Scoff and File

First, feel the rage of Dr. LIC's nightlife. And before this post gets any further, know that I don't agree with him that Garnett is "secretly boring", but am proceeding from his "KG has become hardened and humorless" line.

Last night's game changed many people's lives. I was not one of them, and as such feel like I should recuse myself from these Finals. Not because I'm some abject Lakers homer, or even blinded by my allegiance to Kobe Bryant (a purely invented one, right?). It's just become clear to me that the swirl of emotions I'm dealing with here have little or no relationship to ways and means of the 2008 Finals. So allow me to air these grievances one last time, take my lumps, and then disappear unless we end up going seven (we won't).

-My better half and I were supposed to go to some hot film festival ticket about Indians and human trafficking. Then she remembered grad school, and I was left driving downtown with a choice to make. The series wouldn't come back to life unless the Lakers one, but I didn't want to miss something important. So I drove to Jamal Crawford's bar, where I got to hear a bunch of Boston fans shout "Jesus" (Spanish pronunciation), "HAAAAAAUS", and not much else, and the Lakers contingent exhort LA to "shut 'em down," as if that were the reason for the collapse. I don't drink, and in a bar, really all there is to latch onto is the broad, basic endeavor of watching the scoreboard and bitching about fouls. It's hard to take in the game on any more subtle, informed, or non-hysterical level. That's why I kept nodding off during the third.

-Kobe Bryant is fascinating and supremely talented, but I wish there would be a gag order on him. Like Iverson once was, he gets people talking at length, which I guess is good. But it's always so tense, tendentious, and boring that I just don't care. Face it people, arguing about Kobe is like arguing about religion. It's never going to be a friendly, rational conversation. It's the grown folks equivalent of boo/yay, or Republican/Dem (circa when that mattered). I am beginning to realize that the Celtics are like this too, and the Lakers in general. I guess hatred is a solid emotion, but that's message board shit. And at the risk of sounding like an out-of-touch sports snob, I'm simply not that interested in that thick, poison air.

-I've been strangely oblivious to how hard it is to talk about the Lakers without falling into those tarpits. People, Kobe is a weird human being. As athletes go, try and find who better fits the old Greek stories. Lamar Odom is as close as this site gets to a patron saint, assuming that the expensive ones are all taken. Gasol/Odom is truly a thing of beauty. Farmar is an athletic Jew. I could care less about Los Angeles; I've never even been there. And it's not even like I relished every moment of the Shaq/Kobe dynasty—fine, I liked seeing Kobe win, because I selfishly like feeling like I'm witnessing greatness. But if anyone thinks for a second that I had more emotion invested in them than I did those Kings teams they vanquished, they need to check the archives. Webber belong in the same class as Odom and pre-Boston Garnett, the players whose plight fueled this blog for years.

-About Boston, again: It's true, I've spent a lot of time there and don't like it. And the Celtics endless history lesson annoys me, as I'm sure the Los Angeles one does, too. But admit it, that's not played up, exploited, even, in quite the same way. Here, though, I really just don't like this team. The defense is absolutely freaking amazing; what they did during the comeback proved that it doesn't take Josh Smith to land on the right side of my creative/destructive binary. That was like the anti-matter triangle, a system so forceful that it made the Lakers into scavengers.

But here's what really gets me, as articulated by someone who has seen only a few Celtics games this years: Except for the truly transcendent stretches of defense, this isn't a "greater than the sum of the parts deal" team. It's everyone involved, slightly muted, pieced together like a puzzle. Really, does this team scream "chemistry" to anyone? That's my team/individual beef. Teams should be about chemistry from beginning to end, not functionality. Again, I get that from the defense when it's really on, but the rest of the time, this team just does nothing for me.

And then there's the most flimsy, and maybe pathetic, reason: As I've said a zillion times already, three players I once really liked seem changed to me. Maybe it's the above stuff about the style, and what it's done to their games. Maybe it's the all-business attitude, or the corporate sheen that the 21st century Celtics were born to emit. I just know, however puerile this may sound, that Garnett's about to get a ring and I feel nothing. Actually, last night when he hit that wise-intelligent floater over Gasol down the stretch, I looked up and realized I was sitting under a signed KG Wolves jersey, with a photo of the younger, more vital Garnett bending and flexing all limbs at once mid-air. No shit that sounds like an objectification of the black body, except I could care less about him getting to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the honor of Hondo.

At this point, I really don't give a fuck who laughs at this, dismisses me as only liking obscure players, or claims it's all in my mind. Also I find it fascinating that I had no interest in Paul Pierce when he sunk into utter infamy, or now when he's riding totally high. Go take that one apart. But please, for the sake of my sanity, take a look at these videos from The Big Three before they existed, and tell me if you don't think some of that personality is gone. Sacrificed in the name of teleology, when I really wish they could've survived, on and off the court, with style intact. There is nothing wrong with a little frivolity or excess, right?

Also, fuck everyone.


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At 6/13/2008 12:51 PM, Blogger Teddy said...

I feel your pain, but it's quixotic at best to expect KG et al. to choose to try to maximize the expressiveness of their personalities and games in the face this year's overwhelming evidence that choosing a more muted path leads to winning. Because, no matter what complaints older columnists make about how modern ballplayers are all about themselves at the expense of their teams, athletes measure themselves by winning.

(There is, of course, the important caveat here that where winning (or least capital 'W' Winning) isn't an option, many players realize that stylistic expressiveness is a nice second prize).

Basically, in an inversion of Uncle Milton, these guys have chosen to serve in Heaven rather than rule in Hell. For those inclined to quixoticism (which is probably not a word), that choice is I guess insufficiently headstrong or whatever. And I get that.

But these guys aren't choosing for you, they're choosing for them. If you liked them then, try at least to be happy for them now.


On another note entirely, when were you in Boston? I've noticed that some people who went to school there end up ostensibly disliking the city, but really disliking (for whatever reason) what they recall of college. In any event, if you make it back up, we'll arrange for a Native Companion to guide you around--you do tend to need someone to vouch for you if you're from Away.

At 6/13/2008 12:53 PM, Blogger JOHN said...

"or claims it's all in my mind"

At 6/13/2008 12:58 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I refuse to completely discount my gut, largely because it's all I have. All most of us have when it comes to this realm of inquiry.


Teddy--Didn't go to school there, was around there a lot during two quite distinct periods in my life. Ironically, when I first went to Cambridge as a teen, I thought I'd found the best place in the world and decided to go to Harvard.

At 6/13/2008 1:16 PM, Blogger bryan hood said...

Last night as I was running through a South Central back alley to the corner bar (my friend and I were trying to change to change the aura of the moment, although it was more my idea than his), I found myself screaming "Simmons can't have this moment!"

At that moment I literally stopped in my tracks and was struck that I suddenly had no idea why I was rooting for the Lakers. Was I pulling for them because they're the team I've grown up rooting for? Was it because of my irrational hatred of this Celtics, whose title I fear will taint what has been the greatest basketball season of my life (despite these ho hum playoffs)? Or was it because it just because I'm tired of that decrepit Sports Guy and his comments about how part of why the Celtics lost game 3 was because they weren't used to Staples Center's lighting?

The weird things was--standing their in the alley buckled over--I just didn't know anymore. I wanted the distress that was coursing through my body to have a reason, but I couldn't come up with one. Maybe it was a combination of the three (more emphasis on the first two reason I would hope), but regardless it was still quite the mind fuck.

Anyway we got to the bar, there were seemingly a billion more Celtics fans than their had been before, and I couldn't help but sigh and shake my head as the final seconds ticked by. Then we went back to that alley and I hurled beer bottle after beer bottle into the air.

P.S. I fully realized it's tired to rag on Simmons, but those are the exact words that came out of my mouth.

At 6/13/2008 1:18 PM, Blogger Octopus Grigori said...

I'm sorry, but if you didn't appreciate that game last night -- one of the greatest Finals games any of us will ever see -- you really do need to come to grips with how far in the tank you are for Kobe and company.

I think your post was pretty much an articulation of Sasha's temper tantrum on the bench after making a lovely veronica on Ray Allen's drive to the hole.

Kobe walking off the floor with time left on the clock as the Lakers were bringing the ball up was his most FD move of the series to date.

I think it makes sense that a lot of basketball talking heads are pissed. The whole rickety, crappy overhyped façade of magical Pau, the mystical-triangular-ways-of-the-Orient-Jackson, Lovable and Likable for Reasons We Can't Pin Down $4 Million Luke Walton, Rave Boy Sasha, and the Greatest Player on Earth is crumbling before our eyes, and a lot of basketball geniuses are pissed.

Sometimes, it's just satisfying to see the better team -- and the more likable players -- win.

(BTW, yes, super, Farmar is an athletic Jew. What's meant to be the negative of that? Obama is a smart black guy? But, I forgot --touchiness is boring. *Yawn*)

At 6/13/2008 1:23 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Jesus christ, read the damn post. I said that the Celtics defense was absolutely awe-inspiring. That doesn't mean I have to not be depressed that the team I wanted to win lost.

Also from the "Jesus christ, read the post" files: That description of Farmar came in a long list of things I like about the Lakers, what compels me to root for them even though I have no interest in Boston/LA.

And not sure if you've heard, but I'm Jewish.

About Kobe, yeah, that was fucked up, but the Celtics didn't foul at the end of game three. What's up with that? What's the deal with pancakes?

At 6/13/2008 1:38 PM, Blogger Mother Father Chinese Dentist said...

i agree with shoals. the lakers' finals collapse is totally depressing, not as a lakers fan (i'm not) but as a fan of good basketball. the celtics defense has ahd awe inspiring moments but it's only half the story of what these finals were supposed to be. the lakers haven't held up their end of the bargain, with the exception of kobe in the 4th quarter of game 3.

there is something really strange about the decrease in lovability of kg. i can't really put my finger on it, but it's real.

At 6/13/2008 1:59 PM, Blogger Octopus Grigori said...

Thanks Shoals, I read the post. It was after I read the post that I found myself disappointed that your love of the game didn't outweigh your narrower love of Kobe, Odom, Pau, Luke and co. Of course, I may have that characterization backwards.

I'm not even a Celtics fan -- though I've been a big Ray Allen fan since he was at UConn -- but there's no way anyone who's not a Lakers lifer couldn't come away from that game without marvelling at the fantastic coaching and drive it took for the C's to make that comeback -- and feeling better about the game generally. Your post made it sound like your dog had died.

In the face of the Donaghy accusations, Stern's unctuous denials, and some pretty dodgy refereeing through Game 3, last night's game showed exactly why the NBA is still worth watching. I thought this site, of all places, would be able to celebrate that, rather than positing an argument that the C's achievement last night was less than glorious because Garnett isn't grimacing and freaking out -- or bugging his eyes out -- enough for our entertainment and aesthetic pleasure in grad school lounges across the lounge. (But you've anticipated that criticism, so it's invalid.)

So I'm South Asian, you and Farmar are Jewish, Garnett is black, Pau Gasol and Phil Jackson are white, and Kobe is pure energy. For now, I root for the Indian kids in the spelling bee. So I guess that's settled.

At 6/13/2008 1:59 PM, Blogger Stephen said...

Some strung together thoughts of mine:

I'm a 76ers fan. The best experience I've had as one was obviously game 1 of the 2001 finals. I grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, which is about 20 miles south of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where Kobe was from. He did the Delaware beach summer leagues and I read about him in our local papers. We're the same age. Our senior years I took a friend's girlfriend (they were broken up when we agreed to go together) to the prom. Kobe took Brandy. I hate Kobe, he's never been human to me, even when we were both 16.

One of my best friends from Delaware now lives in Boston.

Today he IM'd me: that was one of the best games i've ever seen last night

Now...he doesn't watch as much basketball as he'd like to have you believe, but other's are saying it too: greatest Finals comeback of all time. Shouldn't the greatest comeback feel more great? Neither of these teams inspire feelings one way or another from me. I don't hate them, but can't see why anyone would like them unless they had no other choice. I was kind of in awe of those early 2000s Lakers teams, like some comic book villains, even if I hated them or thought the Kings were cooler.

Transition year.

At 6/13/2008 2:03 PM, Blogger Octopus Grigori said...

um -- "in grad school lounges across the country."

At 6/13/2008 2:20 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 6/13/2008 2:25 PM, Blogger ~CW~ said...

I read the post and I still don't get why people are so down on this. Jesus was inspiring last night, being the primary ball handler, one of the top rebounders (NINE?!) and playing the entire game, closing out with the absolute schooling of Sasha and the entire LA defense. Shoals, I understand what you're saying about the Big Three changing, but do you think some of that just has to do with growing up?

If someone considers themselves a fan of KG, no matter how much they hate Boston or love the Lakers/Kobe, if they didn't cheer and/or fist pump when he dropped it over Pau to bump it up to five, they've been lying to themselves about at least one of their allegiances.

And as Simmons and so many others have said, barring a three game run reminiscent of '06 Wade, we can table the Kobe > MJ arguments for another year, thank you.

At 6/13/2008 2:25 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I dropped out of grad school, didn't you hear?

I mean, I know it was an epic game. The contrast between the Lakers offense in the first half and the Boston defense in the second half was really powerful. I appreciate that. It will go down in history and deserves to.

And if the Celtics didn't affect me the way they do, I would be excited today. Players, not teams. Unfortunately, I've got no such affinity for the Celtics, so it was kind of like watching Ginobili. Objectively impressive, but nothing that spoke to whatever it is that makes me invested.

Obviously I am confused and slightly distressed by this and want to get to the bottom of it.

And if this is the part where someone rips FD for its lack of a cohesive philosophy. . . well, sorry.

At 6/13/2008 2:27 PM, Blogger Martin said...

During the post-game conference, KG was so muted it was almost as if he was holding his breath the entire time. You can only wait to exhale for so long, eventually KG, Ray and Pierce will return to their normal selves, AFTER winning a championship. That said, you have to admire how quickly and intensely the Celtics trio flipped the script to embody a philosophy that is sort of an amalgamation of the 2004-05 Pistons and the Spurs of the past decade. I think in one of your reviews on deadspin you described it as a schismatic revolution with the elites burning their mansions and joining the Proles in the trenches.

The trio did it for the ring and their legacy. I think if you order the needs of most players, number one is getting paid (they all are), number two is winning (none of them have done so) and number three is style and individuality. Concerns of a lower hierarchy will always be readily sublimated in favor of higher priorities.

I think the lack of this united sublimation of all aspects incidental to winning was the undoing of other failed all-star assemblages. With the Barkley/Hakeem/Drexler and Barkley/Hakeem/Pipen Rockets, only Barkely was starving for a ring, the other two were not really ready to do ANYTHING to win. On the 2004 Lakers, fighting for alpha-dog status on the team was more important to Shaq and Kobe than winning a ring.

At 6/13/2008 2:28 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Ray Allen was good, and vindicated, and freed, and all that. I guess I wish that had happened all year.

He's actually the one Celtic (other than the ". . . " aspect of Rondo) I get at all excited about, if only because he seems neglected and forgotten. So yeah, I probably need to focus on that positive.

At 6/13/2008 2:29 PM, Blogger Fredrik deBoer said...

Shoals (if I can call you Shoals)... just hang on for the Hornets/Blazers rivalry of the next 5 years. The playoff battles to come... it'll be a thing of beauty.

At 6/13/2008 2:37 PM, Blogger Laphonso said...

Perhaps I am utterly blinded by my fandom of KG, but I feel that I may be the only person left in the world who still rides for him. I don't know how someone can watch the Thompson interview (only two years ago) and not feel moved. It's the same guy! Yes, I've been disappointed by some of his performances in the playoffs, and I don't love this Boston team. But I think it is undeniable that his will is at the core of their success, even if his reluctance to dominate inferior defenders in the paint can be maddening.

Full disclosure: KG is the sole reason that I came to love the NBA and sites like this one. I guess I'm just not ready to let go of my idealized vision of him, which is why I can feel everyone's disillusion with the Lakers (Kobe and Lamar in particular.)

At 6/13/2008 2:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Forgive the lurker making his first-ever comment under a hot-button emotionally charged post like this one, but I actually had some thoughts about the perceived/real/whatever decline in likeability of the KG/Allen/Pierce triangle. I will make every attempt to only speak for myself, and if I attribute emotions and feelings to others erroneously, I apologize.

I think the world of KG. I was amazed by him when he joined the league, and I always made sure to follow his career even though I didn't have the slightest degree of interest in the Wolves otherwise. KG is one of the few human beings who I cannot take my eyes off of when he's engaging in sporting activity. Randy Moss, Barry Bonds, Alex Ovechkin, MJ in his peak - guys like that, he's on my TV, it's going to take something amazing to get me to turn away. I love watching him play.

I also felt painfully sorry for him. He came insanely close to the promised land in 2004, losing to a Lakers team that was almost impossible to like (lest we forget, that was the Payton/Malone "carpetbagger" team that the Pistons curbstomped in the Finals). The rest of his career was littered with teams ranging from "decent" to "horrible", and as much fault as he needed to shoulder, he's only one man. We know that basketball, along with hockey, are the two sports where one man has the most impact, and we also know that a one-man team will rarely ever be the last team standing at the end of a season. KG's career was destined to be a "what-if?" career, the same as Webber, Bonds, and poor Ernie Banks.

Then the Celtics trade happened, and everything changed. There's a reason the media called KG/Allen/Pierce the Big Three other than "KG And Two Other Dudes" (I mean, aside from the obvious media laziness). The implication was that KG, though he was the biggest name and acquisition of that offseason, was not meant to be the leader of the team. He WAS the leader, in many ways, but wasn't expected to be the guy taking the shot at the end or the guy who couldn't have an off-night or get hurt. The Celtics did quite well when KG DID get hurt, lest we forget. The entire perception of KG's role in the NBA changed, and I assume that many people didn't like that.

Of course, it's well within peoples' rights to NOT like it, to prefer KG dunking like a maniac and grabbing 25 boards and playing a more dynamic game. I suppose this is entirely obvious, but the fact that KG played on terrible teams allowed him to play that sort of game. It does seem telling that two teams FD has pimped hard in recent years, the Hawks of this year and the Warriors of last, were on the bottom rung of contenders, even though they played a style that was exciting and dynamic and everything the readers of the site want in their basketball. At a certain point, that can only take you so far.

It's sort of a life lesson, if I can get philosophical - if life has taught us anything, it's that it's damn hard to break away from the norm and be something different. This holds true in everything from art to music to sports - outsiders are beloved by small cults of fans, but are either cast aside entirely by the mainstream or (worse) assimiliated and bastardized by the mainstream into something that couldn't begin to compare to the original. KG, in that sense, was assimilated by the mainstream (it don't get much more mainstream than the Celtics), and his game has compromised to fit the needs of the viewing public and a fanbase that craves a title, as opposed to a small group of people that crave a different style of basketball (I can't imagine the Wolves fanbase is that big, so I'm including KG fans in general like me). It's depressing, in a way - like the realization that life isn't a movie or that everything won't turn out all right.

Then again, KG's on the cusp of realizing the one dream every basketball player ever, ever has (well, aside from Shawn Marion, apparently), and to begrudge him that (apologies in advance, Shoals) because he's playing in a more structured style as opposed to his freewheeling younger self seems, in a way, a little petty. You can never accuse KG of wanting anything more than to win. It makes me a little sad if you can't find a little bit of love for that.

At 6/13/2008 2:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Delonte West is the man.

At 6/13/2008 2:49 PM, Blogger bryan hood said...

As hard as it is for me to admit--and though it run perpendicular to the few things I've said here--I can actually appreciate the Celtics ability to get something done by any means necessary, style be damned.

But unlike most situations where this is the case, I fail to find substance in the absence of style. I'll chalk that up to any and all of the many biases I have against this team though.

I feel that a big part of why I have found these finals (same goes for the playoffs) so disappointing, is that I have thrown my liberated fandom out the window. I have come to care too much about these Lakers--and their players--too take joy in any other teams achievements. I can appreciate them, but I am unable to properly recognize them.

This is further highlight by my inability to appreciate last nights come back. It was the sort of stuff you dream of your team doing, imposing their will on a game that had seemingly slipped out of their hands and somehow making good on things. But because it wasn't the Lakers doing it--and less face it moreso because it was against them--I found myself left cold.

But maybe that's simply a symptom of my shock.

I have watched the playoffs as religiously as my job would allow, but I often found myself watching games as a way to pass the time until the next Lakers battle.

At 6/13/2008 3:09 PM, Blogger Fredrik deBoer said...

Guys... I just feel like a big part of this unhappiness is coming from shock and disappointment. But that is strange to me, because it is clear to me that this Laker team was never that good. We have a hysterical sports media that takes short-term success and runs with it until we lose any perspective whatsoever. Is this a strong team? Definitely. They got the third best record in the league and the best in the west. But the way they have been talked about, as dominant or transcendent-- I don't understand where that's coming from and never have. It's not anyone's fault, getting caught up in this sort of thing, with the WorldWide Leader pumping them so aggressively. But I think part of the sorrow around here has to be chalked up to a major misunderstanding of the basic strength of this team.

At 6/13/2008 3:15 PM, Blogger Octopus Grigori said...


At 6/13/2008 3:32 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

I don't know, I don't think anyone at FD was caught up in thinking the Lakers were going to dominate the Finals. It's more that of the contenders (Pistons, Spurs, Celtics, Lakers), the Lakers are by far the most exciting and most interesting team. The 2008 Celtics are not qualitatively different from the Spurs or the Pistons, so their winning (especially with dominating defense) is kind of depressing.

That's really about all there is to it.

At 6/13/2008 3:42 PM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

R. Kelly acquitted/Tim Russert dead.

At 6/13/2008 3:45 PM, Blogger trouc said...

1) what's weird after reading this is that it almost doesn't feel like you love the game anymore. years past, the spurs win, and you talked like they'd stomped all over your baby. how could you disgrace my love like this? with the suns dead, the warriors out and defense winning again it feels like you've finally given up. you've realized: this is it, this is the game i love, and i was wrong.

2) the kg ambivalence isn't really surprising, as you've always placed a premium on your use of a player, and not on their use of their own game. i've always found this a little dehumanizing, the refusal to truly identify with others written into sports fandom.

At 6/13/2008 3:50 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

THE NEWS: Talk about putting things in perspective. I will never forget where I was at this moment.

Trouc, I'm also just worn out and pissed off. The Lakers had a shot at winning with a style I liked, and clearly aren't up to the task. But like this blog really exists for the playoffs anyway.

I prefer to think we alternate between dehumanization and over-humanization when it comes to players' actual basketball activity. Because like someone said, of course KG wants to win. On some level, if I really cared about the guy, I'd just be happy for him because of that.

At 6/13/2008 3:52 PM, Blogger Octopus Grigori said...

Brown Recluse, Esq:

It's more that of the contenders (Pistons, Spurs, Celtics, Lakers), the Lakers are by far the most exciting and most interesting team.

See, I never quite got that. Why is that so? What is the support for this rather unequivocal statement? Because they have Kobe? Because Jackson is of such a higher intelligence?

Sasha Vujacic's streaks are not as exciting as Ray Allen lighting it up. Nothing Odom or Gasol have done or could do is as exciting -- as out of your seat, spill your drink on your friends -- as KG slamming over some hapless mortal (in this series, that role is usually played by Radmanovic or Gasol). Rajon Rondo is light years more exciting, inventive, and creative than Derek Fisher, Sasha Vujacic, or Jordan Farmar. The Celtics bench, with Cassell, Brown, House, Powe, and Posey, is deeper, and, by anyone's standards, I would think, more interesting and full of richer personalities and more compelling stories than the Lakers' bench (Walton, Turiaf, Vujacic, et al.). And they've made the once-vaunted Lakers subs look like what they are: a bunch of overhyped, soft, whiny punks. Is Radmanovic exciting or interesting in any way to anyone? He's in the starting five and he's soft like Play-Doh and about as useful on the court. Should I go on?

This is going to be controversial and unnecessarily pointed, sure, and I will apologize in advance, but perhaps it's just easier for some of us to identify with these Lakers, what with their fantastic Princeton-like ability to field five white players on the court at a time, with their inexplicable use of Luke Walton for crucial stretches, their European stars, the athletic Farmar, etc. -- as opposed to the Celtics, who feature not even one regular white player, and who are coached by Doc Rivers. Just saying. Maybe that's what makes the Cs less "interesting" to FD types, and the Lakers so exciting and interesting. I may be totally off base. Maybe I'm wrong in thinking that ABC shows close-up shots of Vujacic and Walton cheering on sidelines way more than they ever show the "less interesting" Celtics subs cheering on their squad. Maybe not. Maybe I'm just being a dick. Who knows?

I'm now prepared to take abuse I probably deserve.

At 6/13/2008 4:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

(As a newcomer to this site I apologize if I am commenting out of my depth.)

I'm from Providence and I'm riding hard for the Celtics, so I've been trying to step back and understand the animosity many here have for the team. i think what might be so offensive about them is that watching them is like watching "basketball", some simulacrum of how a team is supposed to play and compete, and how we're supposed to feel about its players and their special narratives as they approach the peak. despite the manufactured nature of the big three, they don't come off like what ALing88 called the '04 Lakers' carpetbagger squad. but it doesn't seem organic, either. Garnett, Allen, and pierce are just playing in front of the backdrop of "Celtics history", but they're not rooted to that, only to the expectation of what Garnett + Allen + pierce + franchise logo should equal. which is, exactly what's happening right now. last night, i was losing my shit as they started to come back, but looking back it feels a bit pre-ordained, not by David Stern or whatever, but by a script that no one wrote but is nonetheless lying next to my teevee.

I don't agree that they resemble the Spurs - no one involved has ever endured the glorious suffering of the Celtics triumvirate, and i just find SA too contemptible to make that objective comparison - or the Pistons - the assemblage of those spare parts seems very flesh-and-blood and not nearly as Fordist as the Spurs or the Celtics - or any specific team that I've seen. They seem more like the incarnation of an idea of what championship basketball should be, and what they do on the court seems inflected by quotation marks.

All this said, I'm still riding for them, but I think I understand what's loathesome about them, that isn't attached to Kobe love or Simmons hate. Am I close?

At 6/13/2008 4:56 PM, Blogger Mother Father Chinese Dentist said...

Delonte West is the NBA's ugliest man.

At 6/13/2008 5:22 PM, Blogger goathair said...

Wrong. Calvin Booth is.

At 6/13/2008 5:37 PM, Blogger The Hypnotoad said...

Just cause a team outscores its opponent, doesn't mean they are fun to watch.

At 6/13/2008 5:41 PM, Blogger Fredrik deBoer said...

Luke Walton looks like Gargamel's apprentice, Scruple.

At 6/13/2008 5:50 PM, Blogger Martin said...

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At 6/13/2008 5:55 PM, Blogger Carter Blanchard said...

Haha wow, FD just got accused of preferring whiteys. Definitely file that in the "never saw that coming" drawer. I love that Shoals' appreciation of the Lakers makes him a "frontrunning fairweather who likes the estblishment" and his dislike of what the C's have become makes him "a snob who only likes obscure players and gives up on them once they make it big."

At 6/13/2008 5:56 PM, Blogger Kaifa said...

I think the term "soft" is one of the dullest, laziest, and most empty labels to throw around when talking about basketball.

Also, to my aesthetic perception of the sport, several plays Odom and Gasol have been involved in together have been far more impressive than KG's slams save for that one tip dunk (added significance because of the point of the game when it happened). But then again, I also like MJ's best lay-ups way more than his best dunks.

At 6/13/2008 5:58 PM, Blogger Martin said...

@ Octopus Grigori, I think the only response appropriate to your contention one word: Spurs. Think about it.

Moving on, one of my favorite games this season was the Warriors vs. Suns game just prior to the Shaq trade. It was a wonderful and exciting high-scoring, yet poorly-defended affair. It makes me wonder- is there such a thing as an FD defensive-minded team? The fundamental essence of offense is creation, and similar to art-aspects such as style and creativity are readily incorporated to offense. Defense on the other hand is fundamentally about destruction, and consequently glorifies ruin and impairment.

But a team does not have to singularly excel at only one-side of the court. The Bulls of the early 90's were by far the best defensive squad in the league, however, my favorite memories of that team are not of Jordan and Pipen's dogged ball-pressure and tenacious half-court traps.

The game sealing drive by Ray Allen past Sasha was savvy and well-executed yet pedestrian in appearance. I can remember on occasion having blown by a slower defender for an open layup. Of course in my case it was against much more inferior competition at a local pick-up game. Contrast that with MJ's iconic basket in the 91 Finals against the Lakers. MJ took off from near the free-throw line, implausibly hung in the air forever, defiantly glaring at the defenders below. Then instead of punctuating drive with a thundering dunk, decided to switch hands mid-air and flip the ball in with his left hand on the way down. A clearly superfluous gesture since MJ was not trying to elude any potential shot blocker, but nonetheless a move that paid homage to MJ's style and creativity as a player. Meanwhile back on earth, an awestruck Marv Albert framed the moment by blurting out "A spectacular move...by Michael Jordan". That right there, embodies MJ's FD lifetime membership- a perfect manifestation of style and substance, flair and results. That said the G.O.A.T is gone and holding mere mortals (even those with the temerity pursue divinity-see KB24) is unfair. Effective defense is a stranger to style, but very familiar with victory, which is really all that KG and the Celts want at this stage.

At 6/13/2008 6:12 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

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At 6/13/2008 6:16 PM, Blogger Derek Harper said...

Yeah, doesn't feel like a race issue even though I appreciate the incendiary effort. I think the Lakers definitely run a more fluid, flush heavy offense full of Kobe penetrating, Lamar and Pau finishing and Jews popping 3s that makes them more FD wet dreamish. That being said, Shoals justification sounds like reaching for explanation of apathy. I would've liked to see the reaction had LA come out strong leaving Boston frustrated and occasionally flashing brilliance. (I also agree with the sentiment that nothing gets the crew fired up like the infamous, insular Hawks Cats) I agree with Garnett and Ray as changed men, but Paul Pierce is as fun, explosive and heroic as he's ever been. (And by the way, Kobe wasn't KOBE on those Shaq teams, that's why he had to go) I actually cheered last night in a packed bar as others argued over missed calls and watched the scoreboard. (Great observation)

At 6/13/2008 6:26 PM, Blogger Derek Harper said...

Also, you CANNOT win a championship, or accomplish half of what this team has without great chemistry on both sides of the ball. It may not result in Nash Stoudamire ballet but to say Boston is cold machinery is projecting.

At 6/13/2008 6:35 PM, Blogger Octopus Grigori said...

@ Kaifa: Thanks, that was very insightful and persuasive. Also, I am happy for you and your aesthetic perception of the sport.

@ Martin: No one likes the Spurs because they are boring, lifeless, graceless, ugly, and mechanical, and Popovich seems like a total dick. I'm not getting your point.

Re the race issue, I'll stop pushing that theory here since it's so unpopular with the regulars. (Anyone have any idea as to the demographics of FD readers? This may be an old discussion I will be advised to go look up in the archives.)

I will note that the classic 80's Lakers-Celtics matchups were, at their core, all about race (see, e.g., Do the Right Thing), and this year's match-up, to me, seems to have inverted the places of the two teams on the NBA's racial spectrum (i.e., current Lakers are the Celtics of Ainge, McHale, et al., and vice versa). The original Lakers-Celtics clash was so charged not only because they were two great teams going at each other, but because the matchup was constantly framed as a clash between the Lakers' "showy" "flashy" and "naturally athletic" style versus the Celtics' "intelligent" "hard-working" "gritty fundamentals" basketball. It's fascinating and weird that this racial tinge has carried over to this year's series (at least to my eyes), two decades later, with one of the "whiter" top teams in the league (the Lakers), matched against one of the "blacker" led by a black coach (the Cs).

I guess I was just trying to cause trouble with my need to racialize everything all the time. (Though, I do think it might be interesting to discuss if, at this point, Kobe is no longer classifiable under our usually understood cultural categories of black and white.)

Just because something's easy, doesn't mean it's wrong.

At 6/13/2008 6:36 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

As a sidenote, I suggest everyone go check out the new SLAM (Paul on the cover), for my essay on the existential despair of Marcus Camby.

At 6/13/2008 6:40 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

og--Also worth noting that the Celtics vaunted defense was handed to them by a white guy who was an assistant on the 1990's Knicks teams, that era's template for "thuggish" basketball. I'm not sure if that defuses or further confuses the issue.

At 6/13/2008 6:44 PM, Blogger Octopus Grigori said...

Shoals: Good point. Likely further confuses things, for me, as I am a Knicks fan. Yeah, it's true.

At 6/13/2008 6:49 PM, Blogger knowing is maxo said...

Two thoughts: I saw the collapse coming last night. Not to sound prescient because I'm not claiming to be, but when Farmar was jumping through the hallway to the locker room, with a smile on his face like he'd won a championship after making that buzzer-beating-runner 3, and Walton smiling with him, I just knew that the Lakers young pieces didn't have it.

They needed to lose in the finals before they can win. Sasha needed to be victimized by Jesus at the end of the game...he needed to get as angry as he did on the bench afterwards. Those moments are what make players into champions.

*Cue classic montage about MJ getting cut from his High School Team*

I guarantee that If/when the Lakers lose this series, those two moments are going to be burned into the minds of Farmar and the Machine all summer, all next season, and ultimately, until they're popping cheap champagne on a plastic tarpaulin. And as long as they recommit themselves to winning to a level Kobe finds satisfactory, it will only make that team closer.

The other thought is: After a fun to watch but ultimately tensionless first half, being SUBJECTED to the halftime team of wilbon, jon barry, and whoever else TWWL dragged onto the stage is torturous compared to EJ, Kenny, Charles, and the game. It literally put me to sleep, and I woke up from my doze at 71-73 in the beginning of the fourth quarter.

Can't we work out some deal where they rent out Inside the NBA to ABC for the finals?

At 6/13/2008 6:54 PM, Blogger Octopus Grigori said...

Shoals: Also worth noting that the Big 3 was brought to us by, of all people, Danny Ainge.

At 6/13/2008 6:58 PM, Blogger karma said...

@ Octopus: good to know other South Asians are into the whole blogging thing as welll.

As far as the series goes, the Celtics have looked like the better team ALL SERIES long. From the first game to last night, there was not one point in any of the games that I thought the Lakers looked dominant. And this is coming from a big Lakers fan. The Lakers will have to completely revamp the way they play in these next 3 games. That means, more energy off the bench, more showing up by players not named Kobe, and, sorry to say, but smarter coaching by Coach Jackson. He is getting outcoached and outprepared by Doc Frickin Rivers.

At 6/13/2008 7:19 PM, Blogger knowing is maxo said...

@Karma: Agreed, I thought it was one of the most indefensible decisions ever to go with the starting lineup in the second half, as opposed to the Ronny/Odom/Ariza/Vujacic/Kobe lineup that had a dominant hand in building the lead in the first half.

At 6/13/2008 7:20 PM, Blogger Fredrik deBoer said...

I hate to be a downer, but again, this confidence people have that the Lakers are going to be hoisting the trophy next year and for years to come is bizarre to me. Kobe is an old 29. He has way, way more NBA minutes at 29 than the stars of yesteryear had. And NBA minutes and seasons are much more taxing on a body than college minutes and seasons; Larry Bird playing 30 games for Indiana State against 180 pound college kids didn't take nearly the pounding that Kobe took from 82 games plus playoff basketball against full-grown NBA athletes. Gasol has a great skill set. But he's not going to get better, at this point in his career, and I seriously doubt he is suddenly going to become a tough interior player. Odom may not be on the team next year, and again, he's not getting any better than he is now. Derek Fisher is old, and I'm not sold on Farmar. Can you really count on Vujacic to have his head together in two, three years? To even be in the NBA, for sure?

A lot of this optimism is based on the supposedly incredible season that Bynum put together. I remain puzzled. When a guy supposedly breaks out by averaging a whopping 13 and 10... that really just goes to show how far he had to go. Could Bynum be a great young piece? He could, although I think the sample size from this season is way too small to say anything conclusive. And if he does, do you think that's going to be enough to fix their obvious deficiencies in the paint? I don't know.

I think the window for this particular team is actually quite small. Now, they might have a bright future in the post-Kobe era, or even in an era where Kobe isn't the number one option. But that's an entirely different animal....

At 6/13/2008 7:55 PM, Blogger rebar said...

all i can say is: it should have been the hornets. damn you san antonio.

At 6/14/2008 12:39 AM, Blogger karma said...

Oh, and sorry to completely swerve this discussion, but I've noticed lately on blogs and the net overall, that somehow, losing this game, excludes Kobe Bryant from the "Michael Jordan comparison club". I wrote a specific response to it in my blog, which I wont repeat here, but basically, if it took last night's game for bloggers to say that they're two different players, then the stupidity is on thier part.

They were never the same players, and to compare them was ridiculous in the first place. Kobe didn't like the comparisons, I myself hated them, and it fuels an unneccssary amount of flaming and baiting on any site, even though Kobe Bryant's accomplishments are nowhere near that of MJ. I love how the wolves are attacking right now on Kobe Bryant...this is pretty much what I had expected. There are way too many people that despise the man to remain quiet. While I love reading blogs and columns, I find it unbelieveably stupid that the same people that hate the man dedicate blog posts to him that focus on criticizing him about every stupid little thing that he does. Get a life people.

At 6/14/2008 12:54 AM, Blogger Sean said...

"A clearly superfluous gesture since MJ was not trying to elude any potential shot blocker, but nonetheless a move that paid homage to MJ's style and creativity as a player."

Come on now, he say "long-armed Sam Perkins there," remember?

At 6/14/2008 1:10 AM, Blogger Nate Jones said...

Co-Sign with Karma on the Kobe point.

At 6/14/2008 1:15 AM, Blogger db said...

I have a feeling that winning with Rondo making 16 assists would lift the mood of despair that game engendered. But this was simply a better, more physical team taking control of a game through effort, hustle, and imposing their will physically and mentally.

Contra Fredrik, for me this mood is not based on the idea that the Lakers would win. Even though I always wanted them to, I just thought that the mental toughness of Odom/Gasol probably wouldn't allow it. But in my heart seeing them come through and reach their potential was what I wanted. And that dream is now lost in the reality.

That game, and the series, is really about a championship style based on gritty endurance. Which is exactly what is "supposed" to happen, but that's no reward for anyone who sees in the game the potential of other ways of being.

At 6/14/2008 1:18 AM, Blogger ItTakesAThiefToCatchAThief said...

Liberated Fandom is liking these Celtics and still hating the Celtics. The most perfect casting ever was for Jesus Shuttlesworth, with Don Corelone a close second. Paul Pierce is the MotherFucking Truth, and don't forget it. And the depression about KG is projection run amok. James Posey is Ice.

The people who are down are down because they wanted the Kobettes to win. That's all. Don't make it more than it is, because that's all it is. Seriously, the Lakers are more entertaining than what the Celtics did/do?

Basic math, people.

At 6/14/2008 2:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing that is apparent to me after reading FD these past few years is that FD=losing basketball. You (shoals) undervalue some of the basic mechanical realities of the game. You seem to be draw to things that are actual flaws, that will actually prevent teams from winning, like the lack of coaching and discipline of the Warriors. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as you don't care about winning. But you obviously care about winning. So you are doomed to yearly dissapointment. One thing for sure, you should never start betting on games.

At 6/14/2008 12:02 PM, Blogger rebar said...

yo cw, that's kind of the tragic and wonderful paradox of FD/liberated fandom. we appreciate the game aesthetically more than functionally, but are still trapped within the function/disfunction language by damnable human nature and late capitalist conditioning. pardon my grad student speak, but i ain't trying to bullshit nobody but nobody.

sure, we would love to see something non-functional but beautiful win (the warriors were such a revelation, despite the fact that other squads have been similarly out of control on a certain level. i think shoals has talked about the idea of a team without opponents, and FD is the team that would still make you watch even if they were only running offensive sets in an empty gym.

i love and hate the celtics, but don't fucking dump this "i ain't respecting X,Y,Z" i hate the green uniform, but watching those ray allen 'tubes made me weep tears for what could have been. imma go make a watson-jesus-kevin the kid-rashard-jerome james lineup in NBA live and shoot nothing but threes all game. that's what fandom is about to me. it's about the players (word up to the Dr for his chicago story). fuck this team respect idea. in short, i love some of the players on the C's, some of the things they do (have done, but i can never be down with their functionality minus aesthetics. i could never imagine that KG "i've got a rocket launcher, i'm ready for war" quote coming out of the big green ticket.

wv mraejge: Mr. "Are You Joking" Van Gundy

At 6/14/2008 1:28 PM, Blogger Sarah said...

Longtime lurker here...

When I first read this post, I was offended-- partially because yes, I do feel like there's a bit of personal projection going on, and partially because I'm rooting for the Celtics and I love watching Paul Pierce play. This blog is a mixed bag for me... on the one hand, I disagree (I think) with this particular theory of fandom. On the other hand, the posts at least make me think.

I thought this post was way off base. But oddly, it's been percolating in my brain for 24-ish hours, and I find myself still thinking about it. I blog the Hornets, and this morning, I was composing a post on how even if they'd made it to the finals they'd realistically be in the same situation as the Lakers because they just don't have the focus the older Celtics have. And how they'll know what it's like to lose next year, so they'll be better.

But instead of wrapping my post up optimistically, I found myself instead typing this:

"And, here’s the funny and slightly ironic thing, when — I suppose “if” is the better word, but it’ll probably be “when”– the Hornets come back more focused and mature, more businesslike, more stone cold killer-esque, I’m not sure there isn’t a part of me who’ll miss the “Whatever! We love each other! Us against the world! Let’s plaaaaay!” feel of this year’s Hornets. I don’t know what that means."

Hmmm... anyway, can't say it didn't make me think.

At 6/14/2008 1:45 PM, Blogger BW said...

teams are always more fun when they don't feel like a business.

At 6/14/2008 2:34 PM, Blogger cw said...

"in short, i love some of the players on the C's, some of the things they do (have done, but i can never be down with their functionality minus aesthetics."

Ray and Kevin would scorn that sentence, kick you out of the gym for being an middle-class, college boy aesthete. The reason they suddenly aren't all ghetto, or whatever, like you want them to be is becasue they value winning. They are close and can taste it and know what they need to do. It's a different aesthetic, one much more rooted in the actual experience of playing the game.

I have no problem with with either aesthetic. I root for players and personalities rather than teams, but I've also been playing bball for 40 years now and understand the beauty of tamping down your personal interests and doing whatever you need to do to win.

Sometimes though, when the aesthetics get seperated from the functionality, the theorists can take themselves a little too seriously. It happens in all kinds of fields. People lose sight of the basic realities. That's my main complaint with FD, though I still think it is a worthwhile enterprise.

At 6/14/2008 3:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

what cw said. I'm beginning to think there's nothing more FD than Sydney Deane.

At 6/14/2008 3:11 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I don't quite get why this post has caused an ultimate referendum on this site's social value. Okay, I do—it's even more shaky and irrational than usual.

But it's hardly news that FD traffics
in flawed idealism, some degree of fantasy, all with a fundamental refusal to completely divorce ourselves from the traditional emotional currents of the game. No shit I get upset when players I like don't win. Does it happen all the time? Yes. That doesn't mean I'm about to give up.

As for the whole "projection" thing, this post may be overreaction, but I think Sarah brings it down to earth: What good is winning without fun? To me, not much, even if it completes a player's world. And sorry, but that's part of what I want out of sports.

(I know, Kobe isn't "fun." But he is terrifying and Hitchcock-ian)

At 6/14/2008 3:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@BS- "fuck everybody" may have had something to do with it?

At 6/14/2008 3:20 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

That was preemptive. Because of the post's contents, and the fact that I went with the "eight videoes in a row" approach.

At 6/15/2008 12:28 AM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

I suspect that the reaction to this post is greater than that to past posts about the winning of similarly aesthetically challenged (almost) championship teams is that more people are personally invested in the Celtics players. They want to see KG, Ray-Ray, and PP win. That The 3 are winning is more important than the manner in which the winning is happening. They value what is more highly than what might have been.

Many in that group seem further to be arguing that the sublimation of style and the abandonment of individuality, expression, and joy is acceptable because that's what it takes to win a title. I'll just say that you've exactly made my point about what's so disappointing about this Celtics team. When the KG trade went down, I thought they had the potential to win without erasing themselves. They don't owe me anything, so this isn't an issue of them living up to my standards; but they owe themselves a lot, and to my eyes, they sacrificed something essential about themselves, and thereby gave up the opportunity to be transformative, because they bought into the idea that there's only one way to win. And that's what's disappointing.

Additionally, not that this site's bloggers need a defense from me, but I've found the comments the last couple of days frustrating mostly because so many of the disagreements with Shoals and DLIC have been offered in bad faith. Rejecting what they have to say by accusing them of masturbatingly over-intellectualizing, front-running, or being white supremacists, ghetto fetishists, or hipster douchebags who just want to root for lovable losers is plain weak. No shit they intellectualize, psychoanalyze, philosophize, and politicize the game. That's why the blog exists as far as I can tell. It's certainly why I keep reading. You don't need my permission to disagree with them, but If you're going to do it, at least have some fucking integrity and do head on and not with dismissive and fallacious horse shit.

At 6/15/2008 1:41 AM, Blogger rebar said...

word, word, word.

that was exactly what i meant to say. props six.

At 6/16/2008 3:26 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

This thread is probably long dead by now, but I wanted to make one comment.

To Fredrik deBoer and the many others who are questioning what the big deal about Bynum is, based mostly on his 13 & 10 averages this year, you need to be aware of a couple things. First, he started the season as the backup for Kwame Brown, and his minutes were very limited until Kwame got hurt a couple weeks into the season, thus thrusting Bynum into the starting role.

Second, don't just look at what Bynum averaged for the year, look at what his month by month stats were:

October - 4 pts, 4 boards (only 1 game)
November - 11.4 pts, 10.4 boards
December - 13.9 pts, 9.1 boards
January - 17.3 pts, 12.2 boards

The guy just turned 20 a couple days before the season started, and was clearly making enormous strides from one month to the next.

Third, Bynum was not only 2nd in the league in dunks when he got hurt (behind only Dwight Howard but ahead of Amare Stoudemire), he was leading the league in Field Goal percentage. He also was rebounding at a higher rate than even Dwight Howard was (Howard had bigger rebound totals, but it was due to far more minutes).

Fourth, Bynum had some absolutely monster games against some of the best centers in the league:

- In a mid-December matchup with the Clippers Bynum blocked six shots by Chris Kaman.

- In the 2nd game of the season against the Suns in Phoenix Bynum had 14 points and 11 boards while helping hold Amare Stoudemire to only 7 points and 1 rebound; and then in the LA-Suns rematch on Christmas Bynum embarrassed Stoudemire again, this time putting up 28 & 12 compared to Stoudemire's 19 & 6.

- In a mid-November matchup with Jermaine O'Neal in Indiana Bynum had 17 & 10 with 4 blocks while holding O'Neal to only 14 & 3; then in the December rematch in LA Bynum had 23 & 13 (again w/ 4 blocks) while holding O'Neal to 13 & 4.

- In a blowout win over the Hornets in New Orleans in early January Bynum had 17 & 9 w/ 3 blocks (in only 28 minutes due to the blowout), while holding Tyson Chandler to just 11 & 7 (in 37 minutes).

- Bynum followed that game with a 25 & 17 gem (w/ 3 blocks) vs. Andrew Bogut and the Bucks (Bogut had 14 & 11 w/ 5 fouls).

Bynum was becoming a bona fide beast as the season went on. His season stats were definitely pulled down by the fact that no one expected much out of him to start the year, so his playing time was greatly reduced. If he recovers from his knee injury to 100% (which he's expected to), at his age the ceiling for him is extremely high. Add a player like that to a team that's already challenging for the championship, and that only has one player on the roster who is over 30 and you can see why people are ready to crown the Lakers for the next couple years.

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