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.

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At 6/19/2008 2:45 AM, Blogger karma said...

Wow. Excellent, EXCELLENT peice that you wrote for The Sporting News. Those are my thoughts exactly, to be honest. By the way, is that picture from Nepal? Deurali is a place in Nepal, and I'm actually from Nepal, so it's pretty cool seeing a photo from your (small) country being on a basketball site.

Anyways, here is my take on the matter.

Among other things, I think the most important lesson that Kobe - and the Lakers as a whole - learned is this: failure.

The Lakers failed....and they failed miserably. However, people seemed to have forgotten that this inexperienced Lakers team had to defeat gigantic demons such as the Jazz and the Spurs (not exactly easy teams) in order to get to the point they did. It is something that they should be commended for.

This Lakers team was not supposed to be here. Kobe Bryant was not supposed to be in Los Angeles, nor was he supposed to be the MVP. The Lakers bench was not supposed to be considered one of the best benches during the regular season, and throughout most of the playoffs. Lamar Odom was not supposed to have a great year. Andrew Bynum was not supposed to be a force, and the Lakers were not supposed to make the playoffs. While they clinched the playoffs, they were not supposed to be the number one team in the West in a year where every seed won over 50 games. The Lakers were not supposed to get past the Jazz. Or the Spurs. When they were finally SUPPOSED to beat the Celtics, they melted. But that's okay. They were not supposed to be here. Next year, they are.

Failure teaches you a lot of things, and it introduces you to a lot of things; namely motivation, desire, and hunger. In sports, failure is perhaps the greatest thing that could happen to a player or a team, because when you fail, you want to never experience that feeling again. When you lose by 39 AND lose your championship dreams at the same time, you DEFINETLY don't want to experience that feeling again. Success can never come without tasting failure first, and it tastes that much sweeter when you eventually overcome your adversities....just ask KG, Pierce and Allen.

At 6/19/2008 3:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What was frustrating, to me, about the Celtics was that they started playing a more enjoyable form of basketball after I had essentially thrown my hands up about them; I enjoyed watching Pierce recapture the old glory, but it came at the expense of what I came to enjoy about the Lakers.

It was a very binary series — neither team really achieved greatness at the same time as each other, which neutered the stellar play by individuals.

It seems like ages ago, but a perfect example of two teams pushing each other was the game that kicked it all off - Suns-Spurs, game 1. That was a game that showcased all the talents of the teams at once. These finals, on the other hand, offered isolated wonders.

In the interest of full disclosure, though, I just took a job as a night-side copy editor, so I missed a game or two.

At 6/19/2008 8:17 AM, Blogger Kaifa said...

BS, this is how I've made my peace with this series as well. No hard feelings towards the Celtics from this Lakers fan anymore because Boston earned the championship, even though I had hoped it wouldn't seem so much like work with the weapons they had.

I loved Pierce back when he and Walker fought against New Jersey, so him finding his way back to that style and level of play was nice to see.

Interesting analysis of the Lakers' situation as well, although I'm rather with commenter Karma in seeing Utah and SA as worthy opponents who - unlike Boston - couldn't slow a great Laker offense. But I agree that viewing this bad series by Bryant as a complete fall from grace again would be a huge overstatement.

As I've said before, I personally enjoy LA's style of play more than Boston's, to a degree also because of the obvious flaws of the players and the team as a whole. But as you and other commenters have detailed, the Celtics had their own set of flaws to overcome, so how could I tell anyone else which story to like better.

I (as an infrequent commenter) have always felt that this was a forum where I could throw out my thoughts and opinions, even weird ones, having those that were worthy of discussion taken seriously and respected, even if they were against the grain.

That's what has made it fun for me, looking at basketball from odd angles, seeing beauty where ESPN sees unstructered play or mediocre rebounding or not taking care of the ball. And I hope the comments section gets back to that, not trying to convince people that a certain team/style/opinion is right/wrong or good/bad.

At 6/19/2008 9:47 AM, Blogger Michael said...

Damn, I just failed at posting a long comment about Kobe, so I'll post the short version. Great post and SN piece, Shoals.

It says something about Kobe that Boston fans consider it a taunt to yell "You're not Jordan!" Of course he isn't; Jordan may be the greatest player in US professional team sports history. He changed the game. He was 6-0 in the Finals. Before him, no one expected that anyone, not even Magic or Bird (Magic was 5-4 in Finals in 12 years, not bad), could impose the will to win so effectively.

Kobe isn't Jordan, and never will be. But he does things that leave no other comparison on the table. In some ways, I hope he does lead the Lakers to a championship (not just as a Lakers fan, either, but because I think it will fun to watch). Guess what? If he does, he still won't be Jordan.

I know people on this site already know that comparison is ridiculous. My point is that the comparison itself says something. Kobe dug himself a hole with the Shaq trade, being arrogant, demanding to be traded at the beginning of this season; the media had worked that hole much deeper. Players can only be blamed for a certain amount of the hype that surrounds them. Maybe they should be commended for some of it too.

At 6/19/2008 9:59 AM, Blogger Sparkles*_* said...

When is the metafiction going to stop?

At 6/19/2008 10:14 AM, Blogger The Other Van Gundy said...

Great read over on TSN - I usually feel your work there lacks the vitality of your more free-wheeling writing here, but I think your thesis holds weight. Kobe's myth has changed, he's been presented his Augean stables and it takes the form of James Posey.

Now what's interesting here is contrasting our thoughts now to our thoughts after the Conference Finals. The Lakers were clearly the deeper and more skilled team, with a fearsome offense. The Celtics struggled throughout the playoffs, looking old and aimless as they staggered through long series against Atlanta, Cleveland, and Detroit. This was not a team judged by any a great championship winning team. I know I thought the Celtics could have been knocked off by any Western team, 1-8.

But suddenly they dispatch the Lakers with ease, and we recast the whole postseason. The Spurs are past their prime, the Jazz benificiaries of favorable reffing cause they're white and in Utah and maybe Jerry Sloan scares the refs a little bit. And it's the Celtics who are the heavyweights?

Very interesting, I thought.

At 6/19/2008 10:16 AM, Blogger mdesus said...

You just don't know basketball, and that's why you hate the celtics. Also you're reverse racist. Yadadi Yadadi Ya. Blah Blah Blah. Lamar Odom Smells. Concrete definitions rule!!!

At 6/19/2008 11:42 AM, Blogger Caleb Tyler Adam said...

I do some of my best thinking while mowing the lawn. It's about the only time my mind isn't tainted by input of some kind. So here's what I was thinking about yesterday:

A couple times recently on this site, it has been said (or implied) that the Ticket, RayRay, or even the Motherfucking Truth have sold out for their rings. Shoals addresses that in this piece - says as you grow up you can understand there are certain advantages to "selling out." This point is also addressed beautifully in an interview Dave Eggers gave the Harvard Advocate some years ago. Anyway, my point isn't about whether the Large 3 sold out. It's about whether we can talk about selling out within the realm of basketball at all.

For someone to "sell out," doesn't there have to be some sort of artistic freedom that's compromised by their decision? For instance, if Shoals was now writing Reillian fluff pieces over at the Sporting News, we could say he sold out - his artistic integrity has been compromised. The whole selling out motif emerged because artists did not want to move to control by large conglomerates that would stifle their artistic freedom, their ability to do whatever they want with their talent.

It's safe to say, though that KG, Allen, and Pierce, never really wanted anything more out of their talent than to play well, win basketball games, and ultimately to win championships; as much as we might not place value on championships over stylistic or aesthetically pleasing play, I think it's clear they (and most athletes) do.

Basketball is beautiful, basketball is aesthetically pleasing, basketball requires intelligence. Basketball, though, is not art. The entire concept of selling out is moot in the realm of sports, since the goals of most of its actors are so different from the goals of artists.

That said, fuck Johnny Damon.

At 6/19/2008 12:01 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I find the lack of comments on this post both reassuring and highly ironic. Did we really lose all our readers yesterday, or did I "win"?

At 6/19/2008 12:07 PM, Blogger Croz said...

Loved this post. Maybe b/c I agree with it, but hey, bias can be king. A real poignancy comes from a dream deferred finally fulfilled, independent of aesthetics. It's like- should a piece of art succeed formally, or as a piece of storytelling? It'd be lovely to have both, but each have their merits.

At 6/19/2008 12:14 PM, Blogger trouc said...

Man, what's with people freaking out about some disagreement? If you don't like the posts, scroll past them. Strikes me as pretty cool, even with the vitriol, that people are actively debating the ideas of this site instead of dropping a bunch of silly one liners.

@The Other Van Gundy: that's a great point.

On the subject of this post, I was thinking last night that the Celtics have found a form of greatness that really doesn't fit into the FD universe, and maybe that's what perplexes me about the negative response they've gotten here. Somehow I just don't think there's a lot to say about them starting from FD principles; they haven't sold out and they don't play an ugly game. Maybe Garnett's been taken out of a situation where diamond forming pressure (being the man) was bringing out all the contradictions and innovations of his game, but if that's the case I don't see how's it selling out to move on to a situation allowing more organic play, a situation that probably fits his original vision of the game better anyway. As for the others, Allen was just embarrassing people out there, and I think Pierce's play speaks for itself.

What I'm trying to get at is that for the last couple of years you either played FD ball, or you didn't. All of a sudden though we're seeing great dynamic players and teams with beautiful games, whose standing here is in doubt, and I've got to wonder: have we entered a post-FD NBA?

At 6/19/2008 12:17 PM, Blogger Sweat of Ewing said...

Shoals, they're all in Boston prepping for the parade by burning an effigy of Lamar Odom embracing J Smoove.

And Caleb, are the goals of athletes that different? Both sets want to produce within their fields. I'll grant that art doesn't have an "ultimate goal" ala the championship, but most artists would probably at least own up to desiring recognition for their work. No one wants to create inside of a box - just look at Connie Hawkins' early years.

At 6/19/2008 12:25 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

You mean an empty box, right? I'd hardly call the early ABA "creating inside of a box. . ."

At 6/19/2008 12:43 PM, Blogger Caleb Tyler Adam said...

Sweat of Ewing -

True, both enterprises have aspects of creativity and production. I also agree both athletes and artists desire at least some recognition/validation/community. However, don't you think that art requires much more personal freedom than athletics, therefore rendering the whole "sell-out" question kind of moot? No matter what multi-million dollar team KG plays for, he's going to take 20-foot jumpers and do a post-up turnaround once in a while. The team the athlete is associated with doesn't in large part alter the actions or stunt the creativity of the athlete (our GSWs not withstanding).

I definitely agree that of all the team sports, the personal freedom question is the most muddled in basketball, which is probably why we're drawn to it.

At 6/19/2008 12:53 PM, Blogger Hallamore said...

Croz, I think that’s a good articulation of some of the things that these playoffs in particular have brought to light for me. The league, the history of the sport, the prevalent personalities in and around the game today, sports commentary, the realm of the comment section – none of it’s art (doubtless), but it’s like these components makeup a textual case-study for what is (intangibly) part of art. It all forms a textual case-study for questions like what happens in the conflict between the efforts of formal innovation and the juggernaut of a story that’s earnestly satisfying. And chiefly: what feelings we actually have about and for it all. The subjectivity (as part of liberated fandom) behind my feelings in all of it make the primary text, at least as the object of analysis. Sometimes it even feels like the analysis is all the more relevant because of the flexible, changeable, malleable nature of the text. I don’t know.

Also, shoals: 'some forms of radicalism age gracefully' - that is one attractive sentence. I liked the post a lot.

At 6/19/2008 1:03 PM, Blogger Fredrik deBoer said...

You realize that the last resort of an empty blog-argument is "these aren't our real commenters", right?

What does it say about an ideology-- explicit or vague-- that it literally can't survive other points of view?

At 6/19/2008 1:07 PM, Blogger Fredrik deBoer said...

the Jazz benificiaries of favorable reffing cause they're white and in Utah and maybe Jerry Sloan scares the refs a little bit.

I literally just laughed out loud, at that. The Lakers were the beneficiaries of comically bad officiating in that series. This desperate effort to rebrand a one seed as this star-crossed Cinderella story, a team that were prohibitive favorites to win the Finals, is kind of sad. And again, this certainty that this team, or that any team, is certainly going to return to the Finals, is just counter to real life. How did that narrative play out for the Lebrons?

At 6/19/2008 1:10 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

The whole quote:

"But suddenly they dispatch the Lakers with ease, and we recast the whole postseason. The Spurs are past their prime, the Jazz benificiaries of favorable reffing cause they're white and in Utah and maybe Jerry Sloan scares the refs a little bit. And it's the Celtics who are the heavyweights?"

At 6/19/2008 1:15 PM, Blogger Fredrik deBoer said...

You just don't know basketball, and that's why you hate the celtics. Also you're reverse racist. Yadadi Yadadi Ya. Blah Blah Blah. Lamar Odom Smells. Concrete definitions rule!!!

It would be quite weird for someone defending the Celtics in this space to accuse FD of being reverse racists, considering it is the Lakers who are one of the whitest teams in recent memory, featuring 4 fully white players and one half white player in their regular rotation. (And, for what it's worth, I don't remember anyone saying that, at all.) It's been a consistent weirdness in this discussion, this identification of the Celtics with whiteness, when not a single white player played a Finals minute for this Celtics team. Why is that so important that the teams you support conform to some strangled definition of "blackness"?

But let me guess. Sasha Vujacic is really black, or something, and Ray Allen is really white, or adapting to the Celtic's way makes this team spiritually white, or....

At 6/19/2008 1:26 PM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...


At 6/19/2008 2:07 PM, Blogger Octopus Grigori said...

@ Shoals: Yes, you "won." Congratulations. You are totally so right.

Also, I think you got pissed about people like me leaving too many comments that were getting in the way of all the fun -- and some of us got the message.

Cheers. The nuisances will leave you to reign over your glorious echo chamber.

At 6/19/2008 2:07 PM, Blogger mdesus said...


Can you go away please? I really liked this message board when it was weird creative people felating eachother all the time. Your argumentative nature does not jive with my love of lunacy.

At 6/19/2008 2:14 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

This shit is getting stupid. I don't want an echo chamber; I linked to Big Saxmo's comment, which disagreed with me and DLIC both, made fun of us, and also helped me formulate this post here. It was shit-talking, but also smart and constructive. Oh, and there was real thought put into it. Same goes for Pooh's subsequent offering, which called us "bitches" while still making me think.

This is an issue of quality and quantity, nothing more and nothing less.

At 6/19/2008 2:25 PM, Blogger The Electric Zarko said...

Nice one, Shoals. I find that this post and the comments work well when juxtaposed to a recent post on the Sporting Blog by Large of No Mas (and the comments, of course):


wv: mowbomqb, drafted in the second round, turns into a valuable backup center for a contender after washing out with his first team.

At 6/19/2008 2:31 PM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

No Mas' article said everything I [KIND OF] wanted to say, but couldn't.

At 6/19/2008 2:38 PM, Blogger Joe said...

"It's been a consistent weirdness in this discussion, this identification of the Celtics with whiteness, when not a single white player played a Finals minute for this Celtics team. Why is that so important that the teams you support conform to some strangled definition of "blackness"?"

The Celtics have been identified as "white" by these guys because of Boston's sports history from 20-50 years ago, as personified in Spike Lee movies from 20+ years ago. They have also been identified as "white" by the FreeDarkos/StraightBangins of the world because to all bloggers, Bill Simmons is the face of Boston sports. In reality, the Boston sports scene during most everyone's (under the age of 35) formative years is no whiter or blacker than any other city's.

At 6/19/2008 2:38 PM, Blogger Joe said...

Also, I thouroughly enjoyed this post and saw it as a fittingfollow-up to the last week's worth of posts/discussion.

At 6/19/2008 2:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find the lack of comments on this post both reassuring and highly ironic. Did we really lose all our readers yesterday, or did I "win"?

I dunno. You earned one. I'm gonna disagree with a ton of what you say because hey, I've been a Celtics fan since I was old enough to appreciate basketball and I loved watching this team. Absolutely loved it. But there's no question that the FD ideology is worth engaging with.

Fuck, it's making me think about why I love this team. I had a bunch of Lakers fans getting on me about mercenaries and buying a championship elsewhere the other day, which drove me into an extensive post about how -- no matter what Garnett and Allen do -- there was no question but that Pierce was the center of the team. This championship plays, for me, as a loyal Celtic getting the help he asked for.

And when I cross sports for a second and think about Ray Bourque going to Colorado to get his trophy, yeah, I was happy for him but it was a bit hollow too. I wish he'd gotten it with the Celtics, and I wish he'd gotten it as The Man.

But I digress. OK, so the core of my happiness at the championship is Pierce, flawed driven massively talented player that he is. On the other hand, watching the game again last night, the core of my happiness /there/ was Rajon Rondo going balls out insane. You want to talk about a guy carving out his own path on the court, I look at him.

So there's one. Keep on writing plz. It's good.

At 6/19/2008 2:44 PM, Blogger Sweat of Ewing said...

(trying to ignore arguments that aren't worth the effort, i.e., accusing FD of some mix of racial fetishist/whitebread projectionist politics...)

Shoals, yeah, I meant an empty box. Hawkins was a monster in the ABA, but if I remember correctly he didn't even get there until he was pushing late 20s. Supposedly he played his best ball in front of largely empty gyms, and by the time he was on TV at all I think he was a shadow. (unless I'm just misquoting something)

Caleb, I'm not sure, really. Aren't there a ton of cases of guys that have radically altered or limited their games to fit into a different team construct? Earl Monroe with the Knicks, Jason Williams with the Heat, Wilt with the Lakers (at least according to him), now Shaq with Phoenix... Some of this can be attributed to age, but I don't think it's as simple as a guy's body wearing down over the years. It's like graduating with an econ degree, doing economic stimulus work in South America for 10 years, and then realizing that you're 32, just want to be comfortable, and settling into an investment banking job in Greenwich, Connecticut. There's something a little wrong about that, or maybe its just more than a bit sad, which should at least tell you exactly how old I am right now.

Garnett will take 20 footers and post-up turnarounds, but at this point it seems like that's more or less all he'll do with this team. I'm ok with it, and I think that he's earned the right to do that, but it's still a change. I can understand some conflicted emotions when you watch your man go supernova for so long, altering the landscape of the possible via his own personal energy, only to realize he'd at this point rather exist as a sun in someone else's solar system.

At 6/19/2008 2:46 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...


At 6/19/2008 2:53 PM, Blogger Dan Filowitz said...

Did it seem to anyone else that all the arguing here during the finals basically came down to "I like the Celtics a lot, but FD does not like the Celtics a lot, I think FD should like the Celtics a lot, so I am going to try to use their own logic to prove to them that they should have liked the Celtics a lot all along."

For this relatively long-time reader, it seems like Shoals and Dr. LIC were pretty clear, open, and honest about what they were thinking, feeling, and why. As evidenced by that earlier post referenced at the top here.

I don't really see what was worth getting so worked up about. The run of the Celtics wasn't satisfying for them, for various reasons. Unless you're a Boston fan that really wished these guys agreed with you, what's wrong with that?

At 6/19/2008 2:58 PM, Blogger goathair said...

I can't believe there's all this talk of selling out without mentioning Malone and Payton to the Lakers.

At 6/19/2008 3:21 PM, Blogger Joshua R said...

Random thoughts:

After reading the Kobe article - Kobe: Lebron :: Old Batmobile: New Batmobile. The former as paragons of precision, speed, and grace, while the latter maintain some of the former while adding blunt power to the mix. Relevant as part of Kobe's problem in the Celtics series was his lack of bluntness in the face of the Green Wall that was the Celtics defense and in particular the bigger, stronger bodies of Paul Pierce and James Posey. As a Celtics fan, and perhaps this is relevant only for that team that just played, especially if Posey leaves, but I'm far more worried facing Lebron than Kobe. It'll be interesting to see then how Bryant adjusts in the off season, if he can at all.

2. When people talk about the changes in the games of KG and Allen, do you think of these two factors -

a. Ray Allen had, I believe, two ankle surgeries prior to the season
b. This was KG's 14th (!!!) season. Over a decade ago a player with 14 seasons would be 36 at least. KG, factoring in the time he has been in the NBA, is closer in wear and tear to PJ Brown than to Carlos Boozer.

In other words, physical limitations may be at the center of those players' change in style as much as anything else.

At 6/19/2008 3:22 PM, Blogger Michael said...

@goathair: no one needs to mention Malone and Payton, because they are the example par excellence of selling out, carpetbagging stars. I knew that team would get its comeuppance, and was glad about it, despite being a lifelong Lakers fan.

I don't believe Garnett and Allen fit into the same category at all. It was a brilliant deal and they obviously came to play together to win, whether it connotes some sort of "sacrifice" or not. They earned it.

At 6/19/2008 3:32 PM, Blogger ItTakesAThiefToCatchAThief said...

Jakob Dylan : Bob Dylan :: Greg Oden : Bill Russell

Beasley is Elton with 22foot range.

OJ Mayo is a compact LeBron with a better J & D.

Derrick Rose should scare the shit out of Bulls fans; hometown heroes never prosper.

It's the off-season, fellerZ. Time To Dream.

nehgeaX: New Day at Dawn.

At 6/19/2008 3:38 PM, Blogger Joshua R said...

"Garnett will take 20 footers and post-up turnarounds, but at this point it seems like that's more or less all he'll do with this team. I'm ok with it, and I think that he's earned the right to do that, but it's still a change. I can understand some conflicted emotions when you watch your man go supernova for so long, altering the landscape of the possible via his own personal energy, only to realize he'd at this point rather exist as a sun in someone else's solar system."

How much of a change is it really? You can find similar complaints from three years ago (and probably further back).

To wit:


Assessing KG: Untapped offensive potential
by Dennis Hans / February 11, 2005


What’s holding him back are two related flaws: (1) the tendency to “settle,” or bail out a mediocre defender, and (2) predictability, which he displays in his over-reliance on turnaround jumpers, in which he almost always turns in the same direction (clockwise), as if he’s made up his mind beforehand the shot he’s going to take and the dribble-and-pivot sequence that will lead to it, regardless of the actions or liabilities of the defender.

The result of these two flaws is that KG squanders countless opportunities to get an easier, shorter shot or even get all the way to the rim. It doesn’t prevent him from going, most every night, a solid 9 for 18 from the field and 5 for 7 from the line. But it does prevent him from going 15 for 22 on deuces and 12 of 15 from the stripe. That is, it prevents him from wreaking havoc on a more frequent basis and punishing the opposition for thinking they can get away with putting Juwan Howard on an MVP-caliber player....

At 6/19/2008 3:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm going to do something astonishing and address the main point of this post.

I get what you're feeling about selling out as you get older, how it seems less and less like selling out and more and more like the feeling of a last chance. There's also the idea that Trotsky's permanent revolution can't compare with the spoils of victory, too. It takes a lot of energy to sustain that sense of eternal onslaught. Plus, having given his formative and prime creative years to trying to single-handedly keep a crap expansion team in contention, why couldn't he have just come to the quiet realization that beating his head against a brick wall is no way to live?

That is, is it really "selling out" if your sense of youthful rebellion was misdirected in the first place? Can that energy be harnessed and redirected? Can a player stop doing the wrong thing, however well-intentioned, once it's been conclusively shown that it's not going to go anywhere? Should KG have finished out his career in Minnesota, knowing full well it was a mistake, in order to placate both the 15 remaining T'Wolves fans and his own sense of sunk costs?

Sometimes, you have to face that what worked before not only won't work now, but wasn't the best plan back then. If you're smart and lucky, you can find a new plan, one that works. Anyone who berates KG for his decision to go to Boston is someone who simply wants KG to be an avatar of martyrdom, a reflection and apotheosis of their own refusal to change -- a not-uncommon projection among sports fans.

The FD engagement is seeking something from basketball that might be impossible, but it's the seeking in this case that's the point of the exercise.

And kudos to goathair for reminding me about Malone and Payton in gold jerseys.

At 6/19/2008 3:45 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

Nuts to this post, Shoals.

I'm running the risk of becoming as annoyingly repetitive as others, but even this most recent effort of yours can't make me see the Celtics differently. You can ascribe the change in the way KG, PP, and Ray to maturation in an attempt to make it palatable. But it seems to me that what you're really doing is selling maturation short.

Of course, maturation means compromise. It's a compromise that requires one to navigate between the Scylla of practicality and the Charybdis of self-conservation and self-realization.

I wouldn't attempt to argue that I've kept as close to the latter shore as I would like. And I don't blame or think less of the 3 because I think that they found the former to be the safer course. But I am disappointed for the game (and selfishly for myself) that they passed up an opportunity.

When they came together, it seemed to me that they had (at least) two options: figure out how to play as they always had and do something original but risk losing, or follow the known path. They took the latter, giving up a chance for artfulness and originality and creativity, choosing instead a proven formula. That may be maturation, but its a drab sort of adulthood to my eyes. And into my mid-30s, I'd still like to believe that there's more than one path into the future.

Perhaps that only means that any disappointment I have is mere projection, but again, I begrudge them nothing; I only wanted to see them do something great, rather than something that I consider just successful.

@ dan filowitz: in answer to your question, yes.

At 6/19/2008 4:18 PM, Blogger 7.5 PSI said...

The thing I'm puzzled by, and maybe it's easy, but what is the difference between these Celtics and the WC Heat of a few years back? I had thought I didn't like the Heat because of how the way players can congregate for championships undermines the league as a league, but I actually enjoyed watching Boston. Maybe it really always was just that Shaq and Wade are both affronts to the game as spectacle, winning in ways that aren't much fun to watch, and that Pierce and Garnett give me eye candy. And it's not like I support restrictive employment contracts on principle. Are league balance and team stability really things worth caring about? I'm just here for the moments of grace, after all.

At 6/19/2008 4:23 PM, Blogger Christopher said...

I'm glad that the overall tone of the discourse here has mellowed. But have to bring up the fact that KG, Pierce, and Allen may have changed parts of what they did out of respect for one another's games/accomplishments/abilities. PP going for delf with Walter McCarty wide open at the elbow is so much different than passing up an open Ray Allen or KG. I learned to love this Boston team for many disparate reasons: KG has always been untouchable in my eyes (although recent critiques of his game on this site had me watching him with a slightly more critical eye)Pierce's Drunken Master style and undeniable realness, The brashness of Rondo and even Perkins, Powe's incredible performance, Eddie House's itchy trigger finger, and TONY ALLEN. I understand that they don't fit the FD mold and that OK. I love this site and have found many of my own privately held conceptions echoed back to me over the course of this 1st year of daily readership. But that's not the point. The point is to help open one's eyes and mind to the wonderous competitive spectacle that is the NBA, the share ideas and enter into discussion not to "win" but to exit feeling wiser. Thank you for that. Controversy, conspiracy and contrivedness be damned, I LOVE THIS GAME.

At 6/19/2008 4:32 PM, Blogger Christopher said...

The mere fact that Rondo, Eddie House, Big Baby, and Leon Powe have championship rings makes me really happy. Those guys may not have struggled over years of falling short the way KG, Allen, Pierce and PJ Brown have, but they give this team youthful exuberance and each stepped up into whatever role they were offered. Posey has been there before, but is only now getting the credit he deserves for being as tough and clutch as ANYONE this league has seen in a long time. When Hubie Brown and JVG are two of your biggest fans, you're definitely doing something right.

At 6/19/2008 5:01 PM, Blogger jawaan oldham said...

Well, when Hubie and JVG are two of your biggest fans, you may just be doing something conservative. The Celtics were a lot more fun to watch than the Heat---watching them was like repeatedly getting kicked in the balls---but are definitely grounded in that very conservative Rileyball type coaching Doc probably picked up playing for the Knicks, reinforced by Tom T's essential "defensive coordinator" role.

That said, more power to the Celtics. May next season build on this one. Excelsior. Etc.

At 6/19/2008 6:07 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Some things are immutable: This commercial still makes me absolutely forlorn inside.

At 6/19/2008 10:10 PM, Blogger mandy said...

" This commercial still makes me absolutely forlorn inside."

Is it because he's not wearing socks? That bugs me too.

At 6/19/2008 10:44 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...

Re your mock draft: CJ Miles shudders.

At 6/19/2008 10:46 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I meant that this is Sloan's new thing. I know who C.J. Miles is.

Anyway, that was just some fun stuff. The serious shit—the official FD mock—goes up tomorrow.

At 6/19/2008 10:52 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Speaking of Sporting News. .

This was kind of totally fucking awesome

At 6/20/2008 12:44 AM, Blogger Fredrik deBoer said...

Hey look, far be it from me to get in the way of people with sympathetic ideas who just want to share those same ideas, and not have to necessarily come up with a defense of those ideas. That's an understandable desire. (The activist kids call it an "affinity organization"; they have purity checks to make sure you're really down for the cause.) I just find it very Livejournal, personally; and I don't like the fact that you claim to have an intellectual/ideological framework for what you push around here, but are seemingly unwilling to confront contrary opinion-- or at least contrary opinion of a certain kind.

I don't like the Celtics, particularly; but the way that you guys have criticized the Celtic players I find bogus. That's not really a big deal and it's not personal, it's just opinion, and that's cheap. But it's made personal when that opinion has to be excluded, instead of confronted, and the constant kind-of, sort-of accusations of racism (the atomic bomb of American discourse) are just a patently phony and weak way to belittle things you don't like.

You guys can dismiss me a hundred different ways, and that's fine. But you still haven't actually confronted the content of anything I've said, or so it seems to me. There's instead tons of fallacious arguments, or arguments in bad faith-- these guys aren't regular commenters, you're all just Boston fans, I'm just going to ignore ideas I don't like, Boston is racist and ergo anyone who doesn't call Kevin Garnett a sellout is too, pay no attention to these clowns!

But, look, Shoals-- there's about a dozen people in this very comments thread who will continue to defend you no matter what, and they don't ask you for consistency or fairness or intellectual rigor. They'll defend because that's "Freedarko", or so I'm told. But since you asked yesterday, this is what I mean by saying you won't take your lumps. You want to keep the pretense of having an elevated, intellectual method of fandom, but you don't want to live with the consequences of that method, not really; and you don't want to accept that creating a rhetorical justification for what you believe invites outside, disagreeing opinion. If you just want to take your ball and go play by yourself, fine. But don't tell me that you're interested in elevation when you're really just interested in winning the game of blog.

At 6/20/2008 1:14 AM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

I'm sorry, I realize this is entirely petty, but I can't let it slide.

At 6/20/2008 12:44 AM, Blogger Fredrik deBoer said...
"But it's made personal when that opinion has to be excluded, instead of confronted, and the constant kind-of, sort-of accusations of racism (the atomic bomb of American discourse) are just a patently phony and weak way to belittle things you don't like."

On "Lunchtime Dialectic"
At 6/17/2008 11:00 PM, Blogger Fredrik deBoer said...
"I'm sure you think that's very biting and meaningful, but really, that's just stupid, and just a wee bit racist. And not anti-white racist, either, but anti-black racist."

At 6/20/2008 7:06 AM, Blogger db said...

On FdB, one of the most important things to understand as a commenter is that one is a commenter, and it really is poor etiquette to complain that people don't take your content seriously. You can get your own blog for that and take on another class position. Personally, I am always grateful for the hospitality.

I think the Celtics question needs to be continually worked over because it seems to me that it gets to a problem (people who claim to know FD don't understand why there is no love) which is actually an opportunity to address some fundamental things in a more specific way.

So I think I would hazard that Tom Thibodeau's personality as stamped on this team might not be FD (though his name going around the coaching circuit might be). Perhaps as JVG the coach is possibly not FD, but as a media personality he can be? Read this paragraph knowing I have no desire to know what is or isn't FD.

If you accept the stamp of TT on the Celts (as the players do in their media statements), then the racial profiling of the Celts being objected to by their fans also makes perfect sense, as he is a quintessential northeastern white systems man, and with a masters in counseling almost certainly a liberal. In that sense, he harks back to a legacy of equal opportunity....

At 6/20/2008 8:17 AM, Blogger Kaifa said...

Allen and Garnett on Letterman:


My next steps to recovery: Bill Russell's laugh irritates them as well and they jokingly call Pierce "fake Willis Reed".

Also, re-watching the dreadful KG commercial with him in various roles, the only one I bought was him as a stand-up comedian. And even though he's mellow in the Letterman interview, he does have a great aura, maybe even of self-confidence or self-security in this. I wonder if this is a contrast to the on-court personality (shrinking under the big lights) or if it makes sense in a way I can't see.

At 6/20/2008 8:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would just like to say that FD has been valuable to the way I think about this Celtics team. (Of course, my thoughts on this Celtics team are materially valueless, but...) Living in Rhode Island, and with the New England sports media machine churning year round, it was pretty easy to avoid a rigorous critique of the '07-08 squad. Personally, I was just psyched that the team was relevant after a few years, regardless of the terms.

(For the record, I actually despised the Bird Celtics, as I did all Boston sports teams of that era. There was something very lame about Larry Bird to seven-year-old me, never mind Danny Ainge. My fondness for the Celtics started with PP and might end when he and now KG exit stage right; i don't know if that's liberated fandom, or if I just got engulfed by the Boston sports machine and its attendant douchebaggery.)

Thus, finding FD just as these playoffs began kind of ruined my high, but also made me appreciate the game itself more, and I mean that. Thank you.

To throw that valueless opinion in for a moment, I just wonder if the optimism expressed by some about next year's team is misguided. I don't know if the "big three" will be able to sublimate their styles as much as they did this year, now that they've gotten what they wanted from the compromise. We might be taking it a step too far if we permanently age them into mature company men. And there's Rondo and all his talents, who will soon enough chafe in this system, especially as the stars' legs get creakier. Suppressed egos and budding egos might very well have their way before this group breaks up.

At 6/20/2008 8:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Though I realize that KG and Ray Ray are generally low end of the athletic ego spectrum. Still, can't help but wonder if they'll all want to work on personal legacy a bit more now...

At 6/20/2008 11:10 AM, Blogger JOHN said...

ra said:
"Thus, finding FD just as these playoffs began kind of ruined my high, but also made me appreciate the game itself more, and I mean that. Thank you."

FD made you appreciate the game itself? You know FD isn't about the game itself right? FD is a personal and entirely specific brand of NBA fetishism-you may identify with the layout and decor of the dollhouse they have created here- but please don't confuse that warm feeling you have with a growth in appreciation of the game.

At 6/20/2008 11:45 AM, Blogger Sweat of Ewing said...

John, so glad that you're the expert on others' appreciation of sports.

FdB, people aren't listening to you anymore because I think you've reached an impasse with a number of the commenters here. You've made your arguments in favor of Boston, and others have made theirs in favor of LA (or simply anti-Boston). And you know what? Sometimes people just disagree. Your vitriolic assertion that we've all failed to meet with you straight up on the topic is false: they're been a number of posts that have addressed you and your arguments directly, according to the ethos of FD (meaning mostly theoretically/philosphically). Personally, I get your argument and see your point, even if I don't agree with you on it - and I still don't think Boston is particularly FD for a number of reasons, even if I like the team and players. So what are you arguing? Are you trying to convince the authors of this blog that Boston really IS FD, or are you trying to convince them that they should like the team and should have rooted for them to beat the Lakers? Both? Because basically you're trying to shit uphill.

I can't stand when people think that because I don't agree with them, I'm not intelligent enough to understand their argument, or that I'm not paying attention. Get over yourself.

At 6/20/2008 1:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

John, I think Sweat of Ewing said it better than I will, but...if FD is not and even subjectively can not be about the game, you cannot deny me the fact that I've been watching games much more intently since these playoffs, which corresponds to the beginning of my readership. If I did so to apply my cultural studies background to what I'm seeing, and/or to identify the recurring FD tropes as they occur on court, it doesn't change the fact that I'm also paying attention to the specifics of a team's offense or defense, or to player tendencies. After reading Shoals say that James Posey is the devil, I kept my eyes on him more. Not only did I not find James Posey to be the devil, I also noticed that he often sets up camp for the corner three, and stands there w/little regard to what his teammates are doing. That has plenty to do with the game as X's and O's, even if I came at this through the back door. I don't think I'm terribly confused about this. I'm pretty certain I feel how I feel.


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