Halcyon Barbarians

After watching the model UN last night that was the Lakers-Jazz game, I officially declare these playoffs RETURN OF THE EURO. Zaza, Hedo, Peja, Z-Ill, Vlad-Rad, Vujacic, Pau, AK-47, Memo, and even Dirk. Yes, Dirk, the only dude who gave his team a shot in the first round and intelligently stepped away from David West instead of copping a suspension. Euros have been absolutely critical to their teams' successes in these playoffs--hitting big shots, tussling with people, flopping like the dickens, and generally being confusing--and I could not be happier about this development.

It's all finally starting to make sense. We are at the dawn of a new epoch in the trajectory. As has been discussed millions of times on this blog, the rise of the Euro began post-Arvydas Sabonis, and ascended steadily until guys like Peja and Dirk were becoming all-star game staples. The NBA raked in the global cashflow to the point that Commissioner Stern is opening next season on the moon. The only question was, what did the Euros actually do? Sure, they gave us cool names and facial hair. And it was nice to watch a 7-foot man shoot 35-footers once in a while, but they weren't putting any of their teams over the top (Kukoc excluded).

Then came the "soft" tags, the claims that these third-world war-torn isolates in a foreign land didn't know how to man up with people who played across America's heartland. Dirk's monumental post-MVP playoff failure solidified this view, brought outrage over his MVP award selection, and ultimately got us back to what this game is all about: Kobe, LeBron, and Chris Paul.

You see what happened there? NBA basketball will never not be NBA basketball, an all-American celebration of Nike, slam-dunking, and Oak Hill Academy. Stephen A. Smith's BRILLIANT blurb yesterday (seriously, read it) reinforces all of that. And once players--Americos and Euros alike--started to realize that the NBA will always be the league of Jordan, Wilt, and Russell, the pressure was taken off of them to create new alien standards of greatness. (And people wonder what took so long for Turkoglu to turn the jets on). Peja Stojakovic went from third place MVP candidate in 2004 to forgotten man to the only Serbian in New Orleans, and you know what, he couldn't have been happier? Zydrunas Ilgauskas went from LeBron's Dick Cheney to potential contract deadweight, lost amidst the flurry of the Drew Gooden/Ben Wallace/Larry Hughes/Wally trade, and Z is perfectly fine with that. Dirk's MVP award gave Euros the token that they needed, to show they mattered, and now they can take an exhalation of deep relief, and go back to "doing them."

Doing them, of course means being Kukoc, Sabonis, or Smits--being that key guy in tough situations, but never having to be The Man....which IRONICALLY leads them to being The Man all over again, as Peja, Hedo, Pau, Okur, and Ilgauskas have been throughout these playoffs. This has led to the perfect alliance of Euros and AmeriStars, and the teams that have shown the most success this year (save for the Celtics and Pistons) have adhered to this formula.

Now of course the Spurs have long been tinkering with this formula, but Lamar, Kobe and Pau are the prototype for Comic Relief + ESTABLISHMENT FIGURE + EURO arrangement (think Peter Boyle + the Belush + Schwarznegger in Red Heat). Glance over these delightful trios:

Deron Williams-C-Booz-Memo
D-Ho-Rashard Lewis-Hedo

Just as Bill Gates promised a "robot in every home," by 2010, I promise a "key Euro on every starting lineup." No more giant stiffs or 3-ball experts just filling up roster space. This is a new age, and a new millenial science that is destined for success. What will be even more curious to watch will be how far the Lakers can succeed in their current configuration, with Kobe (a Euro at heart) surrounded by a sea of foreigners. If they indeed defeat either the Celtics or Pistons in the final, we might suggesting every selfish superstar with a band of people who neither understand nor question his every move.

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At 5/08/2008 11:04 AM, Blogger J.E. said...

Shoals is a blogosphere legend, and Billups has his fanboys, but I absolutely love the good doctor's FD work. Just love it. Excellent post, DLIC.

At 5/08/2008 11:56 AM, Blogger goathair said...

This also explains why the Spurs are so good. Not only do they have their own trio, but they also up the ante by having their comic relief be a foreigner. Well played, Spurs.

At 5/08/2008 12:04 PM, Blogger jawaan oldham said...

If I can piggyback on top of the good doctor's Red Heat reference (nice shout-out for an underrated picture, btw), Belushi as the meathead American white guy having to deal with the inscrutable, unknowable foreigner (Arnold) as well as pre-Laurence Fishburne in those Malcolm X glasses as a superior officer (and, annoyingly, black) is the lumpen white basketball fan, perfectly realized. Lest we forget the immortal line, "We've got a pro basketball team coming at us . . . with guns . . ."

At 5/08/2008 12:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just as Bill Gates promised a "robot in every home," by 2010, I promise a "key Euro on every starting lineup."

"...and an Asian in every division by 2014, and not just the ones with a lot of lottery picks!"

At 5/08/2008 12:31 PM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

What's the ruling on Argentinians here?

Sorry, that had a Simmons-like tone. Im'a go read In Patagonia (again!) and get back to you with something more substantive.

At 5/08/2008 12:37 PM, Blogger trouc said...

The proper ending to this post was to compare Kobe to Moses in "Moses and Monotheism".

At 5/08/2008 1:54 PM, Blogger Five Pound Bag said...

This bodes ill for the Celtics chances, as they lack a Euro and comic relief. KG, Pierce and Ray are about as establishment as a Lions Club breakfast.

At 5/08/2008 2:17 PM, Blogger Tom said...

Deron Williams needs a nickname. And NO, D-Will will NOT suffice.

/Z-Ill is pretty great though.

At 5/08/2008 2:26 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

Why do South Americans get painted with the Euro brush? Or rather, why do white South Americans get called Euros? Varejao's from the same country that Nene and Barbosa are, but he's usually thrown in with that "Euro flopper" category. The dude is a flopper, but he's a Brazilian one. Ginobili & Oberto also seem to be considered more "Euro" than Tony Parker or Boris Diaw for some reason. Why is that?

At 5/08/2008 2:38 PM, Blogger Sweat of Ewing said...

Well, Ginobili at least is an Italian citizen, although I don't think that has much to do with it. It's obviously because Lateral = White, Longitudinal = Blackspanic.

At 5/08/2008 2:38 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I think you've already answered your own question and just don't want to be the one to say it.

At 5/08/2008 2:42 PM, Blogger Sweat of Ewing said...


The Celtics have Scalabrine and Pollard, who tag team to form about all the comic relief I can handle. And Scalabrine is a slow chub who shoots threes, which screams out euro to me at least. Although he is also physical as all hell.

At 5/08/2008 3:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, Wally tends to bring more tears than laughs

At 5/08/2008 3:54 PM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

Well, scientifically speaking, the original white people came from Europe, and all the white people from South America are recent Euro imports. (And to follow, most of the black people in South America are not-so-recent African "imports") So it doesn't have to be a racist thing. There is no South American style of playing basketball until they uncover some Guarani tribesman dishing on the break during weekends in Asuncion.

I would imagine the Guarani style to be perpetually locked into the early '90s, with little knowledge of pro teams, and highly influenced by Nolan Richardson's Razorbacks teams, with Scotty Thurmond jerseys everywhere.

At 5/08/2008 4:21 PM, Blogger brian said...

i call deron williams da wilderness. and carlos boozer slambidunktrous, you know, because he can score with either hand. in fact, i even wrote i letter to him suggesting he get slam dunk tattooed across his fingers. i never got a reply.

At 5/08/2008 5:11 PM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

shit is far more complex than you think. diaw and turiaf = euros. tony parker and johan petro = not euros.

At 5/08/2008 5:36 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

Turiaf's from Martinique, he's not Euro. He plays for France, but then again, Chris Kaman plays for Germany.

Clearly the flopping is due to soccer culture and not some European genetics or anything like that. Whatever the reason, the league needs to put a stop to it.

At 5/08/2008 6:16 PM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

I think the first step with the refs is to admit the flopping goes on. You talk about soccer culture, and it's a good point to bring up. They know people take dives, and so they just say, "Hey, if you take a dive, we can call you on it."

We should allow the basketball refs to do the same as the soccer refs. If a dude takes an obvious dive, just give the ref the leeway to let them play on. Crack down on "embellishment," as they say. It goes for offensive and defensive fouls. It also goes for jumping into the dude that's guarding you just cause you're in the lane without a good shot. (and we call it "savvy") I love it when a dude goes flying on the soccer pitch and the ref just stands there with a knowing grin on his face, and the player on the turf has to sit and cry while the ball goes the other way.

Also, they should bring back the intentional foul. Everyone is wondering how to get rid of HackaShaq, but they had a way to stop it years ago. Just call an intentional foul and give the ball back. This rule could stand to be interpreted more liberally, too. You could easily say that the hard hack to stop an easy layup is intentional; I mean, they call it "giving a foul." This would also stop the fouling at ends of games. I don't see any reason why a wide interpretation of the intentional foul rule would piss anyone off.

wv: ptofxv: party of fifteen

At 5/08/2008 8:01 PM, Blogger T. said...

I think the reason South Americans get the Euro brush is they came to fame playing in the Euro-League or Italy/Spain. Also, so many of the Argentines have dual-Nationality - Luis Scola is both Argentinian and Spanish, for example.

And he's the least soft of the Rockets trio.

At 5/08/2008 11:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you really just call that Stephen A Smith column brilliant? It was fucking terrible, Stephen A Smith is a joke, and your refusal to accept this epitomizes everything that is wrong with this site.

Like, don't get me wrong, I love this place, but Jesus Christ, sometimes a loudmouth dumbass is a loudmouth dumbass even if he is TOTALLY FUCKING BLACK!!!!

At 5/08/2008 11:33 PM, Blogger Jason Gill said...

I have to agree, the main reason so many euros and internationals are recruited to play the game in the NBA is that they will help teams win, the reason they decide to come is because they can make BANK doing it.

For this same reason South Amercans go to Europe to play soccer and latinos and japanese come to the US to play baseball. For all other mythology and overanalysis, by and large atheletes want to prove they can hang with the best. Race is an important subtext to EVERYTHING, but it is the driving force behind far fewer material realities than it is given credit/blame for.

As for SAS, the NBA was marketing in Europe and Asia far before Yao and Arvydas, the success of international players is the result of- rather than the cause of- overseas NBA marketing.


At 5/09/2008 1:26 AM, Blogger SeanBS said...

salt_bagel, refs already let play continue after some flops. What I'd like to see is something more like soccer, where guys can get carded for diving. The NBA should give refs the freedom to dole out technicals for flopping.

At 5/09/2008 8:44 AM, Blogger D.J. Foster said...

It seems like every foreigner does the same thing when they get called for a foul. It's the double palms at waste level, incredulous, did you really just give me a YELLOW CARD! gesture. Although that might be better than the seemingly american style of barking and walking...it's still pretty annoying.

I blame soccer for most/all of the worlds problems.

At 5/09/2008 9:15 AM, Blogger morgenstern said...

aw, you can't blame soccer and euros for flopping, a little bit of flopping has always been there, especially when it comes to charging.

Did you actually remember a charge foul called without the defender falling down in a heap on the floor? It's just the way it is, showing the hit to the refs, selling it a bit, but it's not like the hit isn't there, at times.

The point is, rules are different now, possibly more fiba-like, and fiba players are better at exploiting them. I think Salt Bagel is right, no calls can really help with the problem, the action goes on and suddenly you're 5 on 4 while the flopper has removed himself from the game. But this just means a more physical game, and that's not where the nba seems to be going.

I also agree with the intentional foul interpretation, there should be an easy way to punish an unsportsmanlike conduct on the floor

At 5/09/2008 10:13 AM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

Great post, DLIC! Although I do take exception to "the claims that these third-world war-torn isolates in a foreign land ..." - most "Euros" aren't from a war-torn country. Maybe the former Yugos; but not the Germans, Turks, Argentines, Spaniards, Brazilians, French and Chinese that make about 75% of foreigners in the NBA.

Argentines, as mentioned above, get the Euro brush because they tend to play in Euro-leagues. But that's still pretty weak. You wouldn't call Yao or Yi a Euro, and the Argentine/Brazilian style is different than the Euro style. For one, they do play a bit more physical in South America - see Luis Scola. Two, they have been playing b-ball in Argentina (and Brazil) since way back in the day... that was Argentina whupping the US back in 1950, in the gold medal game of the first FIBA World Championship. That was Argentina playing professional basketball back in the 30's, before the NBA was even in business.

Lastly, the underlying complaint among African-Americans about the "Eurozation" of the NBA isn't going after the money, or bringing in the foreigners to play. Most of the complaints I've heard are about the rule changes, to make it more "Euro-friendly", so to speak - the easing up of the tough defense to allow for softer Euro defense (attacking passing lanes is much more important in the international game that in the traditional NBA game, where keeping your man in front of you was key). The feeling being that the NBA, the leader, should not be changing it's game to better conform to FIBA, and to "make it easier" for the Euros to play in the NBA.

Of course, the counter argument to that is that a good business adapts to the changing market, even if it is the leader in said market....

At 5/09/2008 10:38 AM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

Sean, you're right, I was thinking about that, too. They should be able to warn again after one egregious flop, and then T him up the next time it happens. Basically, the philosophy has to change. It's like the way it is now, the refs are asked to sort of pretend people don't do acting jobs out there. Doesn't that dumb it down a little? Can't they just acknowledge that it's going on and act intelligently, especially since everyone else knows it happens?


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