoring 230 combined points of beautiful, creative passing and phenomenal plays by Kobe, and less frequently, D-Will.

Before this series began, I wanted to think of it in terms of the Spanish civil war, with the Lakers as the CNT, the triangle as their anarcho-syndicalist spokescouncil structure, and Gasol as the perfect link -- and I did this because I saw Jerry Sloan as a Franco figure. Well, I was wrong. The Revolution has infiltrated both teams, although it remains to be seen exactly to what extent -- whether it has pushed conservative Right Way'ers to become moderate reformists (my suspicion with Utah), or has truly imbued a liberal movement with revolutionary zeal (my hope for these Lakers).

In this sense, the MVP could end up being either the best or the worst thing that has ever happened to Kobe, and therefore the league -- either he realizes that his individual payoff has come from his beautifully anarchistic season of stepping up to perform to the peak of his abilities, while stepping back to allow others to do the same, or the resultant swell of MVPego will bring him back to thinking he can win the 'chip all by himself, and the kind of Jordanian hyper-individualist fascism that ushered in the ascendancy of less benevolent or interesting dictators such as Vince Carter or Stephon Marbury will reign once again.

 
At 5/09/2008 7:40 PM, Blogger R. Lobstah said...

These Popovic comments screw my face up from the cattiness that sounds one octave more bitchy then a kitten's hair-ball. I remember PLAYGROUNDS. They were freakin fun. I used to laugh alot, climb up shit, none of my joints ached, I could get the air knocked out of me and come up to a tag-I'm it- from a girl with Boondock pig-tails. When I got to playground basketball, it was even more fun. I couldn't crossover a word puzzle and played to avoid contact. I could hit open shots and pass it in to the big guys with bruise applicant on their hips and elbows. Then there was the inevitable dribble penetrator who only passed back out if he hit a couple circus shots that made him feel man enough to share. I'm just wondering, is it possible that by organized playground Pop meant organized fun or is it not possible for an old white dude to not consider race when choosing his words. I have absolutely no reason not to give the man the benefit of the doubt.

As for Kobe, dang.... He plays basketball like no other. Fucking enjoy it without tearing it down. Time will bring him down in no time. If things break right in the next five years, BeanVP will be chiseled, by the media and our memories, right next to Jordan. Maybe who he is, is a family man who wants nothing better then to share the glory with the people he really cares about and not worry too much about some writers whose quest in style has them thinking they can see into the substance on call. All you haters can fit into a champion's heart with room for you to ball on the playground embedded in there.

Oh, and Steve S., how far your own ass do you have to dig in order to find that character you play on FD? Its an impressive creation. I read, "While you or I may agree entirely with what Wright has to say, it's tantamount to state sacrilege...", and I actually reacted viscerally to that. I kept reading and realized, oh... this writing thing he does is purely playground. What impresses me about the character is his thinking seems effortless, pure prestige.

 
At 5/09/2008 8:57 PM, Blogger Steve S. said...

R(ock?) Lobstah --

Apparently, I don't have to dig too far. I'm actually, truly, IRL fo-realzies, a crimethinc-reading, state-smashing, community organizing anarchist, though I stop short of wearing all black and I've only been pepper sprayed at a protest once. Haven't you ever met one of us? Although, as per my "character" on this site, I must admit I don't normally indulge myself in the sort of polysyllaby I use to comment here -- I confess, it is kind of a game to me. You hit it square on the head. I don't get much of a chance to talk about basketball in any sort of intellectual way because, as you may guess, most anarcho-punks aren't much into sports (besides soccer... it's the weirdest fucking thing), so when I'm on this site, it all gets a bit intensified.

 
At 5/10/2008 3:36 AM, Blogger R. Lobstah said...

@Steve S
I've been thinking about your getting pepper sprayed and it got me to wondering, were you sprayed by representatives of The People or of The Man? While I'm pretty sure, having met quite a few individualists just like you, that you would think it was the latter, would it make any difference to you if it were the former?

 
At 5/10/2008 12:54 PM, Blogger Jon Bois said...

Way to bait "The Office." I can't wait for Fire Joe Morgan to quote your post and give you the business. "Ooh! Ooh! Kobe Bean Bear Bryant! Ooh, [italicized]good one![/italicized] Ooooooohh!!!"

Disclaimer: I like Fire Joe Morgan almost as much as I love Free Darko.

 
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