7.04.2008

Every New Generation Needs a Generation



Note: This for some reason took me forever to write and the pictures suck. So view it accordingly.

Nothing is more American than FreeDarko, or at least the "freedom" part. Distracted by the latest spat over whether we are or are not awash in racist connotations? Revisit our first-ever post. Here, Shoefly laid out the profound connections between letting unusual, individualistic potential loose, a responsibility that falls on both said individual and the community he would inhabit. Note: I will never get why "community" is all-American, while "collective", as a purely technical term, signals Stalin.

Ordinarily, though, I don't think we've ever felt cause to explicitly connect this most raucous of national milestones with this site's mission. And yet today, it's not the distinct John Adams vibe I'm getting from people in the wake of the Sonics compromise, or the hyphenation quandry that explains my devotion to Stern, that has me typing now. No, it's a cause that could not be more near and dear to this site's unspoken premises: Making sure that Josh Smith and Gerald Wallace are free.

We all dig those Atlanta Hawks. That inadvertent experiment in god knows what, set, however haphazardly, against a city that's come to embody a certain kind of African-American prosperity. If only the team were actually a part of Atlanta, it would be all sorts of versions of the American Dream. Sadly, though, this franchise is hog-tied by litigation, and seems unaware of just how lucky it's gotten over the last few drafts—and still can't boast any intelligible road map for the future. Freedom isn't Janis Joplin's whiny hedonism, it's casting off old truths with a bold new vision. Thus, Josh Smith, the everywhere-at-once, gloriously inconsistent terror who defines the Hawks to those in the know, needs to move on.



That Philadelphia is the cradle of liberty really only figures superficially into this story, but I'm just as wary of (igniting a fire in the comments section by) saying that Smith's swagger and highlight-crazy game could help make the Sixers mean as a team what Iverson himself meant. The Hawks are anarchic, dangerous, the impossible dream that we secretly never want realized. They are a glorious, shambolic mess, full of spirit but explaining exactly why this country needed a Continental Congress.

While I have called Smith "a retarded LeBron," he lacks Bron's ability to plop down in the middle of anywhere and turn his whim into precept. Smith seems at times limited by both his strengths and his weaknesses; He doesn't quite know exactly when, or how, to take advantage of his abilities, many of which haven't quite come into focus yet. He's not Tyrus Thomas, in that you can discern the faint outlines of a multi-faceted player. But this isn't freedom, it's aimless ideas and glints of direction. We prize this player not for the confused mess he currently is, but for what he could become. Potential is the potential to be freed, which requires both the right assets and a sympathetic setting.

Here's where the Sixers enter the picture. Last season they were, in some senses, even more deranged than the Hawks. But, as with Smith, there was an understanding that this version of the team was still coming into focus. You have Andre Miller, gradually becoming the player his stats have always suggested he was. Mo Cheeks, a "players' coach" coming into his own as a leader and basketball thinker. Ed Stefanski, a GM who watches games. And, most importantly, a willingness to put the "Pippen-esque" Andre Iguodala in his place, maybe even let him walk, and instead put the future on the shoulders of the enigmatic Thaddeus Young—and, ideally, Smith.



That's what freedom really is. Not just a chance to run wild, and ignore the outside world except for when it gets in your face and needs a spanking. The Hawks this spring were a freakish feel-good story, not a cornerstone of something new; they were wacky outsiders, not crusaders for the other side. Not to mention that the team had been built accidentally, mismanaged horribly, had no institutional culture to speak of, and had a head coach who may or may not have had the slightest clue what was going on. They were a happy accident, not providence in action because it does occasionally take such sides. So yeah, I take back the Afghanistan comparisons. This was no prophecy, just maybe one of the monsters that shows up as a secondary character.

Maybe the Hawks will match—no matter what happens to everyone else on that roster, a Johnson/Smith tandem is at least now a source of some national interest. But something clicked in my head when I saw Smith in Philly: That team needs him to realize its ideals, and he needs it to become more than a fever dream in Nikes.

The Wallace situation is a hell of a lot more straightforward. Last season was a mixed bag for Multiplicity: It took some time for him and J-Rich to adjust to each other, but once they did, the team turned into a minor small-ball outpost. Wallace looked more guard-like all year, and Richardson, if you'd forgotten, is one of the league's best rebounding SG's (something often obscured in Golden State). Armed with a competent running mate, and now able to both do more and not feel compelled to do it all, Wallace was, if not a poor man's LeBron, than a lesser version of what the Sixers (or Hawks) are hoping Smith will become.

Then came the concussion, after which he never quite looked the same. When I watched him in person, Wallace looked tentative. Earlier in his career, he'd been spacey, but now he seemed averse to what he could do if he really sunk his fangs into the game—not simply unsure of his options. He came back too fast, and I was hoping he'd be back in full for this season.



And then, Larry Brown, who is largely to blame for my irrational attachment to David Stern, comes to town. Wallace represents the future; Brown, the past. You'd think he'd admire Wallace's fearless hustle, and yet before the draft, there the team was, shopping him for T.J. Ford. Certainly, this does not bode well for the next year in Charlotte. We should expect to see either a lesser version of Wallace, or perhaps one whose confidence is wounded. Simply because, while Brown could build his usual edifice up around Iverson, Wallace is a structural challenge to it, and one who encroaches on LB's most cherished ideological territory.

Were Wallace just a bundle of activity, Brown could convert, or surbordinate him. Unfortunately, the clarity of his mature game poses a threat. If Josh Smith can symbiotically engender freedom in Philly, then Wallace's experience is kryptonite to Brown's tyranny. Those who hate freedom hate it not in the abstract, or as an absolute, but as a process of community and context that will forever remain imperfect, fluid, and for this, a true participatory activity.

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38 Comments:

At 7/04/2008 7:41 PM, Blogger Alex said...

As a Bobcats fan, I can't tell you how concerned I am about Larry Brown's style shackling the organized chaos I'd hoped the 'Cats could become. Screw Okafor, spend the money on Smith - make the dream come true, MJ. Happy 4th Shoals. Viva la Revolucion!

 
At 7/05/2008 1:30 AM, Blogger EL MIZ said...

shoals, awesome stuff as always. j-smooove to philly would be an incredible pairing of the many things you covered; smith and igoudala being quite possibly the most freakish wings of all time, dre miller hooping it up, sweet lou williams doing his thaaaang, plus the potential for AI to sign there on the cheap in 2010.

charlotte is doomed as a franchise. other than isiah thomas, larry brown and michael jordan are the two people i fear most in the NBA front office.

 
At 7/05/2008 2:48 AM, Blogger R. Lobstah said...

First, Happy Independence Day to all.

I have a few things to say regarding this Freedom's Post. The Joplin quote, rather then an expression of freedom as hedonism, just trivializes the meaning of a word that has fundamental importance in our culture. The arguments had over the centuries, first in Hellenistic culture, and by its cultural heirs may well be said to be the primary social discussion. I don't think this can be said for most other cultures. A break down of Joplin's quote is perhaps best expressed as, "freedom is poverty". She might mean poverty of any kind and if we remain true to a literal reading of the line she says that freedom is poverty in all things.

It would take many paragraphs to argue the demerits of her quote but at least a discussion of its merits would be short. Homebread replaces Joplin's quote with what I think is an equally inane idea. For Shoals freedom is the riddance of old truths and replacing them with new visions. Again, the quote is betrayed by its own meaning. How would freedom be served by being rid of truth? Be it old, new, hot, cold, tired, or fresh how is freedom served by discarding truth. Not only does Homebread wish to be rid of old truths he thinks freedom is in bringing something new and something with vision. I have to assume that the "new" aspect of the vision is of greatest importance since the old-new dynamic is the common denominator between the two sides in his equation of freedom.

A truth, be it old or new, has value. Questioning the value of truth is like questioning the value of freedom. You might quibble over degrees of too much or not enough. But, truth is fundamental as is freedom. Vision, be it old or new, can have value or be worthless. The old truth BS spoke of may not be appreciated or enjoyed but inherent in the word truth is the concept of real meaning and this always has value. New vision can go in any direction (aside from old and blind, again not the opposite of old truth) and speculating in new vision, when what you hold is proven true, is a Vegas gamble. You've traded 100% for 50-50.

I was looking forward to an Atlanta win in game 7 because that would have made a series full of LeBron against Smith. I think of Josh Smith as the mirror image of LBJ. What one does for his team offensively the other does on defense.

J-Rich and Wallace were playing some beautiful ball together until the head bang. It reminded me a bit of the interplay between Baron and Jackson. If Larry Brown's Detroit and Philly teams are any indication then boring wins will have to be rescued from the doldrums by a transcendent player. The Detroit teams were boring because they played Larry Brown ball and then Sheed came in and played the most joyful ball of his career. The Philly team could be fun because every player used to push the open button just long enough to let AI through the elevator doors.

 
At 7/05/2008 7:08 AM, OpenID gpietras said...

I have seen Wallace, in person, damage himself to a degree I would think impossible, and come back to finish a game with his usual insane self. I'm not sure that he's actually human, and could possibly be constrained by Larry Brown; He is a T-1000, mercurial in form and blank in personal attitude.

Also, he love Chik-Fil-A. I'm going to get some, like, right now.

 
At 7/05/2008 7:46 AM, OpenID gpietras said...

I should point out, as racially charged as these comments have been recently (have always been?), that "he love Chik-fil-a" was not intended as a po-face approximation of black dialect or culture. It was simply an unfortunate combination of a typo and Gerald Wallace's genuine craving for chicken sandwiches, which is well documented. (Burton, Austin. "Gerald Wallace: Running Rebel" Dime Magazine, March 25, 2008. http://dimemag.com/2008/03/gerald-wallace-runnin-rebel/)

 
At 7/05/2008 3:52 PM, OpenID tredecimal said...

And then, Larry Brown, who is largely to blame for my irrational attachment to David Stern

Ok, now I'm REALLY lost. But then, you did say it was an irrational attachment.

I'm trying to think of things that make Stern likeable or admirable, and short of not running the league into the ground like Isiah did the CBA and that last interview he did with Simba, I'm not seeing it. He's good at what he does, but so was Attila the Hun. I'd count my fingers after shaking hands with the man and wonder if the brimstone stench will ever come out.

 
At 7/05/2008 4:46 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Oh, and RL, I didn't quite follow you, but I think the Janis Joplin quote is stupid, and evidence for why the Sixers are a better home for Josh Smith than Atlanta. Responsibility, structure, and coalition are the real grounds for freedom, on both side of the equation.

 
At 7/05/2008 6:38 PM, Blogger mdesus said...

dude what don't you understand about a comment that harks back to hellenistic culture. Don't you have to sight a specific discussion? Hey here's one the difference between teh dialectic expression of freedom vs it's use as rhetoric. Now that is what I'm assuming you were trying to say. Which is tough to relate to the rest of the comment. But anyway showmanship aside. I didn't understand what you were really saying.

 
At 7/05/2008 6:39 PM, Blogger mdesus said...

ps that was directed at rock lobstah

 
At 7/06/2008 2:02 AM, Blogger thope said...

As a philly homer, the spread of greek culture is of little meaning. What does matter is what happens with Josh and AI2. Can someone provide answers?

 
At 7/06/2008 11:38 AM, Blogger Caleb Tyler Adam said...

Lobstah, I love what you said about Bron and JSmoo, though it may be some sort of funhouse mirror where one reflection becomes magnified.

That said, the rest of your comment only holds true if you stand steadfast behind the idea of objective troof, which I think many people are unwilling to do at this point (and place) in time. Maybe something new can more true & free than something old simply due to its newness. It was created by us, thus it's new, thus it's true (as opposed to others' ideas in and of the past, which don't hold for us by virtue of their oldness), thus it's freeing.

wv: ofqhhb - Oh fuck, Hedo's back

 
At 7/06/2008 4:56 PM, Blogger -Gerard Himself- said...

Smith to Philly, I don't know. Isn't Philly better off with a back-to-the-basket guy? A real 4, instead of a tweener like Josh?
Then again, Ed Stefanski is now talking about Krstic, how he would be a nice fit along Salembert. Now as a Nets fan, I like Krstic, but from an onjective point of view Philly shouldn't go for Krstic either. So which big men will be left? Brand would be perfect of course, but I doubt he will leave the Clippers though.

 
At 7/06/2008 5:03 PM, Blogger ItTakesAThiefToCatchAThief said...

When ya ain't got Nothing, ya got Nothing to lose.

That's Freedom.

yinygnstc: How Does It Feel?

 
At 7/07/2008 10:13 AM, Blogger 7.5 PSI said...

To be a pedant, it's Kris Kristofferson's whiny hedonism. I'm with you that the metaphor to romantic freedom is misleading. There's nothing in basketball that calls out for subjugation, no romantic impulse, just a possibly counterproductive desire for order. I'm not sure the American Revolution is right either though, it was neither a beautiful failure nor new set of goals, it was just a coaching change. The Easter Rebellion seems more appropriate.

So hold on to your rifles, boys, and don't give up your dream - Of a Republic for the workin' class and economic liberty.

 
At 7/07/2008 10:22 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I know it's a Kris Kristofferson original, but I quite like that album and want to blame all the line's corny shiftlessness on Janis Joplin.

 
At 7/07/2008 12:16 PM, Blogger Michael said...

I think Kristofferson meant it differently: more of a rueful take on being at the bottom, partly through your own mistakes and partly through circumstances beyond your control, not a declaration of whiny hedonism.

Taken in that sense it probably has no bearing on J-Smoove in Philly, but it might on some other situations this off-season.

 
At 7/07/2008 12:22 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Wait, are all in agreement that the Janis Joplin version--partly through her, partly because of the context that enveloped it--has a different meaning, right?

My favorite Janis Joplin story is how she got picked to play the Stax Christmas party one year. She had put together a crack team of session players, and was going to show the REAL how she could get down. She got trashed and went on late, which she assumed was cool because, you know. Instead, everyone thought she was a total fuck up, looked askance at her, and she stumbled off of stage after one or two songs.

 
At 7/07/2008 2:20 PM, Blogger El Presidente said...

Sounds like Stephon Marbury's career in a nutshell. Did she repeatedly try to crawl back on stage, while claiming she would rock the place like no other?

 
At 7/07/2008 3:02 PM, Blogger jawaan oldham said...

If we can get Starbury to OD on smack and become an unlikely feminist icon, that would rule.

 
At 7/07/2008 4:15 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

Sounds like Stephon Marbury's career in a nutshell.

I think you missed the point of the story. Unless Marbury acts as he does to show the predominantly white NBA how white he is.

Hey, everyone, join our Facebook group!

 
At 7/07/2008 7:14 PM, Blogger m. Alana said...

R.Lobstah: I'm late on this, but don't think too hard about it. FD can bring truth, to be sure, and it's made me look at a lot of things in different ways. But a good part of the time they're just playing hopscotch - hopscotch with words and ideas instead of pavement and stones, and Thomas Pinchon instead of Lisa Frank (and occasionally Dan Brown instead of Thomas Pinchon). It's Freedom for the 4th of July. Just go with it, man.

I'm a bit confused by the hate on Janis Joplin, especially directed as it is by a line in a song she sang but didn't write. How does that work? Nothing but love for the man that wrote the song, and nothing but disgust for the woman that sang it? Given the general apppreciation for lovable fuckups, self-destructive personalities, and tragic wastes of talent shown here, alongside FreeDarko's status as a massive sausage fest, I find the hostility a bit disturbing.

Alcoholism is a disease, and she died from it. Appropriation of black culture or not (and isn't that a laugh, given the source), I doubt she destroyed her life and then drank herself to death in an effort to Impress the Real Black Guys.

 
At 7/07/2008 7:57 PM, Blogger 7.5 PSI said...

I'm not sure it has a different meaning, so much that she undermines the schlubbyness. The earlier versions of it are coherent, quiet desperation songs. When she sings it, it's less comprehensible, louder, more worrying. It's the same trick as Diane Keaton delivering Woody Allen dialog.

 
At 7/07/2008 8:52 PM, OpenID gpietras said...

Accusations of racism, then sexism in two consecutive posts? Keep it going guys!

My suggestions for future -isms:

Consumerism (Buy our book!)

Liberalism (this one's always on the forefront).

Classism (Adam Morrison = trailer trash vibe = diminished game, right guys?)

Sizeism (Leave Eric Gordon alone!),

Judaism (though this one is like shooting fish in a barrel).

 
At 7/07/2008 9:30 PM, OpenID tredecimal said...

She got trashed and went on late, which she assumed was cool because, you know. Instead, everyone thought she was a total fuck up, looked askance at her, and she stumbled off of stage after one or two songs.

Man, FUCK Cat Power.

 
At 7/07/2008 11:49 PM, Blogger Ghost Deini said...

When these race-y discussions go on for too long they always seem to get catty. MEOW. Race and Kobe Bryant will never be discussed in a rational manner.

 
At 7/08/2008 3:50 AM, Blogger T. said...

So who can hazard a guess as to what Michael Beasley was singing on the free throw line during the summer league game?

 
At 7/08/2008 9:41 AM, Blogger Five Pound Bag said...

Anything you can do I can do better
I can do anything better than you

 
At 7/08/2008 10:49 AM, Blogger Michael said...

I hate to keep adding to this, but:

@m. alana... you make a valid point: Joplin shouldn't be hated for being an alcoholic, or for trying to appropriate black culture (at least, regarding the latter, she shouldn't be singled out for it). But not liking her interpretation of the song? That's perfectly valid, and pretty much the reason I've never liked her as an artist: the way she performed, regardless of whether she wrote the song. I think Shoals's actual point in the post still stands.

 
At 7/08/2008 10:58 AM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

I don't really want to continue this discussion either, but to clarify, neither Shoals nor I nor the author who originally related the Joplin story is criticizing her for appropriating black culture. It's the way she did it that was being criticized.

Also, I would say that the reasons behind Chan and Janis's respective stage behavior are totally different.

 
At 7/08/2008 7:20 PM, Blogger Pravato said...

Did Mike not learn anything from Brown's stints in Detroit and NY?

If Brown gets that team to the playoffs by year two, I will officially go away

 
At 7/08/2008 9:16 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...

a propos of nothing Gorillaz @ the Apollo was an allegory of the nba entire

 
At 7/08/2008 10:05 PM, Blogger T. said...

Brand to the Sixers? I officially don't understand anything.

 
At 7/08/2008 10:46 PM, Blogger oliver said...

I know I'm only supposed to post elegant hipster-y stuff here with delicate allusions to obscure things while only celebrating a certain type of play and not being a home team kind of guy but...

Elton Brand to the Sixers! Elton Brand to the Sixers! Elton Brand to the Sixers!

Whooot!

J-Smooove, truly, we never knew you. You will be missed.

Miller, Igoduala, Young, Brand, Dalembert.

Go Philly.

 
At 7/08/2008 10:54 PM, Blogger Tom said...

Magette goes to the Warriors. That should be fun.

Does Josh Smith now join the Baron on the Clips? Or does he stay in Atlanta?

 
At 7/08/2008 11:00 PM, Blogger oliver said...

I'm stealing this joke from some anonymous person on the ESPN boards, but, it's a good point, so...

It's Minnesota's sole function in the league now to make horrendous trades in order to make other teams better? So they were like, "Hey, we can absorb $3 million in salaries by taking Calvin Booth and Rodney Carney from the Sixers. ...Let's pull the trigger!" ...The hell?

Josh Smith should stay in Atlanta now, shouldn't he? Does he want to be on the eighth seed in the East or the West? The East, right?

 
At 7/09/2008 1:16 AM, Blogger Therapist said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKg6P4qhGVI

 
At 7/09/2008 3:17 AM, Blogger DJ Slick Watts said...

Tom,

I'm pretty sure you meant, "that should be Jason Richardson."

Or Arenas. Or Josh Smith.

 
At 7/09/2008 12:05 PM, Blogger Sweat of Ewing said...

Josh Smith to the Clippers. This must happen. Can you imagine Baron running with that guy?

 

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