The Lab Is Inside You
Back from Chicago, and instead of feeling refreshed and renewed, I'm pissed that we're being denied an off-season. Long playoffs, suspenseful draft, free agency intrigue galore, global tremors, the Olympics. . . it makes me wish for those summer days that were like a wasteland, with nothing but MLB and starved, raving NFL fans in sight. Or perhaps I am ungrateful, or God is testing me, or this is a "be careful what you wish for" scenario.
I'm still trying to work out this notion of redundancy which, ironically, the Recluse claims is a staple of the college game. I guess the difference is that I'm imagining it in terms of positions ordinarily expected to off-set, or complete, each other. Not whole teams preaching one single trait—that's just a more refined, or simplistic, or disciplined version of a running team. It seems like the issue here is something apart from all matters of the positional revolution, which re-define the team's entire system, or system of relationships. The redundancy principle wouldn't necessarily mean "get a team of shooting guards"—though, SML, there was that quote about D'Antoni's ideal being five 6'8" guys who could pass. This is more about isolating the backcourt, or 3/4, or 4/5. The rise of the swingman would seem to indicate that, beyond individual cases, there is some use for this in NBA play.
Those two other theories (apositional nirvana, new roles) would still at least make some passing attempt to get the traditional responsibilities taken care of. They might emerge piecemeal, or spontaneously, and not even work—decentralized rebounding makes me laugh out loud, which is why I don't resent Brand on the Sixers—but that's why Marion's burden, however tragi-comic, was key to understanding the various incarnations of the Suns. And why we need to give the Warriors swarming defense its propers, and why the Two Joshes weren't about to be low-balled.
The redundancy theory is a lot more local, and even more counter-intuitive. Why did Hughes/Arenas sort of work? They couldn't man up to save their lives, but they created a ton of turnovers by playing off each in passing lanes. Something that, incidentally, neither has matched since 2004-05. Now, it's not like they were the same player: Hughes is a better rebounder and has a mid-range game, Arenas is deadlier off the dribble and bombs from anywhere. But the point is, their differences were incidental. What allowed them to work together well was their similarities. That's the same kind of vibe I get from a possible Roy/Bayless tandem. No one would ever get them confused, style-wise, but on paper, they do similar things. It probably doesn't really matter that Wright and Randolph are different, because the team's not looking to make up for one with the other. What's important is the surfeit of springy skill.
But in at least one area, instead of combining players to address negatives, weaknesses, and potential holes, there principle of excess triumphs. Thus, an overload that creates mismatches, dominates the discussion, and disrupts the usual chess match. It's a gamble, to be sure, but who's to say that being twice as good at one thing and lacking at another can't pay off? Yes, I know, that's the philosophy behind teams that just plain try to outscore their opponents, which never works. That's why I'm proposing this only in diads whose units have come to mirror each other in conventional basketball thinking. Perhaps this is meant to—apologies in advance—complement a complementary system. The two players become one unit, whose overall identity has to be taken into account when planning out the rest of the team.
Open question: Would this describe Beasley/Marion, or does it all depend on how much Marion has to completely cover for Beasley on defense? That would render their similarities incidental, wouldn't it?
We'll have some more USA Basketball stuff later this week, but for now, one thought. You've probably heard that LeBron's giving lots of money to Obama, this from a player whose silence on Darfur was taken as evidence of corporate drone-dom. I know, one is genocide overseas, the other a Presidential election. Ball players aren't supposed to be activists, while they often contribute to campaigns. But does anyone remember last summer's series of photos with James and company in fatigued and saluting? And how they got pep talks from wounded soldiers? Or how about a brief rundown the USA Basketball head and coach's political affiliations? Look, I'm all for supporting the troops, but that whole thing reeked of reinforced symbolism and connecting basketball with war.
There's no way that LeBron gets benched, or anything ridiculous like that. But if James is a very public, very generous supporter of Obama, and the face of USA team. . . you have to wonder if this doesn't hurt the Republicans just a little, including those who attempted to use USA ball last year for their own agenda.