All the Wheels of Destiny

First, matters of business:

-Review in today's Play. I refrained from typing that in all caps.

-I don't think we promoted David Wingo's "Macrophenomenal Anthem" enough yet. So listen!

-For whatever reason, the book is temporarily no longer available on Amazon. But there are other options! (UPDATE: Appears to be back.)

Last night was about as rad an evening of basketball as I could mortally hope for. Despite the endless vistas opened up by League Pass, I still try to stick to one game, beginning to end, and usually only one per night. That's about all my brain can stand—I am that super-sensitive, and that easily distracted. But yesterday, I managed to successfully flip back and forth between Hawks/Sixers (which I broke off an Obama volunteer shift to catch) and Heat/Bobcats. And then finish it all off with the last quarter of Bulls/Grizzlies. It was somewhere between the channel-surfing that some are capable of using League Pass for, and seeing it as a chance to create an alternative network slate.

Believe it or not—more me pinching myself than preaching to the converted of this site—I anticipated Hawks/Sixers like it was a "real" game. The Hawks are on the verge of being taken seriously, while I thought Philly's second-half self-discovery in 2007-08 was pretty crude. Brand makes them better, no doubt, but do they inspire fear, or will they be continuing to find their way, both with their new superstar and a strategic approach that needed some fine-tuning. Not to get all recap-y here, but I think Thaddeus Young might be the key to this team's coherency. One more bit of hyperbole: He's what they wish Iguodala could bring to that attack offensively, shooting well and attacking the basket with ranginess and control. Oh and also, he might also be what a lot of us still hope the Hawks got in Marvin, or at least a slimmer version. And this is a cliche for PF's, but Brand is definitely trimmer, and capable of running.

The Hawks, on their end, were a total wreck, not in the least because Smith looked lost and Johnson didn't get off immediately. Twenty-three point deficit at one point. But then—in no particular order—Josh started causing mayhem, which in turn frees him to make threes like they're not forced, and Johnson snuck in there and started hitting shot and after shot. The engine for the Hawks success is pretty simple: Smith has to get himself going, almost internally, by kindling that fire of non-methodical insanity in him that's keyed off by a steal/dunk combo, or something equally outliandish. It's like he's got his own inner crowd to appeal to. At this point, though, that's what it takes to get him in some sort of groove, albeit one that resembles a rash of bad decisions and impetutous leaps. The difference is, he's got that zone where they aren't forced, where the risks and illogical "huh?" moments are actually his natural rhythm. The problems start when you see him try and follow the kind of script a coach can read to you. Frustrating, I'm sure, but he's a player who needs to erupt in the worst way to matter.

Johnson, on the other hand, sneaks up on you. That's no surprise. But it's also striking how much the Hawks' momentum—incidentally, they ended up coming back and winning this one—is tied up in the Smith/Johnson dynamic. They feed off of each other, but it's not clear if Johnson steps in only when Smith fails utterly, or sneaks in when he see Smith getting off a little, and providing some cover (and needing counter-balance?). I dare say that, whether in success or failure, Smith is the catalyst, but that Johnson is far more reliable, coming through when Smith has either bottomed out or started to really freak out. We can debate the fine points of this, but there's some new kind of metaphysical inside-out game going here. Chaos/order, or something, in both concert and competition. The funny thing is that, by the end, you get them starting to converge. Johnson's looking more and more like someone with twelve sneaker deals, while Smith's settled down a little, deferring to JJ, and exists within some known structure.

Bobcats/Heat wasn't competitive, but represented the revenge of a few key points. Gerald Wallace was the Gerald Wallace of old, absolutely indomitable and yet throwing himself around like the lowliest role player of them all. A joy to watch. And what's more, I'm beginning to think he won't end up in LB's doghouse much. He plays hard, makes that extra effort, fights to get into the paint for buckets, and now has a fairly effective outside shot that he deploys with some prudence. That's the Right Way updated for today's modern audience. That team still has troubles, not in the least the fact that few players are as uniquely suited to this synthesis as Wallace. I also find it weird that GW defers to Richardson as the number one option. So best case scenario, the rest of the team struggles to make Brown happy, wins games with defense, and Wallace blazes away the whole time much to our heart's content.

I simply cannot take my eyes off this Heat team, and not just beacuse I picked Beasley too high in our fantasy draft (no Simmons—that was full disclosure). Dr. LIC described them as "scallywags," and while I don't quite know what that means, it captures some of the danger, strangeness, pathos, and stuck-on-a-boat-dying-of-scurvy-but-still-playing-dress-up quality of the team. I know some of you will accuse me of being a faggot for saying this, but Wade has lost all of that robotic quality I once so hated about him. It's not just that he's aggressive, almost recklessn at times—he really plays with feeling, like the whole thing's taken personally. You can tell it by the times he goes out of his way to make a statement dunk. Sometimes he's toying with the opposition, sometimes he's just managing his own emotional equilibrium in the hull of a lost cause. But if there were some kind of index that tracked—pardon my extremely un-PC nomenclature— "soul," in the "some have it, some don't" usage that's more refined and basic than evoking afros and slang—he's passed LeBron at this point. Maybe "soulfulness" is better.

I have no idea what's going on with Marion, who half the time seems intent on feigning decline, or a kind of confusion we rarely saw from him in Phoenix. Chalmers + Wade = solid, and I wish they'd euthanize Marcus Banks. Sometimes this team feels like you're watching something dramatically new, and others, it feels so bootleg, so corrosively silly, that you'd best turn away before you use lose all perspective all the game. Like the glorious 2006-07 Warriors without the undeniable fireworks.

The real draw for me, though, is Beasley. After that crappy opener, he's turning into a frightfully efficient scorer, living off a combination of mid-range jumpers and strong moves to the hoop that usually involve some added element of finesse or smooth body control. It's almost like he took the "Beastley" game of K-State and shut off the NBA switch. What's startling about him isn't how easily he gets inside, or how hard it is for defenders to anticipate whether he's going hard or soft, but just how much better his judgement seems game-by-game. Still not much more than a scorer who grabs a few boards, and Amare-like, blocks some shots just by being himself. But he's deathly effective at what he does, and I've got to say, at this point looks a hell of a lot better than Durant did this early. And Durant was the messiah. Not to sound like a one-note pony, but I could see Beasley emerge as the kid cousin of today's more versatile, advanced Stoudemire, but with even better people skills. What I wonder is just how much he's changed his game, versus his college narrative of arrogance and egotism falling away.

Which brings me to Derrick Rose, as Ritchie had already suggested I do before I got daylight savings time straightened out and got out of bed to check the computer. Point guards are the new centers, Rose is undeniably for real, and has instantly made Luol Deng whole and Tyrus Thomas not a youthful mistake we have to keep apologizing for. But what fascinates me is how, while Beasley seems to play a less "NBA" game than he did in college, perhaps out of necessity, Rose somehow made a quantum leap to seasoned, splashy pro point guard without barely thinking about it.

That's assuming a lot, but I definitely get the sense that, while Beasley is going the extra mile to show he's not a profligate or time-bomb, as witnessed from game-to-game, Rose just showed up, surveyed his surroundings, and uncorked a whole new dimension to his game. Granted, I didn't watch a ton of Memphis, but I do know that with the Bulls, from second-to-second Rose feels like a top-shelf, in-command, ultra-creative PG—as Dr. LIC hyperbolically put it, a cross between Paul and Williams. Beasley's toned down his game and affect (the threes have disappeared fast) to prove to the NBA he respected it; Rose sees the opportunity to step up and assert himself, since he's in the optimal position to join an elite class.

Rose coming to Chicago isn't quite, as Ritchie suggested, on part with Obama coming to D.C. Sorry. I also don't think that the Bulls have a coherent enough rotation to really make the most of his presence. Look at how carefully constructed New Orleans is, or how the Jazz made a leap last year just by adding Kyle Korver. And I do think that, even if we had gotten to see Oden/Durant unfold, it looks like it would have been a little underwhelming, especially as each would've been deficient at the other's primary end of the court. Rose and Beasley aren't comparable, since Rose is franchise material, whereas Beasley looks to be a force you then have to match an infrastructure to. But if this first week is any indication, two of the raddest players to watch in the league are last summer's 1/2 picks, who are tremendous to watch right now, and whose growth will decide exactly what happens with their imperfect/idiosyncratic teams. Show me a more tantalizing season-long storyline and I'll quit this business right away.

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At 11/02/2008 3:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey yo kids - whatup
Remember when I used to be dope
Owned a pocket full of fame
But look what you doing now
I know...Well I know
I lost touch with reality
Now my personality is an unwanted commodity
Can't believe I used to be Mr. Steve Austin on the mic
6 million ways I used to run it
I guess Oscar Goldman got mad
Cause I got loose circuits, so loose
I seen the mother goose with the eggs that seem to be Fallin Fallin Fallin
You played yourself

He yo pack my bags cause I'm out of here
My mama don't love me and my mama don't care
Read the papers the headlines say
Washed up rapper got a song, rock on
Lingo's bustin' while the guitar swings
B-side copies for the radio plays (or something)
I knew I blew the whole fandango
When the drum crew never wore a kango
Never could be like fake, fish won't bite bait
Realize that i'm over like clover
No good lucking so Maze hit the fu**ing beat
While the teenage fans are here
I bring it to the blues, paid all my dues
So what's gone dead let me use my forhead
Easy pack it up man, let me stop stalling
Cause everything I do is like Falling

At 11/02/2008 4:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That ish was on the soundtrack of Trespass. I love that joint.

De La.

Due to budget restraints this year I will only make 2
Celtics games...one to see the Blazers and the other to catch the Hawks.

JJ plus they earn extra points for giving Flip Murray PT.

in other league news Danny Granger lite it up last night...next game the dude sports Obama warmups and Indiana falls in line.

Tick Tock til Tuesday.

At 11/02/2008 4:28 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Hey I gotta start it
MCs be carted off
ya soft
Dinosaur Jr. will flood that's gotta warn ya
what in blazes
hey this is phat
weigh this
I'll portray this
photographs so the last laugh
is mine you're behind
for the mind and for the soul
that's how I roll
now I hold
the mic with my life
depended on it
I'm doin' ya bond it
my non gets warts it
and I'm apart from wackness
I'm separated
did you like how I spiked the ball
despite ya all
you could come bite a small portion
there's more in the vault
halt, have a malt
I alta your brain patterens
yet it's my fault
I sustain phatter blends
of words heard, stampede
damn he the speech with two teach?
"Just me, no simile, never flow simpily, cause it was meant to be, the
truth, the truth, and nothing but the truth, I tell it to the youth,
propelling with the proof, in the puddin', wouldn't you like to know?
Oh, no you didn't, my flows never quittin', and that's the truth, the
mothephfuckin' truth my man."
I'm on the scrimmage
waitin' for you phucking imitations
and I'm not descriminating
myself, when I'm making my wealth
pure facts
it's hard for me to endure wack MCs
I lay my tracks with ease
I'm tellin' you that Del is truth
appelin' through your arteries
you scar your knees
bowing, praising, now when I phase in
like Kitty Pride
city wide
confer to kick the rumor
him admit he lies
the truth will set you free
when I upset MCs
execute MCs
I do my best to mute MCs
all it takes is intelligence
I'm great with embellishments
they need a savior
so Del is sent...
"Yeah, the truth, the truth, the nothing but the truth, I tell it to
the youth, propelling with the proof, in the puudin', wouldn't you
like to know?, Oh, no you didn't, my flow is never quittin', and
that's the truth, the motherphucking truth my man, the truth, the
motherphucking truth, I'll punch you in your tooth, ass drop the roof,
You know my attributes
so don't act cute
it's moot
a closed casket
the most massive
fluff, just me
no simile
never flow simpily
cause it was meant to be
never concluded
sever your crew with
microlazer surgery,
I get Adam split up like atoms like the Molecule Man
now all of you stand
like a congregation
on the basement titric
not carin' sharin'
tearin' Jones here in clones
wearin' bones
skeletons, your plasma is like gelatin
and tell a friend
who's developin'
cause Del's intelligent...
"Yeah, my lyrical technique, will make ya body freak, my lyrical
technique, will make ya body tweak, my lyrical technique, will make
ya body seek, the beaning, double-teaming, on your motherphuckin'
brain. Yeah, see that hoe, too, yeah, bitch phuck it...slammin'."

At 11/02/2008 6:09 PM, Blogger jawaan oldham said...

Good to see you in good spirits, sir.

At 11/02/2008 7:18 PM, Blogger FunWithLogic said...

"Rose and Beasley aren't comparable, since Rose is franchise material, whereas Beasley looks to be a force you then have to match an infrastructure to."

I think that this is a very interesting articulation of the two types and it would be great to hear it flushed out a little more in relation to other players. Do you mean that Beasley is the kind of player who bums around to different teams trying to find "that fit," such as Sheed, C-Webb, and, depending on the definition, Nash and T-Mac? whereas players will gravitate to Rose and he will be the institution other players actively seek, such as Bryant, Wade, Paul, and maybe James and Garnett?

At 11/02/2008 8:00 PM, Blogger tray said...

Well, though I seem to hate everything that goes along with Freedarkoism (like those despicable run-and-gun 06-07 Warriors), I can agree as a Sixers fan that Thad is the future. Whereas Iguodala... ugh. I really feel he would've made a better wide receiver than a shooting guard. My only fear with Thad - well I have a couple fears. One is that he'll never become a great scorer because he can't really create his own shot so well - all he can really do off the dribble at the moment are these goofy slow motion out-of-control spinning drives - and the other is that he's way too nice to succeed. I haven't seen such a manifestly polite guy in the league in a long time. It's beyond Yao, it's Ervin Johnson (that old Bucks backup center Ervin Johnson) levels of politeness.

At 11/02/2008 8:11 PM, Blogger tray said...

Oh, but I should say, we're way closer to being taken seriously than the Hawks. Their bench has nothing besides Pachulia (Flip Murray's crap, those three great weeks a few years back in Seattle notwithstanding), Marvin too often is a nonfactor, Bibby's become a net minus - it's really all on Johnson and Smith. And that isn't enough.

At 11/02/2008 8:39 PM, Blogger The Other Van Gundy said...

Congratulations on the good notice by Play. This post feels like FD's opening night - can we get a six minute long ad for NBA 09 in between paragraphs?

As a Bulls fan, I had some anxiety about taking Rose over Beasley on draft night. Beasley looked pro-ready as a highschool sophomore, I was worried that Rose's game of overpowering quickness and strength would be diminished by the quicker and stronger NBA players. Welp, I was wrong. Watching the Bulls play, I just get angry when anybody but Rose takes a shot.

Chicago sports teams seem fundamentally incapable of scoring points - it goes for Bulls and Bears. Fuck if I know about the Cubs, Sox, or Hawks. Obviously the city's gritty, blue-collar disposition means we're destined to low-scoring smashmouth while the hollywood Lakers pour in 150.

wv - prelerex. Some kind of medication you don't want to have to take.

At 11/02/2008 10:00 PM, Blogger The Filthy Logician said...

I suppose in terms of tantalizing, season-long storylines (worth following), the immanent collapse of the Spurs to teams with names like "Portland" and "Phoenix" would seem to rank near the top. Hell, if they lose to Dallas this week...

At 11/03/2008 12:22 AM, Blogger goathair said...

Derrick Rose is Change We Need.

At 11/03/2008 8:51 AM, Blogger johnny5 said...

Dudes - congrats on that review under the nytimes domain. I needs my book!

At 11/03/2008 12:07 PM, Blogger blake said...

Iverson to Detroit?

oh lord

At 11/03/2008 12:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why Iverson. How does this help the Pistons...minus cash coming off the books. Could Billups be less coachable than Iverson? If McD goes too, what do you get back or who gets his minutes in the post?

Welcome to the Walter Hermann era Detroit.

At 11/03/2008 12:26 PM, Blogger ItTakesAThiefToCatchAThief said...

I gotta disagree in one respect:

Beasley doesn't look like a force. Beasley looks small and out of place. I was saddened when Jared Dudley was bottling him up.

Derrick...Derek?...it's Derrick, right?...anyway, Rose looks like Chris Paul on steroids. Or evolved, with four eyes and seven arms and 8 feet or something.

I didn't think it was gonna look that way in June, but shit I was wrong.


Detroit's in salary cap mode. Stuckey, Hamilton, AI doesn't seem like a backcourt trio that can get it done anymore.

At 11/03/2008 12:34 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Beasley looks like he's trying to play smart, fit in, etc. which can make him look a lot smaller than he was in college (and then there's the obvious nature of that sentence. . . )

Like I said, I was flipping between two games, so I missed whatever Dudley did to him. But having watched large chunks of all his games, he seems to have absolutely no problem getting to the basket and finding a way to get a decent look. Again, it's like Rose is getting more and more bad-ass, while Beasley is easing into some form of respectability.

My take on the Iverson trade. What's so sneaky here is that you think it's player for player, and then realize Dumars also made out like a bandit on the finance front. In a time when people make deals just to get $7 million in cap space, that's pretty fucking unreal.

At 11/03/2008 1:00 PM, Blogger dennisedwardlu said...

How about that Chauncy "Allen" Iverson-Billups?

At 11/03/2008 1:00 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

What's sneaky, my friends, is that this Billups/Iverson trade is the October Surprise we've all been worried about! We all know that McCain pulled out of Michigan, since Obama's lead was insurmountable. Well, in one shrewd move, it is now surmountable.

Michigan's economy is fucked, and the people are bitterly clinging to sports and guns. The Lions are 0-8, and the Michigan Wolverines are 2-7. Winter sports are all that is keeping Michigan's hopes alive. And now you want to break up the Pistons? We're talking about the ultimate country, I mean, team first group of individuals in sports, the "There's no I in team" posterchild. And you're bringing in Allen Iverson, the personification of the me-first, "thug" era of the NBA? I can think of nothing that could upset the voters of Michigan more.

There is no future, and John McCain is dreaming.

At 11/03/2008 1:01 PM, Blogger dennisedwardlu said...

Pretty fucking stupid, Dennis. At least that's what I think.

At 11/03/2008 1:09 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

@dennisedwardlu: WTF?

I'm confused.

At 11/03/2008 1:19 PM, Blogger Kaifa said...

My gut feeling is that AI is going to work great in Detroit after some time of integration. He does fit perfectly with the spirit they have going there. And the slightest chance that him and Sheed could become the anti (or bizarro) Stockton/Malone has me pretty excited. Also, way more Maxiell and Walter Herrmann!

At 11/03/2008 1:58 PM, Blogger FunWithLogic said...

An aside: I wonder if the cap space doubles as an advantage because they anticipate ticket sales diminishing as the auto industry begins to falter. I don't know if they currently sell games out, but I imagine that people will want even more to see this new and improved Piston-product. It's smart on a lot of levels. I hope that they succeed (the team, that is).

At 11/03/2008 2:08 PM, Blogger dennisedwardlu said...

Just wondering what yall thought about the trade. Seems both sides could do better.

I like the Stockton/Malone v. Iverson/Wallace comparison though, about as much as I like the Stuckey/Prince duo of Dashed Promises From a Falsely Ameliorate Management.

At 11/03/2008 2:10 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Try looking at the comment before your comment that confused us all. It included a link to my 500-word immediate reaction on Sporting News. Dr. LIC will weigh in later.

"Both sides could do better". . . yeah, read my thing. I suppose both could've gotten LeBron, Chris Paul, and a nuclear reactor.

At 11/03/2008 2:14 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

Seems to be Detroit will galvanize around AI the same way philly did in 01. Tough, selfless defensive squad built around one elite scorer with a deep bench. It's like the 01 sixers squad but more skilled and with infinitely more SWAG. Seriously, Sheed and AI on the same team? With masked-assasin RIP and STUCKEY? Can you even begin to imagine the intensity? It's gonna make KG and his gang green look like kindergartners.

At 11/03/2008 2:18 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

One more thought: can't wait to hear how AI buys his number 3 from stuckey, who ironically enough probably chose that number because he idolized AI growing up.

At 11/03/2008 2:20 PM, Blogger brian said...

it's funny to worry about someone calling you a faggot but then qualify the use of the word soul as un-pc.

but male fans of the nba are pretty gay anyway. i mean, the players barely wear any clothes and we're always talking about how awesome their bodies are.

At 11/03/2008 2:38 PM, Blogger avery said...

recluse: excellent use of the phrase "my friends"

is dumars trying to cultivate a team of dumars-like players? surely rip, AI, and stuckey all share some of his qualities.

one last thought: w/ sheed and AI filling Amir's head with only God knows what, will the little star continue to just shine or burst into a supernova? That explosion will hopefully be for good and not evil.

At 11/03/2008 3:10 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

WOW. As with all high profile events around AI, I want to believe it will be successful. But I'm not an optimist at heart. So, I fear this too shall end in tears, ash, and broken hearts. On the other hand, Joe D. has wanted Iver Anderson for a long time and seems to be right more than he's wrong.

Perhaps the best part is that I now have an extra reason to try to watch Detroit games. Stuckey, Big Baby Eater, and Sheed have been intriguing, but only so much. AI's presence forces me to make more of an effort to catch Piston games.

And both those tracks are from the Judgment Night soundtrack, not Trespass. That Dino Jr./Del track has always been my favorite. Weird.

At 11/03/2008 4:54 PM, Blogger growfauxfinns said...

i'm surprised no one has mentioned the biggest upside of this trade. in a very real, 20+ more shots a game just freed up sense, this trade has FREED JR.

At 11/03/2008 5:14 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

that's probably one of the reasons I'm not among those saying Denver's a distant second (or third) in this deal. Not that it's entirely rational to let that color my assessment, but this is his time.

At 11/03/2008 5:18 PM, Blogger dennisedwardlu said...

Didn't realize Dumars was orchestrating this as part cap-clearing maneuver. From that point of view its a pretty job well done. Don't know if A.I. and Rip will treasure their playing time together.

At 11/03/2008 6:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, Denver now has CHEIKH SAMB to complete the insane FD foursome of JR, Balkman, Birdman, and Samb. Sad to see AI go, but this means JR starting and becoming one of the top 20 scorers in the league THIS YEAR. And Melo will probably gain his rightful place as #1 scorer in the league, because that's what he is despite his penchant for contested, spinning 16-footers.

Nene will have an even better season than he was going to have also.

At 4/13/2009 1:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...




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