Life Needs No Fever
I, too love the Hawks, Hornets and other examples of unfulfilled potential, because I can identify with that struggle to get your shit together. But the Spurs are where I want to end up. They're grown. They know who they are more than any team in the league, and aren't plagued with the nagging anxieties and insecurities of youth.—Brickowski
The other day I sent out a frantic email to some associates known and unknown, begging for immediate FreeDrafto coverage. In the wake of the dead Suns, errant Dubs, soon-to-be-asunder Hawks, and be-Larry-ed Bobcat, this league could be running precious low on shit we stand for. Remember how the 2007 draft was supposed to restore the league's legitimacy, as 2003 was supposed to have, too? With very little knowledge of the situation, I wanted to be told that this draft could do that for FD-ness. I felt like Bush, but it was worth it.
But at some point today, I stopped and really thought about the Lakers. Why exactly isn't it a bigger deal to this community that Los Angeles is Finals bound? Forget about them being the ones to overcome the Spurs; on a number of levels, I would've rather seen the Hornets do it. And yet in every single way—my soft spot for this team notwithstanding—the Lakers embody almost everything this site stands for. Moody, dominant superstar? Check. Apositional weirdo long burdened by his own versatility? Indeed. Euro breaking molds? Uh-huh. Competitive style? Certainly—the triangle has never been so lyrical. They have the NBA's only Jew, and its most bad-ass organ of joyousness. Even Phil, whom I formerly despised, has lightened up and turned himself into a perplexing, yet effective, beacon of humor and irony.
(A lot like the Suns, but without the lingering sense that they, like us, might deep down inside be a bunch of losers. Or permanent outcasts.)
I know a lot of people despise the Lakers writ large, or can't help but look at Kobe askance. It's also no secret that I'm a huge Kobe apologist, and think that Odom is infinitely more sympathetic than Garnett these days. Both of these aside, though, why exactly isn't this Lakers team a watershed in FD ideology? There's style, psychology, personality, innovation, intelligence, and even some fairly confusing identity politics going on here. And unlike every other team we've jocked, these Lakers just might win a ring with a team I could watch every day for the rest of my life.
Maybe it's the Bynum factor. At this point, he's the epitome of marvelous hypothetical. He was getting better, more grown, with every game, before he went down. On top of that, he's a towering human being with a spring-loaded step to rival any traditional big this side of Dwight Howard. There will be no extension this summer, as his value remains such an upside-down, gaseous infinity sign. Of course, it would be anyway, injury or no injury. As I detailed elsewhere, Bynum's like a max-contract time bomb just waiting for one healthy season. And within the context of the team, Gasol/Odom/Bynum makes this year's humble formation look like so much fancy chopped liver. These are the days of awe, but there are days much more vast yet ahead.
Or perhaps what bothers some of you is the very notion that this this site's ideals could reach any measure of completion, maturation, or fixity. That's likely what's kept me from overflowing with excitement; whether or not they were the Lakers, coached by Phil, with Kobe at the helm, there would still be something very establishment, or institutional, about them. I honestly can't tell if they've sublimated the technical side of the game and achieved artistry, or assimilated artistry on the way to arch-effectiveness. I'm not sure it matter, or if there's any difference, but something about the decisiveness of that movement rubs me the wrong way. I guess that's the whole "would an avant-garde team be avant-garde if they proved their legitimacy by winning a ring" question.
That's why I found the above quote from Brick so reassuring. I may not wholly identify with the Lakers, or feel fully invested in them. Kobe and Odom are, in some ways, more distant from me as a fan than when they were more flawed and complicated. But damn it, if I ever were to grow up, or have my views of basketball do so, it would look a lot like these Lakers. I don't want to be last year's Warriors forever. Better have this as a shining example than look forward to becoming reactionary in my old age, at least in part due to a sense of embarrassment.
When I was a teenager, I used to look through my friend's father's record collection. It always bothered me that he owned all the late Coltrane, but never listened to it (remember, I was like fourteen at the time). Right then and there, I made a vow to myself that I wouldn't go that route. Obviously, that was stupid and immature, and I don't even think I own Meditations anymore. But—only using jazz here because it's true—Crescent or First Meditations make more sense to me now than they ever did then. I guess I'm saying that, if getting grown has to happen, I'd at least like to know I have a model for it that doesn't cause some sort of inner fracture. Even if I'm not quite ready for it yet.