My Interview with Nets Rookie Anthony Randolph

It's too chilly up here for me to watch the summer leagues, and plus, those are perfect examples of basketball that means more to me as a box score. Like a young Andre Miller, as we've discussed before. Incidentally, before you rush to label that po-mo and crazy, remember that your father's father followed a lot of the American League in much the same way.

Instead, I've decided to do part two of what I started on Monday: Plainly stating our basic tenets with a clarity I never could before, and then wondering how true they really are. This is both an attempt to rescue the site's distant past, and to prove that, despite all that shrieking during the Finals, there is peace in the valley and no one need turn in their decoder rings just yet.

Long ago, when names like Rocco, Brickowski and Ken roamed the comments section, I did a post about the link between style and personality. I probably oversimplified it at the time, so here's what I wish I'd said: The style a player develops, both as an abstract ideal and as a process of work on the ground, is a function of his personality.

Yes, his physical abilities and needs of his team figure into it, but for it to achieve any unity, any identity, there has to be a nexus of his sense of self and his game. One that, while essentially symbiotic, can slant one way or the other at various points in time. At the same time, there exists a similar bond between personality and biography, which—almost done here—means you end up with a system of mutual construction that involves all three elements.

Diagram, by Tom Ziller:

But looking back at this pivotal FD moment today, I'm a little embarrassed by how over-credulous this model is. Certainly, we know a lot about players, and can gauge something of who they "really are." Then, there's also all sorts of misinformation, spin, dissembling, and empty utterances. It seems like, if we want to salvage this at all, we'd need to either replace "personality" with "persona," or better yet, insert the latter as a qualifier on the former, with the "personality" hovering out somewhere unknowable that involves Kant and outer space.

Tidy and dogmatic, I know. What I'm wondering now, though, is if, while the nexus of style and personality remains utterly individualistic, the basketball acts that make up "style" are a lot more generic. The minute touches and details that FD hangs on are the intersection of style and personality; it might make even more sense to say that "style" is that intersection, and "basketball acts" is one node. Like there could be two combo guards with, for all intents and purposes, the same approach to the game; however, the tone would be totally different because of personality (and biography).

Why am I doing this, and why do I refuse to say anything concrete? Because, duh, I'm talking about Kobe. What's the oldest argument in the world about the man: Gorgeous game, awful person. And while certain aspects of who he is seem indispensable to this basketball force walking on earth, they are only so subtle: Work ethic, intensity, arrogance, sense of history, capacity for abstraction in all manners of life and job. I don't think that really captures the Kobe Bryant we bicker over all day. But at the same time, it's tough for people to separate man from game. There's something about the tone with which it's carried out that keeps the two stuck together, facial expressions and body language that may not register as basketball acts but nonetheless infect perception.

I understand you, now understand me. This same thing accounts for my extremely objectionable feelings on Garnett, but in a totally different way. KG was once the absolute standard-bearer for this way of understanding pro athletes. For whatever reason, it feels to me—again, as a purely subjective viewer of the sport—that these connections have slackened, or weakened. At the risk of making this even more confusing, he now plays a less subjective game. I'm not saying Kevin Garnett the man has been diminished, just that his play doesn't crackle in the same way. He does a lot of the same things, just with a different feel. It makes perfect sense if you think about his age, his weariness, all the frustration and scrutiny he's faced.

This may or may not have helped him win a championship; who knows if Kobe should pay attention. But I'm beginning to think that, when we're trying to understand our likes and dislikes around the league, we need to think in terms like these. Because it's simply too simplistic, and boring, to focus our feelings on the elements without trying explain how they work together in our minds to create these semi-mythic pop figures.

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At 7/17/2008 5:52 PM, Blogger Louie Bones said...

You're on a roll.

However, as style/personality go, what of Greg Oden?

At 7/17/2008 7:08 PM, Blogger Jimbob252a said...

"Nets Rookie" Am I missing something I thought he was at Golden State?

At 7/17/2008 9:12 PM, Blogger jawaan oldham said...

He may literally be at Golden State, but he's figuratively in New Jersey.

At 7/17/2008 9:28 PM, Blogger Sons of Big Daddy Drew said...

You don't like Garnett anymore because he's a Celtic. Simple as that.

At 7/17/2008 9:35 PM, Blogger Jimbob252a said...

If you say so jawaan, it's a little esoteric for me.

At 7/17/2008 9:39 PM, Blogger jawaan oldham said...

Sir, there is no such thing as too esoteric. Well, if Shoals smoked weed, there would be.

At 7/17/2008 10:21 PM, Blogger The Other Van Gundy said...

Figuratively in New Jersey? What does THAT mean?

Sons of Big Daddy Drew: Is that not a reason to dislike somebody anymore?

Best part of this post was Ziller's diagram - always love it when you bring him in for graphics work.

At 7/17/2008 10:21 PM, Blogger R. Lobstah said...

The old adage, "Sports develop character" at some point was modified into "Sport reveals character". That said, maybe sport reveals or develops character if the participant views life as a sport and/or sport as life. The degree to which one can compartmentalize one's athletic life from all others may be the degree to which you don't judge people's personality according to how they behave on the basketball court.

I don't like the way Garnett celebrated his victory or that powder and trotting ritual that preludes games. He choked all playoffs long and only performed like a star when his teammates had already secured the victory for him. His being a Celtic only makes the dislike more pronounced. Paul Pierce was much more instrumental in winning that championship round and I don't have nearly the same dislike for him as I developed for Garnett. Oh, and Garnett was one of my favorite players in the league right up to the 2008 playoffs. I just don't see the same man who hit clutch threes to beat the Kings in 2004. He seems a broken man in my completely subjective mind.

At 7/17/2008 10:28 PM, OpenID tredecimal said...

@Jimbob- nowhere in the post is Anthony Randolph mentioned. Being attached to New Jersey is actually the second thing that twigs people to the idea that it is a referent to whatever reality can be inferred or guessed upon, were that the case, that Shoals was indeed interviewing Anthony Randolph, a (in that reality) rookie for the Nets. Who, in that sense, may not necessarily even be in New Jersey, literally OR metaphorically.

Either that or the Sporting News won't let him come out and directly say something. Which nah...although anyone feel free to run with that and see if we can't get it reposted to True Hoop: Anthony Randolph & your choice of SEC 2nd rd/undrafted gem to New Jersey for Devin Harris.

wv: ajtgz- unreleased track from 'Ch-Vox'

At 7/18/2008 10:15 AM, Blogger avery said...

...I swear you were going to say Agent Zero, not Jellybean, but I get it.

...and how did/does the aura of the Celtics affect the style of KG? Surely the history of the Celtics had an impact on what he believed his role, and therefore style to be in a different way than the figurehead of a history-less expansion team.

At 7/18/2008 11:11 AM, Blogger Joshua R said...

I just don't see the same man who hit clutch threes to beat the Kings in 2004.

Have you stopped to consider that it is possible that this instance that you mention was itself the aberration from the mean?

At 7/18/2008 11:45 AM, Blogger Browny said...

someone made a comment recently that people relate more to angry passion than joyful passion or In other words dunk and scowl, you are intense; dunk and smile,you are showboating. I don't understand it.

At 7/18/2008 11:55 AM, Blogger Christopher said...

KG is the new Kobe. I think I read this on here awhile back and it still feels about right: After the Bill Russell interview KG sort of remained in that persona/character permanently. Also there's the thought that the chest pounding, swearing, and general "intensity" was always a sort of cover for not having a shining personality, and only now, through success, KG is being more himself. Man having sublimated the beast within?

ilejnlrk - 6'5 Slovenain PG age 13

At 7/18/2008 1:54 PM, Blogger Reverend Paul Revere said...

Maybe I'm looking through blinders, but I don't see the fundamental shift in KG's game or personality. It seems like it's more through the people around him.
Even when Cassell and Spree were in Minny, he never had anyone else that truly asserted themselves. Sure, Sam had the guts and Spree had the swagger, but neither ever commanded people pay attention to them, whether it was age, talent or whatever.
In Boston, he had a man who took a lot of spotlight off him in Pierce, so people started looking at him differently, prodding and poking to see how "real" he was/is.
I don't see Kobe anywhere in KG. And for the record, I like them both. It's not a one is good the other evil type of thing. I just think the people who rap on KG now do it because he "fled" Minny for Boston.

At 7/18/2008 5:39 PM, Blogger spanish bombs said...

hey, will you tell your bosses at tsn that no one will go to their blog if there aren't anon/google comments?

anyway, what i would have said to make everybody some ad money is that the difference between miller and howard is pretty clearly stated when the author says that howard doesn't want to change. miller is willing to go along with the notion that weed is bad, while howard is not.

i am not abreast of the sitch because i care very little about anybody smoking weed, but not everyone is open enough to acknowledge/realize that weed's harmful effects are probably no more than tobacco/alcohol. that said, miller's drop in play in the past few years has been noticeable, and if i were paying someone a bajillion dollars to play a sport (or were emotionally invested in a team's success), i would not be happy if they smoked pot or cigs during the season, even in moderation. no prob with a glass of wine at dinner or whatever, because alcohol in moderation isn't really a problem.

At 7/18/2008 11:56 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...

OKC made an offer to CJ Miles. Shaping up to be a fun team, in spite of itself, if Jazz don't match.

At 7/20/2008 1:59 AM, Blogger Sons of Big Daddy Drew said...

@the other van gundy: If that's your reason for not liking somebody, so be it. But there's no need to prattle on about how he has "a different feel" or "he now plays a less subjective game", like it's this big mystery. Just come out and say it.

At 7/20/2008 4:58 PM, Blogger Jeremy said...

I just don't see the same man who hit clutch threes to beat the Kings in 2004.

I know it's incidental to your main point, but IIRC, he hit like one go-ahead three when Game 7 was already well in hand. But I could be wrong, I haven't seen that game since it aired.

KG in the 2008 playoffs didn't surprise me. He's always preferred shooting 18-footers to working near the basket. I just don't see how he really sublimated his style when he basically played the way he's always played.

At 7/21/2008 4:46 PM, Blogger ItTakesAThiefToCatchAThief said...

KG's one three that series came late in game 7 when the game was still in doubt. Time tickin' on the shot clock, he was about 2 feet behind the line and banked it in.

And I agree with Jeremy - in the '08 playoffs, KG played the way he's always played. He just had better teammates this time.

At 4/13/2009 2:20 AM, Blogger 平平 said...




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