12.22.2008

Hole or Pile



First off, Ziller has suggested that Thunder/Grizz is the new Bobcats/Hawks, and I'm inclined to agree. I feel like a turncoat for saying this, but as Dr. LIC noted a few weeks back, the Thunder are rad and lose a ton of games. Perfect! And they're about the most god-foresaken outpost of NBA basketball available. The game with Cleveland yesterday was bound to end as it did, but certainly felt like a battle. Westbrook's the wild card, Durant the edgy craftsman, Jeff Green has become Jeff Green. Combine those with a high pick, and Presti might not built another Spurs, but a team with serious mind control powers. Now let's see what he does with a coach, or when Ibaka comes over.

And now, to address something fairly stupid from the comments section, or to wit, something I should've brought up a while ago. In case you hadn't heard, Gerald Wallace lost his faher and grandfather in the last two weeks, and has been caught up in a whirlwind of grieving, driving around the Deep South to attend funerals, missing a few games, and surfacing periodically to absolutely destroy whoever happens to be playing the Bobcats that night. This was contrasted with Josh Howard's collapse, which some have attributed in part to a death in the family. The implication being, in fairly typical sports terms, that Wallace was a man and Howard a fragile piece of cunt. You could also argue that McGrady's personal history, while more dire than Howard's, also fails to display this same stoicism, or ability to use tragedy as motivation. In fact, working against the likes of McGrady and Howard is the cliche, discussed in the book, of sport-as-salvation or escape.



I still believe what I put down in print about how hard it is to separate T-Mac's on-court woes from what's he dealt with away from it, to the point that he seems haunted everywhere. But this isn't some third option, after Wallace's play (either clinging to normalcy, comfort, or taking out the pain on someone) or Howard's inability to deal. I think it's pretty obvious that, just as each death brings with it a completely unique range of emotions—based on the timing, the relationship with the deceased, and the personality of the survivor—the way athletes view sports in times of crisis is just as varied. I know that, the more times "sports" figure in a sentence, the more we expected pre-programmed, cliched, or robotic. Sports is there, and the closer one gets to it, the more he's forced to get in line and choose from a handful of time-honored storylines. Really though, given the range of emotions that go into playing a game, and how much those vary from person to person, why would that element of the equation be any more stable than the loss of a loved one?

If you think basketball is just another job, then fine. Players can either take time away, return immediately and feel better for it, or be noticeably off for months. Or we can see each of these very human instances as a chance to learn something not only about how these people deal with death, but also how they view the game. To be sure, it's a complex, sometimes contradictory, interaction. But it's far more honest than pretending that everyone feels the same way about basketball, a job that inspires great high and lows, deals in huge swaths of stress and release, and couldn't possibly inspire a set number of reactions—especially when intertwined with something as personal as death.

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17 Comments:

At 12/22/2008 3:19 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

Look, I don't know what Josh Howard's deal is. As a human being, I hope he gets the help that he needs and ends up with some peace of mind. As a Mavs fan, it is beyond infuriating that this guy is getting $9 million a year or whatever it is, and he turns in a performance of 0 rebounds, 0 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks and 2 turnovers. That's not his game. If you're suiting up, that's an acknowledgment that you're ready to play. Dallas isn't anywhere near the team that they've been in the recent past, but Josh playing his best would greatly improve the team to that second tier currently occupied by Denver, Portland, Utah and New Orleans.

I really don't know what is responsible for his shitty play, and looking in the direction of a death in the family is just uninformed speculation on my or anybody's part. It's just shorthand at this point for what is blindingly obvious to anybody that has watched him play in the last 10 months - for whatever reason, he will not and cannot play up to the level that he's established in the past. I'm willing to believe that it's a matter of will. And that's hard to forgive.

What have the Mavericks as a franchise failed to do for him, other than shoving Dirk aside and making him the #1 option? He's not that good. They've coddled and made excuses for him laying down on the job for a good 10 months now. He gets paid millions to care.

 
At 12/22/2008 5:07 PM, Blogger Quantavius Sturdivant said...

when did howard turn in that statline? i don't see it on his game log, just curious.

i haven't really seen a lot of the mavs this year so i'm not sure how bad josh howard has looked, but isn't the kidd-for-harris trade a much bigger reason why dallas isn't in that second tier? suns and pistons fans share your pain. name players of the late 90's are not panning out.

moving on, ziller's thunder article was more interesting than anything mavs related. at texas, durant made college basketball worth watching on a level that few others could approach. i was excited to see him in the pros and, despite getting carlisemo'd and earl watson'd for a good portion of the season, showed some flashes of greatness. scott brooks might be one of the best things that happens to that team. getting a big man who isn't a stiff would be pretty good too.

sometimes it seems like sam presti has a plan, other times not so much...i'm interested to see how westbrook/durant/green pans out.

 
At 12/22/2008 5:11 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

Howard turned that in last night against Washington. And yes, the Kidd for Harris trade is going to be the NBA's version of the Herschel Walker swap, but the Mavs still have enough talent on paper to be better. Kidd is not as good as Harris, but he's played well this year. If you replaced 2008 Josh with 2006 Josh, I think Dallas would be a top five team in the West, instead of fighting for the honor of getting curbstomped by the Lakers. Josh at his best is that good.

As for Durant, I just hope he has the good sense to get the fuck out of Methlahoma City when his rookie contract is up. There is some bad karma associated with that franchise.

 
At 12/22/2008 5:45 PM, Blogger ethan said...

zeke,

I don't really understand this anger that you feel towards Howard. The dude is cashing checks from Cuban, not any of us, and he is hardly the first guy who hasn't delivered on his contract. If his family troubles are the reason for his struggling, I don't see how it's relevant that other players have played through it. Not everyone responds to personal tragedy in the same way; I don't see the need the demonize the people who have trouble moving past it.

I like how you are willing to use uninformed speculation to rip the guy while simultaneously hoping that "he gets the help that he needs".

Also, he is coming off of various injury woes and many guys struggle to come back full tilt.

 
At 12/22/2008 5:55 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

How is it a contradiction to criticize his on-court performance, while not wishing ill on him in his personal life? I have no desire to see him wallow in misery. We really don't know for sure what is behind his drop-off and regression, anyways. It's just assumed at this point that his grief over his grandma is fueling his bad play, when it could be complicated locker-room politics, a loss of enthusiasm with Devin in New Jersey, or something else. Who knows?

So to get other points out of the way, I'm a Mavericks fan, not a liberated fan. I've read the site enough to know what a liberated fan is, so I don't need a primer. From the perspective of a fan of a team, if I pay good money to go to the games and buy merchandise, which I've done a lot of, and the players themselves for the past 4 years have openly spoken of their goal of winning a championship, not merely winning a playoff series or being competitive, then yes I feel a bit of anger at Howard for not doing his part, when he has contributed to that "We want to win a title" rhetoric. In a literal sense, Howard doesn't owe me a damn thing, but that's the thing about sports. Like pets, you think you can make an investment in them without consequences.

 
At 12/22/2008 8:17 PM, Blogger mc said...

i know i'm late to the party, and i haven't gotten the book yet, but why exactly is mcgrady so (off the court) haunted? is toronto that nice of a city?

 
At 12/22/2008 10:21 PM, OpenID tredecimal said...

@mc- Tmac's had a lot of deaths close to home come in fairly close succession. Macrophenomenal mentions it and also his love of sleep, but for some reason never tied the two together. As Billy Crystal could tell you, the good thing about depression is you get your rest.

wv: doxylike- i can't work with that, it's too much like a real word

 
At 12/23/2008 6:53 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

Really think the difference between howard and gerald comes down to their offensive skill sets, which both are undeniably vague. How exactly did howard score in 06? Getting to the rim? Free throws? mid range jumpers? He's good at it all but not great at any one area, and he's not a freak athlete/ leaper. He gets by with the aforementioned 'hustle' and 'savvy' on offense, knowing his spots, picking his shots, playing off dirk etc etc. At least that's the impression I got before. Haven't watched much of him since this year's 'slump' ...
So when forced to play through adversity, maybe he doesn't really have any fall-back talents to just use in a go-to fashion, whereas gerald is also vague in what he's good at on offense, but instead of having it based on ephermeal qualities like 'savvy' his game is based on superhuman athleticism and being able to explode the fuck out of the gym. So even on tough nights, (this is where I feel like I'm stretching a bit...but bear with me) it might be easier for a freak athlete to fall back on his talents and find ways to contribute and score through sheer explosiveness rather than someone like howard, who isn't a great spot up shooter or gerald-esqe athlete... when he gets lost in the offense (or lost in life) his game suffers comparatively.


My 2 cents, feel free to tear it apart as such.

 
At 12/23/2008 10:00 AM, Blogger El Presidente said...

"the NBA's version of the Herschel Walker swap, but the Mavs still have enough talent on paper to be better"

Either you don't know the true ramifications of the Herschel Walker trade (which is surprising with your being a Dallas fan) or you're an idiot with no skill of comparison.

 
At 12/23/2008 10:28 AM, Blogger StreakShooter McFloorburn said...

I have no first-hand impressions of Howard's play this season, but one bad line aside, his only serious statistical sin this season is lack of games played. His numbers are all close to his career averages, so what's the problem? It seems wrong to judge him on such a small sample of work. From the perspective of fairly recent history, it seemed like Josh and Marquis Daniels were similar, almost interchangeable players when they were coming up with the Mavs, but I got the impression that the team let Daniels go because his character and talent (and size) were not as great as Howard's. Daniels is having a pretty good year, but I don't think anyone in Dallas would trade them for one another, right?

 
At 12/23/2008 11:15 AM, Blogger Zeke said...

"Either you don't know the true ramifications of the Herschel Walker trade (which is surprising with your being a Dallas fan) or you're an idiot with no skill of comparison.

I don't understand the true ramifications of the Herschel Walker trade? So I don't understand that it wasn't just Kidd for Harris, that they also threw in two first-round picks, one of which could be a lottery pick in 2010 and is completely unprotected? So therefore the onus is on them to remain a playoff-level team to keep the deal from getting worse. I don't understand that Harris was a 25-year-old PG that had just signed an extension and is locked up for several years at a bargain price? I don't understand that the Mavericks also essentially traded away this year's MLE in order to bring back Diop? I don't understand that the Mavericks are already so far over the cap that when Kidd signs with Cleveland or the Lakers this summer for the MLE, the Mavs won't even get any salary cap relief when his cap number comes off the books? I don't understand that after letting Nash walk and developing Harris, they threw away their long-term solution at PG, two first-round picks, this year's MLE and a boatload of cash for essentially a year and a half of mediocre basketball?

Even with all of that, a core of Dirk, Kidd, Terry and a fully committed Josh should be able to make the playoffs and possibly even win a series. A core of Dirk, Kidd, Terry and a lazy, unmotivated Josh is going to struggle to get that eighth seed.

I think you should be careful resorting to the ad hominem, especially since it's obvious that your arrogance is completely unwarranted. Get the fuck over yourself.

 
At 12/23/2008 11:36 AM, Blogger Zeke said...

"His numbers are all close to his career averages, so what's the problem?"

Josh established himself as a slasher type that scored without plays being run for him, being a very good on the ball defender, and demonstrating the same kind of versatility and all-around game similar to Tayshuan Prince. What he does now is just hang back on the perimeter and just chuck up jumpers. He's also a first half only player. He typically gets 16 and 6 of his 20 and 8 before halftime. It's funny that Dirk gets roasted for his well-documented failures in the clutch when Josh ALWAYS vanishes after halftime.

"It seems wrong to judge him on such a small sample of work."

Josh was playing so well a year ago that the "Is it Dirk or Josh's team?" arguments began cropping off. In the past 10 months, he's played the absolute worst ball of his career, while exhibiting extremely poor judgment off the court. I don't care about the pot smoking, because I smoke pot. I don't care about the national anthem diss because I'm not patriotic. What I do care about is going on the radio to talk about smoking pot during a playoff series, or passing out flyers to your birthday party after losing at home to New Orleans in the playoffs.

"From the perspective of fairly recent history, it seemed like Josh and Marquis Daniels were similar, almost interchangeable players when they were coming up with the Mavs, but I got the impression that the team let Daniels go because his character and talent (and size) were not as great as Howard's. Daniels is having a pretty good year, but I don't think anyone in Dallas would trade them for one another, right?"

I would absolutely trade Josh for Marquis right now. Not because I think Daniels is remotely near as good a player as Josh is, because as soon as the Mavs move him, we'll see him resume his Scottie Pippen impression, but because Marquis Daniels is much better than the Vince Carter routine Josh is pulling. It's not a surprise or an accident that the Mavs are 9-2 this year when he doesn't play and 5-9 when he does. The offense is actually fluid when he's out, since he's become a ballstopper.

 
At 12/23/2008 6:18 PM, Blogger El Presidente said...

Way to kill a thread Zeke. Again.

Let me know when New Jersey becomes a dynastic franchise with multiple titles in a few short years...

...Or maybe your comparison WAS reaching. Idiot.

 
At 12/23/2008 10:15 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

The Vikings paid 175 cents on the dollar for Walker in the hopes that he'd be the missing piece to a championship, just like the Mavericks did for Kidd. The Nets don't have to win three titles in four years for the comparison to be apt. Similar to the Cowboys, they've already got a terrific foundation in place as a result of the trade. Nowhere did I say that I expect them to become a dynasty.

Maybe you need to split the prozacs in half. Fuckbag.

 
At 12/25/2008 12:36 AM, Blogger Michael said...

Mark me as late to the party, too, and apparently after all the mo's died, but I have to say that I can't believe we're talking about Howard and Wallace in their on-court/off-court personas without bringing in Odom. He's the utter completion of that troika.

 
At 12/26/2008 2:57 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

What's idiotic is the idea that the Walker trade turned the Cowboys into a dynasty. They already had Aikman, Irvin and Jimmy Johnson when the trade was completed, and the Vikings didn't even send them the pick that turned into Emmitt Smith; the Cowboys had to trade up in the draft to get him when he began to slip. That trade netted them several starters and greatly aided the process of them becoming a dynasty, but I would say it's idiotic to call it the trade that put them over the top.

 
At 12/29/2008 6:03 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

Yesterday's game (29 points on 10-20 shooting) should put to bed the idea that Josh is suffering from lingering injuries or some sort of grief. Yeah, it was the Clippers, but he also grabbed 9 boards and dished out 7 assists. He did this last year too when Dirk went out with a high ankle sprain, putting up 30 point games like it was nothing and playing great.

Josh has a "me" and "I" problem, not a heartbroke over his grandma problem or a banged up body problem. I guess he'd be happier being the #1 option on a 40-win team than being a #2 option on a 50-win team.

 

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