That's the Name I Was Given
READ SHOALS' analysis of last night just below this post. I, on the other hand, will acknowledge that I didn't really watch the games yesterday because I'm prescient and I don't like to watch games that I don't like the outcomes of. Am more interested in this D'Antoni to the Knicks thing, because I might be the only person on the planet who thinks that it might work out perfectly. Look, the Knicks' players suck. I'm finally going to admit that. And no amount of fastbreaking will change that. But there are some important similarities between Mike D and the Knicks that bode well for the future.
They don't like to play defense. He doesn't like to coach defense.
They've never won anything. He hasn't really won anything either.
They're tremendously overpaid. He is tremendously overpaid.
All of this results in the perfect cocktail of something to prove mixed with a sense of entitlement that may give New York the exact type of swag they need. D'Antoni's rep as a coach players like is also important for facilitating the jettisoning of the Knicks' deadweight players. To put it simply, if you don't jibe with D'Antoni, it's YOUR FAULT, so leave. The only thing I really didn't like about Isiah's hateable-ness is that it gave his crappy players a free pass. There was too much attributional ambiguity. Oh, Zach Randolph has a bad attitude? Blame it on Isiah. Stephon Marbury is nuts? Must be because of Isiah. Eddy Curry is lazy you say? Isiah's fault again. For better or for worse, D'Antoni is so likeable that the players should feel a renewed sense of personal responsibility.
ON TO MORE IMPORTANT THINGS (taking the long road there). You know when you grow up "doing some sort of art." Say, rapping. If you do it for long enough, you reach a certain level of maturity where two important things happen: (1) You realize that you are actually now as smart or smarter than certain people "in that artform" that you formerly looked up to. Like, why would I look to Grouch & Eligh & Sixtoo for insight about life? I've had enough interesting life experience to know that this stuff isn't really that deep. And then (2) You realize that certain people are so good at the particular craft and you admire them so much, that you've actually just been a crappier version of (Posdnuos/Breezly Brewin/Andre3000,etc.) this whole time, and you need to do some serious soul-searching to do something that is specifically and originally YOU to really do good art.
Well, just as I've had these experiences on the music front, the same could be said for my "sportswriting." Similar to rolling my eyes at indie rappers' life insight, it's like, look, I've taken enough stats and methods courses over the past few years to know that John Hollinger's propaganda is essentially a lot of pseudoscience, and at a basic level inferring causation based on correlation. Had Hollinger been around when I was 13 years old, though, I probably would have thought I was reading like, the Steven Pinker of basketball. At the same time, there are those (an ever dwindling number) who get this shit so right, that it makes me rethink my whole agenda in this hoops blogging game. For example, prior to this past weekend, the passage below, from Bill Simmons in response to Ralph Wiley, during one of their legendary conversations, was probably my personal hoops-writing Pledge of Allegiance--the most important thing to me:
You asked why I love the NBA so much, and if it bothers me that some of my readers don't want me to read those columns as much. My feeling was always this: if you write about something passionately enough, and you know what you're talking about, I think most people will want to keep reading no matter the subject. Sometimes you can go too far -- like John McPhee writing about rocks -- but I think there are enough diehards out there, as well as people following the NBA on a rudimentary level who could be coaxed into following it more. So that's always been my hope. I would rather write about something I love than write about something I don't follow.
(Note: One of the biggest problems with the NBA is that there aren't enough quality writers involved. Think about baseball and all the wonderful writers that have tackled that sport -- Updike, Talese, Angell, Cramer, Halberstam, etc. -- along with the dozens and dozens of baseball books that come out every year. But the best NBA book ever was "Breaks of the Game," and that came out more than 20 years ago. In my case, I grew up reading Bob Ryan in the Globe -- his passion made me like basketball even more than I already did. He's always been the role model for me when writing about hoops, as well as for how to get away with a cheesy blazer and khaki pants that are two sizes too short on national TV.)
The biggest obstacle for the NBA has always been the black-white thing -- marketing a league full of mostly black players to a country filled with mostly white people who can afford the tickets. This almost killed the league in the late-'70s (detailed extensively in "Breaks of the Game") and reared its head in the post-MJ Era (and I'm not counting the Wizards years, because they never happened). I always thought Iverson's career was a fascinating litmus test. Here's someone who was clearly the most exciting player in the league from post-MJ through 2002, but he also represented everything that Generic White America hates about the NBA: Tatts, cornrows, in-your-face, loose cannon, the background to match. And I'm not sure how this dilemma is solved.
Yes, the NFL is the best product. Yes, baseball has the history. But I always feel like the NBA should be more popular than it is, and I think part of the reason is that enough quality people aren't writing about it. What other sport combines this much athleticism, drama and unintentional comedy? What other sport has Calvin Murphy's kids, Doctor J's sex tape, Mrs. Christie, Mark Cuban's Weblog, Barkley and Kenny making fun of Sam Cassell in code, the completely insane Ron Artest, J-Kidd trying to seduce the NBA trophy and everything else? Hot damn I love this game.
It still holds up 4 years later, and that was pretty much my inspiration for years, what made me tell my friend Pete in Berkeley in 2004 that I wanted to write a book of the type that Shoals, Recluse, Silverbird, Big Baby, and I just completed. To me, it was pretty much the pinnacle of encapsulating everything I wanted to say about basketball. Until I read this. And this. Many of you may have already seen these pieces (evidently there's one more coming today), but if you have not, drop your Sudoku puzzle, and take some time to read these insane interviews with Britt Robson. I really can't describe the level that this dude is on, and would prefer you just hear it from the man himself. I was lucky enough to grow up in Minneapolis and read his stuff in the City Pages, but it wasn't until I actually moved out of state that I became a regular reader.
Robson, to put it similarly to our friend Kelly Dwyer, is the next epoch. As many of you know has been the beat writer for the Timberwolves since forever, and is pretty much the sole reminder of the fact that Minnesota professional hoops doesn't end with Kevin Garnett. The guy wrote multi-thousand word tomes after every single Wolves game THIS PAST YEAR (can't think of anything more Free Darko than that), discussing the intricacies of Chris Richard's helpside defense and Ryan Gomes' confidence with Coen Bros-caliber intrigue. Just read the amount of truth and substance this guy is dropping and you will remember why you get out of bed in the morning. For me, it's time to reinvent myself.