That Florid, Floating Dungeon Called Home

I'm wary of turning these first few weeks into "FD: Yay or Nay?" for teams that have reconfigured during the off-season. But when these moments strike, I feel obliged to speak up—atone, even, when it's a squad I've dumped on in the past. While it's not exactly eating crow, since I stand by my right to have opinions, sometimes I go too far (okay, usually), and when there's a shift I swing back in the other direction and get outright penitent.

All of which is a long way of saying: Welcome back, Mavs. I know you lost that game, to a Rockets team that, despite a T-Mac who looked some combination of hurt, old, bothered by Artest, or morphing into a true point forward, had CONTENDER written all over them. You could feel Artest's presence throughout the game, mostly in the way that the undersized PF corps suddenly seemed like a movement, an undercurrent of grit and determination that really buoyed the more courtly Yao and McGrady. That's where he seemed to fit in best, not as a member of a mythical Big Three. And he was piling up points, some smart, some stupid, but never so crazy that he threw off the team's rhythm—and that was before he effectively took over the game when it needed sealing. In this respect, almost like a second T-Mac.

Still, what got me most thrilled about that game the Mavs. I know, I know, all I care about is running and flexibility. But after having spent so much time irritated by Avery's attempt to Spurs-ify Dallas, and after this summer, badly wanting to see Howard make a statement, when that team had it going I felt like I was turning up an old favorite that had previously been buried. Dirk went inside some, and yet also felt free to launch off from anywhere. The main thing was that he was fluid, not forced or strained. I may not love Jason Kidd, but in Carlisle's offense—yes, a ton of credit is due there—when he sets people up, it's for them to make a move, prove their worth, keep the game in motion. He looks happier, they look happier, and honestly, again Nowitzki can frighten you with his sheer strangeness.

And then there was Howard. Night and day from the disastrous end to last season. He got to handle the ball to get in rhythm, sometimes even bringing it up the court. He was daring but not careless, believing in his elastic, bounding moves in a way he just didn't seem to last spring. Like Dirk, nothing was forced, and yet there was an edge of danger and imagination that made you realize that this team wasn't going to be predicable, or conservative. This team is good enough to run, and resolve what might initially look crazy or out of control into a smart decision. Contrast that with the New Knicks, who at their best last night needed to think first about being smart, then gamble a little.

I'm pretty sure that Houston has the capacity to be more of a defensive force; Dallas, who knows. But for my twisted purposes, welcome back, guys.

BONUS: Steinz does a Q&A with yours truly, commenters revolt.

-Part one of "Draft Daze," a Dallas Penn-approve short about one man and his hoops dream.

-If you haven't already, check the new shirts. They will upend you.

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At 10/31/2008 1:48 PM, Blogger americanmidwestsamurai said...


While Howard’s offensive aggressiveness was encouraging, the Mavs didn’t give me much reason to get excited. Dirk was quietly brilliant for 3 quarters and as usual disappeared in the 4th(After the GS series he just seems to have lost his touch with his basketball spirituality).

Their double teams on Yao seemed lethargic and half-hearted—I don’t know. They just don’t strike me as a team ready to make yet another transformation. I think the reality is, the rest of the west got too good, too quickly and the Dallas-Phoenix mini-era is no longer.

The most fascinating story to emerge I thought was Aaron Brooks—poised to become the new Rodney Stuckey. Dude is ultra fast, and he seems to have dramatically improved his playmaking ability. Rod Strickland without the head games?

At 10/31/2008 1:58 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Exactly. The Rockets impressed me as a team built for and up to winning a title. The Mavs just offered me some personal relief from being denied some of my favorite basketball forces. They're totally watch-able now, and hopefully the more meaningful improvement will follow. Now people can start talking about Rick Carlisle and Terry Stotts.

At 10/31/2008 2:19 PM, Blogger Quantavius Sturdivant said...

Every time I read comments on FreeDarko related things on other blogs (such as yesterday's deadspin shout out for the book), it reinforces why this one is my favorite. Not to come across like some elitist liberal Obama buzzword, just saying.

At 10/31/2008 2:37 PM, Blogger floppy socks said...

shoals, if you're out there, i'm interested in your (or any of the FD cavalry) response to a question of mine. with your book out, you've subjected the FD mindset to more "maintstream" channels. The most interesting of which has been the critical approach to the book. I've read a couple reviews. One of the more common themes that has arisen is describing your style as "incomprehensible" or "over my head".

I guess my question presents itself in two parts. I'm curious if your writing style for FD was a conscious decision; a sort of parallel to your approach to the appreciation of the game. Style in and of itself as well as a means to an end. Secondly, do you take these claims of "incomprehensible" or "cerebral" as positive or negative critiques?

Been a long-time fan of you guys as your outlook mirrors how I've consumed the game of basketball for as long as I can remember. Good luck with the book, if the internet is still working, my copy should be in the mail.

At 10/31/2008 3:01 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

The writing on here does have a certain style-for-its-own-sake element to it, one that I'll admit, can sometimes get in the way of our points (which rarely are along those lines anymore). That's part of why I think we've toned it down over the years. "Cerebral" is good, "incomprehensible" is often coming from people I know who have internet personas of their own to protect.

I can write more clearly, as I do in plenty of other places. I just feel like, if this is where I can extravagantly admit that Anthony Randolph is why I'll tune in for a Warriors game, I also might as well write in a pretentious, slightly crazy way because, both emotionally and intellectually, that's the equivalent of watching the Warriors only for Randolph.

At 10/31/2008 3:49 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

Dirk was quietly brilliant for 3 quarters and as usual disappeared in the 4th

BS. I can pull 20 examples off the top of my head of him coming through in the clutch. He's not a Kobe-level closer by any means, and Golden State will unfortunately be his epitaph unless the Mavs somehow win a title, but his anti-clutch pedigree is greatly exaggerated. Ask Jerry Sloan and Deron Williams if they think he's clutch or not.

Dallas is barely a playoff team, much less an elite contender anymore. As a Mavs fan, the only hope is that the economic crisis is going to force some of the more troubled franchises to dump salary. The Lakers weren't relevant until they made the Gasol trade. Nobody was talking about them at this time last year except for Kobe's trade demands. My only hope for this season is that the Mavs can stay within striking distance of the better teams and get a good player in a salary dump.

At 10/31/2008 4:51 PM, Blogger jbz said...

1) The Amare sledgehammer shirt does upend me; my old lady better come through on xmas morning.

2) You guys need to show a little love, though, to the older shirts. I was hoping the old lady could also get me the "es la pata del diablo" shirt, but I can't wear small or girls large...

3) I just got done defending you, a little at least, over at the D.C. sports bog. People need to recognize that FD's writing style (which usually comes off well, and for a blog is exemplary) is just that, a style. If you don't dig the style, read something else. But don't mistake your own aesthetic sensibilities for objective standards of judgement.

At 10/31/2008 6:02 PM, Blogger goathair said...

Totally agree with everything in here. That was the first time in 2 years I haven't hated a Dallas game, even if Dirk looked hella awkward in the post.

At 10/31/2008 6:34 PM, Blogger Kaifa said...

As far as write-ups about a team's style goes, I thought this Ludden column about the Suns touched on some good points, especially with the Raja Bell quotes.


Can't we somehow get Dirk on Don Nelson's Warriors for Harrington and spare parts? Back with his own NBA father figure and finding his essence again in front of the people helped to break him in the first place.

At 11/01/2008 5:46 AM, Blogger Kareem said...

Tonight, the Blazers pushed off a troubled Spurs squad. As dominant a decade Duncan has had, the new look for him does find him looking older and almost lost. Parker too seemed a step behind himself. I know its easy to jump down the throat of an 0-2 start, just as it is easy to jump off the Blazers bandwagon, but is there a chance the silver and black won't make it back to the post-season. If they split the remaining games without Manu, ending up around 14-11, might they fall too far behind? As a Laker fan at heart, I have a chewing inferiority complex that Timmy's managed to topple; yet I can feel for the guy, who's approached the game as working class hero as it gets. R.I.P?

At 11/01/2008 2:32 PM, Blogger Quantavius Sturdivant said...

I don't know if this really counts as a Spurs death knell. Despite the fact that they usually don't really heat up until February and they did spend most of the night playing catch up, If Finley had made the basket they would have gotten the W. If anything, I feel like that game was a great opportunity for Portland to show it's strengths. Aldridge, Frye, Roy, Fernandez - so many guys look great at different times. It's basically like a whole team of guys coming into their own at once.

Do you think Popovich's beard makes him more likable?

At 11/01/2008 3:36 PM, Blogger tray said...

See, I would note that Avery's Spurification of the Mavs coincided with their becoming a real contender and getting the Finals stolen from them by a team that's subsequently been proven to suck (though yeah, it also coincided with a disastrous first-round loss). Spurification = always a good thing.

At 11/01/2008 6:38 PM, Blogger growfauxfinns said...

I think the Rockets are going to be a lot more watchable this year and not just because of Artest, the way they're deep and duplicated is surely not just appealing to me only.
"The big 3" in their case is not just Tmac, Yao, & Ron, it's the dyad of Tmac & Yao, Ron, plus what in the mid 4th quarter must seem like an endless line of 6'6"-6'9" quality defenders running at you (Shane, Chuck, Carl, Luis)

Is Open ID broken for anyone else on this site right now? It's failed two comments in a row for me now (it's not what I'm using now obviously).
Firefox 3.0.3, btw.

At 11/02/2008 11:08 AM, Blogger Ritchie said...

Are you feeling any differently about the draft three games into the Derrick Rose era? I doubt I have to elaborate on how FD it is to be a point guard who can elevate for a two handed dunk in traffic. And what about being the man who feeds Tyrus Thomas the majority of his alley oops this year? It was impressive how Beasley made Rose look like a boring top pick (perhaps more accurately: how Beasley and Rose collaborated on making Rose look like a boring top pick). And you pursued the right storyline over the summer, but like Obama gliding into White House Rose joining the Bulls is not just what feels like the correct course of history, it also feels like the correct course of style.

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