It Gnaws, We Feed
Anyone remember that post, about two weeks ago, where I proclaimed the Lakers a more realistic, subtle version of FD principles, and likened it to growing up? It pissed a lot of people off, and that was around the time some of these names started showing up regularly in the comments section.
Anyway, I've been watching the Garnett clips again, and came to a parallel realization about the Celtics. All that rhetoric about sacrificing, making a change, being ready, and making no more excuses isn't just about a winning attitude, or good, sound basketball, or embracing tradition. Garnett's only 32, but he's been in the league 14 seasons. We could sit here and argue about if he and Allen are starting to age a little; what's really important to me is that KG, and Pierce, and Allen, got that their time was running out. That's what inspired this championship, as well as any and all changes that we're arguing about: A sense that it wasn't going to last forever.
This wasn't a desperate ring-chase; no need to hang on anyone's coattails yet. As Big Saxmo points out, all three have their flaws and idiosyncracies. They came together in a way that, while not as organic as I might've liked, made each of them into super role-players. Defense was the bedrock, because that's easier to get going right away than offensive wizardry. I'm not sure why everyone's shocked they won it this first season together, since the whole plan was designed to be as effective as possible as quickly as possible.
Which is why, of course, some of you are convinced they'll open things up next season.
At least one or two comments have suggested that I've accused Garnett of selling out. You're right, but is that such a bad thing? Think about how long we've all been fans of KG. Think about all that's transpired in your own life since then. I'm a few years younger than Garnett, but same generation. And as fun as this whole writing racket is, I spend a lot of time worrying about my IRA, toying with the idea of a real job, wondering how soon I'll get certain family health problems, and understanding that a year goes by a lot faster than it did in my twenties. And not to compare doing a book to winning the LOB, but that deal did, in a way, make me feel certified.
Once on WIP (yes, I use this example a lot), the daytime guys were arguing about whether you could rock the jersey of a player much younger than you. Their best one: No middle-aged man needs to be wearing a Darius Miles joint (this was 2002, I think). I'm not saying that my taste in basketball is youth-fetishizing, anymore than I'm willing to cop to its being a backhanded form of cultural studies. Woody Allen was almost ten years older than me when he wrote his essay on Earl Monroe. Some forms of radicalism age gracefully. The beauty of taste is that you're allowed to appreciate, even on some level relate to, shit produced by those of—or from—a different age. Timelessness and all that.
But one day later, and, truthfully, with the season over—and the subjective and objective tension surrounding the Celtics now subsiding—I'm a little less rabid about it. The Big Three, wanted, even needed, their rings. Of course winning is always the point, but this year, there was little room for error or experimentation. The sense of urgency wasn't joyous, it was apocalyptic. It was the kind of discipline in which anxiety plays a large, large part, which is why the vibe of this Celtics season had as much to do with the demons of the past as a brave new future.
Garnett made a choice, and he wants us all to know it. It's not hard to get why he did, why the revolutionary freak of his Minny days might now be game for as much sublimation as possible. That same focus and intensity implied on a macro level. On some level, I can feel the same pressures that drove him in that direction; they're about the most universal thing in all of human experience, and no one's ever said that settling down and raising a family was a bullshit life-path. On the contrary, staying forever young can be embarrassing for everyone involved.
I may prefer the old Garnett, or wish Boston had a more imaginative offense. But past sports, and whatever grandiose symbolic world I may have built out of it, I can now look back and feel Garnett's decision right in my gut. There's ambivalence there, but it has everything to do with being human, and nothing to do with skill sets, length, and when someone does or doesn't scream.
P.S. Check my latest Sporting News column. It's about what this loss means for Kobe.