6.27.2008

FreeDrafto #4675: Inner Dialogues



What follows is an abridged version of a conversation that occurred during the draft. You might also be interested in the fruits of Shoals's Deadspin efforts. More important than any of this, though, and possibly changing its entire complexion after the fact: MAYO&CONLEY&RUDY&WARRICK&ARTHUR=THE NEW HAWKS. There was that dream we were after.

Billups: That's some real type-a personality shit Paxson is rocking there. Making sure he's at the head of the table to carve the turkey and shit.
Billups: Heads are siphoning gas for a living; nobody gives a fuck about Stern's digital media initiative.
Billups: I saw Van Gundy today, btw. On 8th ave. My man said the Knicks missed him and he gave a black power salute.

Krolik: I get a Marvin Williams vibe off Derrick Rose
Brown Recluse, Esq.: Like, humble dude, talented, but overrated?
Billups: Or sleeper cell type dude who will activate in his third year?
Krolik: Not a lot of production, but upside and character
Recluse: CDR=Rashad McCants in that analogy

Billups: What do you guys think of Bilas saying B. Lopez is third best on the board?
Krolik: Lopez is terrible. He doesn't shoot short shots or mid-range shots, he's created his own hybrid post/mid-range shot. And his brother is much cooler.
Billups: How is his brother cooler!?
Ty Keenan: Robin's post game is the greatest thing in the world, if you like funny things.

Krolik: Shh...SAS is interviewing Rose
Recluse: I'm getting weird Marbury vibes from this interview....NOT A GOOD SIGN
Krolik: Here's Doris Burke...WITH YA MOM.
Billups: Doris has the Percocet slur. I'm with it.
Recluse: I'm worried the famed Rose quietness is really blankness. Not a good look for a point guard.

Billups: Doris embedded with YA MOMS.
Krolik: I could listen to Stephen A. say "With YA MOM" all day long
Ty Keenan: I hope Beasley autographs Stephen A.'s face



Krolik: Rashad and O.J. would make my year
Billups: Come on McHale. Trade the pick to Ainge for Scalabrine and tickets to Ice-T and Body Count reunion show at the Middle East.
Carter Blanchard: I like that he opted for glasses to look serious.
Billups: That's fucked up. Sad boy por vida.
Carter Blanchard: People with glasses can't be scandalous.
Billups: That beard makes him look like present-day George Gerivn.
Ty Keenan: He's just reinforcing the fact that he's older than everyone else in his class.
Billups: OJ Mayo is in a Power Station tribute band. TWolves in 09.
Carter Blanchard: OJ makes such a conscious effort to use "sir" whenever possible
Recluse: Somewhere P. Diddy is beaming

[The Sonics draft Westbrook]

Ty Keenan: MONRR strikes
Billups: ROB SWIFT WILL DIE ANOTHER DAY
Ty Keenan: He's a good defender and dunks on people
Ty Keenan: This is basically the equivalent of what I thought the Jeff Green pick would be

[Something about Love being related to the Beach Boys]
Billups: Which practically makes him Stamos' brother-in-law, right?

Billups: It's gonna go Apocalyptico if they draft Danilo or Brook. Danilo is gonna be on the run like jaguar paw.
Recluse: When Stern paused, you knew it was on
Ty Keenan: Stern's pause was like the turn in a Petrarchan sonnet
Billups: White knicks fans hate white people
Recluse: That dunk attempt they just showed was so pathetic
Billups: I love how dudes who cover european ball act like they're like the only people to have seen the ocean before.
Billups: HAVE YOU SEEN HIM? WELL THEN YOU CAN'T REALLY TELL ME HE'S NOT GOING TO BE BETTER THAN CHUCK PERSON IN HIS PRIME.
Ty Keenan: This is why I think that all Euro experts need to tell us who they described in the same way

[SAS interviews Danilo Galinari]

Carter Blanchard: Is he shouting more because of the booing or because he thinks foreigners only understand retard-speak?

[Clippers draft Eric Gordon]

Ty Keenan: My dad just came in and said "fatty"
Krolik: Eric Gordon is Julian Wright's bowling ball

Carter Blanchard: Can we talk about the Yi thing a little? I think that's what's been messing with my equilibrium. Is LeBron a Net already?
Ty Keenan: It's a shame they're moving out of Jersey -- he'd be at home with the pollution
Krolik: I would also watch Yi and Jay-Z's reality show
Recluse: What reality show would you not watch, Krolik?
Carter Blanchard: I wouldn't watch a Donnie Walsh show
Recluse: I WOULD



Billups: Jay bilas has a secret Brook Lopez blog

[Dorris Burke interviews Robin Lopez]

Billups: THAT DUDE HAS MAD WEEN BOOTLEGS

[SAS interviews Brook Lopez]

Recluse: Is that really how people in California talk?
Krolik: No
Krolik: Sometimes
Billups: Vince Carter is the loneliest boy in New Jersey
Ty Keenan: Yi has to be psyched though -- I think Brook likes Shrek, too

[Pacers draft Jerryd Bayless]

Krolik: T.J. Ford will always have a better guard behind him, it's his destiny
Billups: Too bad he can't turn his head to see him coming up behind him
Billups: I'm going to hell
Ty Keenan: I'm pretty excited that Indiana drafted a light-skinned black guy
Ty Keenan: In keeping with their new organizational philosophy
Billups: It's an homage to draftin Reggie Miller at the 11th pick 28 years ago

[Blazers draft Brandon Rush]

Billups: What if Kareem ran up on stage and mimed a fadeaway shot just to undermine the kid?

Krolik: Nellie is on the clock. Ajinca/McGee watch is at orange

[Warriors draft Anthony Randolph]

Recluse: They have Anthony Randolph AND Brandan Wright?
Recluse: I hope they play those two together as their forwards
Krolik: Randolph will run point

Recluse: “Considerable linear extension in space”?
Billups: Jay Bilas is reading mad graphic novels

[The Suns draft Robin Lopez.]

Billups: HOW'S MY ASS TASTE, BROOK!?
Ty Keenan: He looks like Cecil Cooper with that hat on
Billups: His mom is Penny Marshall
Ty Keenan: This is okay though, because Robin really likes Kazaam

[Sixers draft Marreese Speights]

Billups: This kid and Thaddeus are going to bring peace to the universe.

[Pacers trade Bayless and Diogu to the Blazers for Rush, Jarrett Jack and Josh McRoberts]

Ty Keenan: It's like stern told indiana that they had to be boring as a negative example for the rest of the league

Carter Blanchard: Has everyone accepted that JO is washed up? am i the only one who's MONJOing Jermaine?
Krolik: I like him with Bosh, but I think his days of being a go-to post scorer are over
Billups: Yeah, he could have a real Val Kilmer-esque revival as a supporting actor.
Krolik: The age of the 7-foot post-up power forward is closing
Billups: Maybe Val Kilmer isn''t a good example



[Wizards draft Javale McGee, who is not in the building]

Recluse: No shit Javale's not there, I've never even heard of him
Billups: Darrell Arthur is welling up right now
Billups: JaVale is at the Kino parlor at the Sands in Reno
Recluse: OH SHIT! i remember that guy! that highlight brought it all back
Recluse: yeah, he was decent. weird.
Krolik: DraftExpress called him "maybe the worst defender we have ever scouted"

Krolik: here come the Cavs! CDR please

[Cavs pass on CDR and take J.J. Hickson.]

Recluse: NC State was so fucked up last year, you can't really tell anything from their season, but Hickson's good. Playing on a good team with a superstar will be good for him.

[Bobcats on the clock.]

Billups: Jordan takes CDR right?

[Bayless is interviewed about the trade and looks totally depressed]

Recluse: Why isn't bayless happy? the blazers are like 10X better than the Pacers, and Portland the city is like 1000X cooler than Indianapolis
Carter Blanchard: I think he's just kind of boring. Not necessarily upset
Billups: That would be awesome if after the camera cut away Katz turned to him and said, "You know you're upset you bitch"
Recluse: Katz actually told him, "Dude, they have unionized strippers in Portland, it's awesome."

Krolik: I'm rooting for Love to get some serious ink work before his rookie contract is up
Billups: Fernando Torres, from the Spanish soccer team, has his own name tattooed on his arm...
Billups: in Elvish
Billups: I'm hoping that's a trend that jumps the pond and catches on here

Billups: Darrell Arthur isn't gonna get drafted and he's gonna have to move back to One Tree Hill and work at his dad's garage

[Utah drafts Kosta Koufos]

Billups: Him and Mehmet are going to unionize the strippers in Salt Lake
Ty Keenan: Isn't that going to create some kind of greece/turkey rivalry?
Recluse: "don't ever talk about cyprus"

Billups: Doris Burke sounds like she's the Lopez sister.

Billups: This is kinda fucked up for them to be talking about a man's kidney in front of a bunch of white knicks fans who hate white people
Recluse: Wasn't this an episode of Diff'rent Strokes?

[Boston drafts J.R. Giddens]

Recluse: Wow, I forgot he existed. He was good at Kansas before he got in a bar fight and had to transfer
Ty Keenan: i could definitely see a masshole challenging him to a barfight
Recluse: The next ex-Kansas swingman to get stabbed in Boston?

Krolik: Larry Brown getting booed via satellite!
Recluse: Larry brown hates the draft
Krolik: Not as much as Chris Douglas-Roberts does



[Clippers take Deandre Jordan at #35]
Recluse: So much for MONAB

Krolik: Mbah a Moute over CDR?
Recluse: Let's just say that for every player now

Krolik: Sonny Weems?
Krolik: Good name right there
Recluse: Seriously, did CDR fuck someone's wife?
Ty Keenan: Stern's

[New Jersey finally drafts CDR]

Krolik: it's over
Krolik: really one of the most bizarre draft occurrences I've seen
Recluse: he's going to be huge in China
Krolik: now it's time for Walker watch

[Wizards draft Bill Walker at #47]

Ty Keenan: He found a wonderful home
Krolik: Him and DeShawn are similar
Krolik: Except Walker is awesome instead of evil
Recluse: More like big brother/little brother

[Warriors draft Richard Hendrix]

Krolik: Nellie with more 4s to bench so as to assert his power

Ty Keenan: pretty much everyone after pick 20 has blended together for me

[Wizards trade Bill Walker to the Celtics]

Ty Keenan: Between him, Powe, and House i'm probably going to have to start telling people that I like the Celtics bench

Krolik: Okay, last pick.
Krolik: Pick Davon Jefferson!
Krolik: It's a heartwarming story--"Athlete given every possible chance, given one more"
Krolik: Making it to the NBA without the benefit of enjoying conditioning or schoolwork
Krolik: I would watch Davon and Gerald Green's reality show.

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6.26.2008

Chew Through Face



Ever heard of excited? None of that around here. Everyone I know is scared. Shit is crazy, rumors are closer than usual to reification, the entire first round could collapse on itself, Michael Beasley might end up starting for the North Korean national team. This shirt of him is all I want for Sunday.

In case you're interested in spending the draft with FreeDarko: I'll be live-blogging at Deadspin, but it won't be on of those where you can talk back. The Recluse, Ty Keenan, Carter Blanchard, Krolik, and yes, Billups, will be chatting amongst themselves, posting an edited transcript shortly after things wrap up. You should feel free to use this as an open thread if you want to talk amongst yourselves as things transpire.

Like we could start now by mourning the death of the Beasley/Durant dream. Or you could peep out the first serious mock I've done, where Chris Littmann and I figured out what a structural mess this draft is. Echoing the Ford/Simmons "everyone is drafting in the wrong place." That's why things are going to absolutely go nuts at some point.

Get ready or you may never be the same again. Even more so than you won't already anyway.

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6.25.2008

How Many Angles in a Vortex?



Note: I've got a new Sporting News column on the draft and gender, or something. This is longer.

When we were batting around draft ideas, Ty Keenan suggested that Mayo (and to some degree, Walker) were in the unique position of having their value peak, crash, and then rise up from the ashes in redemption—all before the draft prognostication even really got under way. We all decided that this was a function of undue hype, a circumstantial shutdown of the wild and woolly HS days. They had to come crashing down before, in this new climate, either could be viewed fairly. And then, the positives stood out again, the very ones that had set them on a pedestal in the first place. This is rational, folks, if a little awkward.

But the Michael Beasley's ride through the pre-draft rapids has been a lot less transparent. Even heading into the NCAAs, most people had Beasley penciled in at number one. Sure, there was the shady recruiting stuff, that WaPo piece, and rumors of a bad attitude and poor work ethic. Yet his one-and-done campaign had been such a freight-train of talent, his game so insistent, and so much of the negativity quelled by his on-court progress and words from the behind the scenes, that Beasleys PR problems seemed a thing of the past.

THEN: Rose's tournament ascendency, the "character issues" revisited as the draft became more real, and the lukewarmness of Paxson and Riley. Suddenly, Beasley was again a bad seed, this draft's problem child, Derrick Coleman redux just waiting to happen.



Or was he? In a blink, Beasley made his now-famous "I'm just a kid" comments. Was he dead serious all the time? No, but he'd probably grow out of that, and anyway, wasn't it his right to have a personality? This site and others rushed to brand him the new Gilbert Arenas. A vote for Beasley was a vote against staid hypocrisy, against buttondown orthodoxy in the way the NBA treats and represents its players. He became a martyr, fighting valiantly—if somewhat obliviously—to let players be themselves, to allow them to grow up in public instead of damaging them by expecting too much, too soon. Where Kwame Brown lay in a lifeless heap, Beasley planted a tree and saw it flower.

Stay with me here: The backlash was that, fine, Beasley's a kid, and a light-hearted one at that. And yet the truly elite teens—like, for instance, his best friend Kevin Durant—have that inner fire evident from the get-go. There are growing pains, even moments of weakness when the weight of expectations causes buckle. However, this line of work means working past these episodes, not glorifying them. Riley's disdain for Beasley's goofiness may have been an overreaction, and perhaps too moralistic. However, Riles does know basketball, and whether or not Bealey was defiling the game, it's safe to say that a failure to keep a straight face in the workout told us something about Beasley's disposition. Not a bad guy, but a space cadet, which sometimes seems like a liability in, say, Arenas.

At this point, there was talk of Beasley dropping to #3, or at least being dismissively traded by Miami (way to keep that chip shiny!). And thus, another trope of Arenas reared its head: The feisty underdog. Damn it, Michael Beasley would prove the likes of Riley wrong. He would tear up the league, and show the establishment how wrong it had been to ever doubt him. That's why you have ESPN picking him to blog his pre-draft experience, as well as make short videos brimming with both vitality and slightly unsettling unpredictability. The cult of Beasley was in full swing, and somehow, was as much about sympathy, a feeling for the warm and fuzzy victim who just wanted to have fun, as the bad-ass he portrayed on the court.



There was an imbalance there, and it's being corrected now. As of today, Michael Beasley isn't the king of the freaks any more, he's a misunderstood People's Champ who, when you get down to it, is all about wreaking havoc on the court. All the silly stuff, that's a most elevated version of swagger, pitched so high and relentless that resolves into a reckless calm. He's Amare, and maybe even The Wire's Snoop. Beasley will be on a vendatta from the second he hits the court, one without any of the eccentricity or elegance of Gil's. There will be dunks, and blocks, and threes over unsuspecting PFs. In terms of demonstrativeness, Garnett had better watch his back. He'll be a sneaker magnet, in part because he's a laugh riot (PREDICTION: If he went Nike, the ying/yang ads with him and Durant would be instant classics), but also because of the dynamism of his game.

Here's where we hit the inevitable question: Who is the real Michael Beasley? Of course I don't really know, and with someone who hasn't even hit the league yet, there's that much less to go on. But I suspect he's a combination of all these things, a series of contradictions—some imposed upon him, some stubborn and internal. It's a testament to his charisma, or maybe just the laziness of a media that has covered him like a political candidate, that he's been subject to this parade of monolithic characterizations. He's an icon waiting to happen, but paradoxically, we might have to settle for one with murky edges. In the two months since the lottery, Beasley's already gone through a Bowie-like parade of makeovers. That has to be reason to stop and reasses our mode of judgment.

What's more, there obviously a connection between these conflicting perception of him and his game. No one's labeling him a tweener, but Beasley's hardly getting the kind of "change the game" love that fell Durant's way. And yet, is he any less confounding, or versatile, a player? Sure, he can't play guard, but he's already more physical than KD will ever be. I don't want to say that the uncertainty his style causes has created a persona in flux, but it's pretty safe to say that the inverse is true. And that, if there is some chicken/egg at play here, it might be a long time before these questions get settled.

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6.24.2008

The Difference Between Cults and Cliques



There's already a little grumbling about Kidd's inclusion on Team USA, that he'll crowd out what should rightfully be the Chris Paul/Deron Williams show, that there's nothing he can do that those two can't do better, and that we should hurry up and get the torch-passing over with (as if it hasn't been passed already). I completely understand the desire to see Paul and Williams take center stage, but feel compelled to say that Jason Kidd is the absolute perfect fit for this incarnation of Team USA.

This might seem like an unusual stance to take given that I typically am fully in favor of embracing the future and burning the past, and there's no question that Kidd has been fully eclipsed at this point by those two. Paul and Deron don't have any dues left to pay or any lessons to learn by sitting behind Kidd. Similarly, this isn't about Kidd's years of service, the wisdom gained from them, or the locker room hierarchy that will supposedly help him manage the egos. Deference to our elders means little to me and I have no use for symbolic positions meant to honor past glories. Kidd was pretty underwhelming this year both during his disappointing Mavs reunion and certainly while sleepwalking with the Nets. I fully acknowledge that Paul can run circles around him at this point and that Deron actually has a jumpshot. But none of that changes the fact that the U.S.'s demolition of last summer's FIBA Americas Championship was a thrilling display of basketball, largely because of Kidd's role. Carmelo put up the stats, LeBron got the highlights, and Kobe basked in the defensive glory, but it was the aging Kidd who set the tone for the entire run in a way that Paul or Deron couldn't replicate.



As ecstatic as I get over the Paul-to-Chandler oop, it's almost entirely about Chris Paul's wizardry. Kidd's passes, on the other hand, are complete deferrals to the power and majesty of his finishers, which is exactly what this crowd needs. When Paul's at his finest, the players around him almost feel like props that are out there for his pleasure. LeBron James and Dwight Howard are anything but props. With those two, in addition to Kobe and Melo, this year should still be primarily about them and the terror they can inflict. They shouldn't be out there headless though, which makes the deteriorated Kidd the perfect compromise to set them up without taking any of their spotlight; to put the ball in the perfect place every time, while still allowing the finishers to lead.

If you didn't see or don't remember Kidd's FIBA performance, it was absolutely flawless, and something I can't wait to see recreated on an even bigger stage. The statline he ended up with doesn't appear striking (1.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, and 4.6 apg in 15.9 mpg), but his two most important numbers were the just 10 shot attempts and 5 turnovers over the course of the 10 games. That second stat is especially staggering when one thinks back to the ridiculous array of passes he attempted. In particular, two of his botched passes stick out to me more than all of his successes: at one point he attempted a full-court bounce pass that weaved between three defenders, barely beating his streaking target to the spot. Even more impressive was the highlight of the entire tournament: the failed off-balance, off-the-backboard alley oop to LeBron from the 3-point line. Had LeBron connected (and he arguably should have), it would have gone down as the greatest pass I've ever seen.




Despite all the absurd pass attempts, he still ended up with a tournament-leading 9.2 ast/to ratio. That number is off the charts in a regular season, but in an intensified series of All-Star games, it just doesn't seem rational. But when you have LeBron and Dwight on the other end of your lobs and they're actually trying, you can usually get away with things you couldn't imagine anywhere else. Chris and Deron are definitely going to have their share of inspired plays, both by themselves and using their teammates, but with those two their highlights are manifestly of their creation, with their stamp always firmly affixed. In the NBA, this makes their play hugely preferable to Kidd's diminished game. Surrounded by other future HOFers though, I'll take Kidd's seemingly-less-authored genius every time.

At least as important as his awe-inspiring lobs was Kidd's unique approach to moving the ball that summer. He came into the tournament absolutely determined to never dribble the basketball, opting instead for full-court outlet passes after both makes and misses. He may have dribbled the ball 6 or 7 times over the entire week and a half, never holding the ball for more than a second or two. The "hot potato" style completely took over, as though the entire team collectively decided, "fuck dribbling," which translated to incredibly gorgeous basketball. Somehow a team starring Carmelo, Kobe, and LeBron managed to use hardly any isos at all, save for an occasional reassertion of Kobe's alpha status. On a team loaded with scorers, a point guard that needs to dominate the ball has the potential to disrupt the awesome flow that this group established last summer. With Kidd at the reigns, I feel confident we'll be treated once again to the steady stream of flawless touch passes we saw last August.



Chris Paul and Deron Williams are absolute virtuosos on the court. They'll be spectacular both this summer off the bench and as they lead us to the next 3 or 4 gold medals. But for this year, it's still all about Kidd setting the table without ever claiming the foreground. Not as a nostalgic tribute to what's come before, but because his current style is what will make for the most exciting and dominating basketball right now.

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6.21.2008

FreeDrafto #437A: The New Beginning: The Mock



Whatever FreeDarko-ness is, there's one thing we can all agree on: These days, it's in short supply around the league. The Suns are dead. The Hawks will disband. Larry Brown is about to put the clamps on Charlotte. Lamar Odom couldn't get a deal. You all know the rest.

The 2003 draft was supposed to usher in a new crop of superstars; 2007's was to replenish the league with an entire first round ready to start. In this year's, FreeDarko sees a unique opportunity: ourselves. Like no draft since perhaps the lost art of 1990, 2008's prospects have it within them to send a shockwave of FD core value throughout the Association. However, for this to happen, the right players must end up with the right team.

And thus, here assemble myself, Dr. Lawyer IndianChief, Brown Recluse, Esq., Ty Keenan, Carter Blanchard, and special guests Tom Ziller and Dan Shanoff. We drew lots and then ran through the teams in order, thinking hard along the way. Please, love it.

1. Bulls: Derrick Rose
I'm very tempted to collude and send him to Miami for the Rose/Wade/Marion triumvirate, but Chicago needs a core piece. Gordon, Luol, Thabo, and most importantly Tyrus all got a little lost this year -- now they have someone to organize them as they attempt to undo the Skiles reign of terror. The only downside is that we'll be treated to endless features on how he's a local boy fulfilling a childhood dream to wear the uniform and eat deep dish while base-jumping off the Sears Tower. (Ty Keenan)

2. Heat: Ovinton J'Anthony Mayo
Riley valuing seriousness over talent might end up being for the best for the league for two reasons: First, the slight to Beasley could be good for his constitution if it lends a bitter drivenness to accompany his lighthearted goofiness. Second, the dysfunction of a Wade/Mayo backcourt could be hard to resist. I envision two independent and totally unrelated offenses; alternately no one running the show or everyone trying to at once. (Carter Blanchard)

3. Timberwolves: Michael Beasley
The next Suns, if Telfair can get a qualifying offer. Jefferson as the ABA Amare, Beasley as a less friendly Matrix, and Rashad McCants rolling like Barbosa in a frozen cranberry bog. Hoiberg takes over in October, Ettore Messina knifes Wittman by Christmas. 8th seed! (Tom Ziller)

4. Sonics: Jerryd Bayless
His jersey No. 0 will be a hit in Oklahoma City. Luke Ridnour's Seattle jersey hits that one clearance rack that you see at Champs where you always are kind of tempted, "For $12.99, does it matter who the player is?" (Dan Shanoff)



5. Grizzlies: Brook Lopez
Because it's always funny when NBA teams start looking like college all-star teams (Lopez, Warrick, Gay, Conley Jr., Crittenton). Also, Lopez fills an obvious need and his slow-but-sure-footedness in the post/hispanic last name will make everyone in Memphis forget about Pau Gasol, right? In addition, Lopez is clearly the Stax records to Oden's Motown. (Dr. LIC)

6. Knicks: Kevin Love
Although on first glance, he seems like an odd fit with the Knicks, his cockiness and sense of entitlement is totally New York. And while he can't run the floor like Amare, his uncanny outlet passes will fuel D'Antoni's running game. (Brown Recluse, Esq.)

7. Clippers: Joe Alexander
The Clippers needing a PG means nothing to me, since I believe in the return of Shaun Livingston. Replacing Elton Brand, if it comes to that, also isn't that relevant to my life. I'm all about them drafting Alexander, playing him and Al Thornton at the same time, and watching Livingston find a new life as the caretaker of this chaos. The less he can run himself, the more he can focus on making sure these two mismatched twins are moving in the right direction (Bethlehem Shoals)

8. Bucks: Danilo Gallinari.
There's something compelling about a team full of combo forwards who usually take jumpers -- it'll be like a bizarro version of the Hawks. Except, if Redd leaves, there will be no top dog around to bring any sense of order to their baskets. I'm pretty sure this is Skiles's private hell. (TK)

9. Bobcats: Russell Westbrook
With Westbrook running the break alongside Gerald at full tilt, not even LB could shackle this crew. In addition to the awesome highlight reels that this will inspire there's the off chance that they could transform their wealth of athleticism into a defensive identity and actually become halfway decent, and there's little I want as desperately as a relevant Bobcats team. Hawks-'Cats Playoffs! (CB)



10. Nets: Ryan Anderson
Thorn needs someone who can participate in amazing discussions of Joy Division to divert L. Frank while Thorn writes love songs to Thibodeau and tries to introduce Vince to Devin Harris. Also, Nenad Krstic will be frustrated to the point of punching Boki, and Rod Benson will blow himself up (the only negative repercussion). (TZ)

11. Pacers: D.J. Augustin
Augustin, who is the guy who Danny Granger thanks when Granger is 3rd Team all-NBA next season, heralding Granger's greatness like the Silver Surfer does for Galactus. In a CP3-crazed world, extra points for D.J.'s GPA and Gulf Coast cred. (DS)

12. Kings: DeAndre Jordan
Can someone just put Brad Miller out of his misery already? He is the last remaining cog from those ultra-sad Kings teams of the turn of the millenium. He's also the only thing really standing in the way of Ron Artest grabbing the keys and Kevin Martin jumping in the sidecar to take on the world. DeAndre Jordan is harmless enough to make all of this happen. (Dr. LIC)

13. Blazers: Anthony Randolph
What do you do when you're already stacked at every position with promising young talent? You get the youngest and most promising player on the board, which is Anthony Randolph. Plus, it'll be funny to watch him, Aldridge, and Outlaw walk around together. (BR)

14. Warriors: Alexis Ajinca
Nellie is often referred to as a mad scientist. In Alexis Ajinca, he will meet his ultimate Frankenstein. Seven feet, two inches and equipped with a 7'6" wingspan, Ajinca is Brandan Wright athletic, has Diaw-like finesse and passing skills, and can pop off from beyond the arc. This thin giant plays with equal parts snooty aplomb and clumsy abandon, and acts that way, too. Also, no one can decide if he's still bursting with potential, or already counts as a bust. At long last, Nellieball will discover its perfect big man, which alone should assure Don sticking around a few more seasons. (BS)



15. Suns: Eric Gordon
As long as Nash and Amare are around, I refuse to believe that they're fated to aesthetic irrelevance. They'll never run like they used to, but Gordon would give them a desperately needed shooter who's also capable of bulling his way into the paint. There are such things as exciting halfcourt offenses. Whenever possible, they should include broad-shouldered, possibly overweight guys with goofy ears. (TK)

VERY IMPORTANT INTERLUDE:

BR: It's really a shame that in any draft, especially the FD draft, Eric Gordon would fall so far. I had him high on my board, just lower than Randolph.
BS: I've come up with an explanation for Gordon slipping: Doesn't he have short arms?
DLIC: Also, he hasn't been able to lose the "fat" tag.
TK: Didn't we decide last time that he isn't actually fat? I should make it clear that I'm still very much okay with calling him fat.
DS: I personally like calling him a fatty, but I recognize that he merely has a big round head.
CB: Also, is being fat really an FD strike? Not that Gordon qualifies at all, but surprisingly mobile fattys are just about my favorite type of player.
BR: Dwight Stewart, that fat (round faced) guy on Arkansas who only shot 3s = totally FD.

16. Sixers: Chris Douglas-Roberts
Mostly because I'm not sure I want to live in a world where Willie Green starts on a playoff team. CDR could add some scoring excitement without disrupting the delicate balance of the Sixers' gangly swarming defense. I really like the thought of Iggy, Thad and him all on the court at the same time, switching assignments on each defensive possession, stumbling all over each other on the offense, with Miller trying desperately to bring order to the beautiful awkward mess. (CB)

17. Toronto: JaVale McGee
T.J. Ford always gets to pick first in Dodgeball, and he always takes Jamario! Bosh exerts his pressure on Colangelo (borne of 2010 free agency) to get the Dodgeball equalizer. (Calderon -- T.J. always takes him over Rasho in the final round of the Dodgeball draft -- gets pissed at JaVaLe's headhunting ways and bolts for Miami. Calderon-Wade-Mayo-Marion-Blount for days.) (TZ)



18. Wizards: Donte Greene
One Andray Blatche obviously wasn't enough. If Greene can avoid Blatche's penchant for hookers and DUIs and embrace Dan Steinberg and the Wizznutzz, Greene will fulfill his potential as one of the Top 3 most FreeDarko players in this year's draft. And I was the guy who tabbed Julian Wright as "Most FD" a year ago, so I earned at least one year's worth of iffy picks (DS).

19. Cavaliers: Mario Chalmers
Danny Ferry adds yet another three-point shooter to the Night of the Living Dead sequel that is LeBron biding his time in Cleveland. Chalmers will get to join the ranks of Ira Newble, Donyell Marshall, Wally Szczerbiak, Damon Jones, Daniel Gibson, Delonte West, and the rest of the guys that get to stand behind the three-point line and watch LeBron dunk. Plus, Chalmers fills the heart-wrenching Alaskan void left by Carlos Boozer. (Dr. LIC)

20. Nuggets: Trent Plaisted
Plaisted is a devout Mormon, a good student, and has already been married for a year. He's the kind of solid citizen who can balance out AI, Melo, K-Mart, and the rest of the Nuggets. His face-up game would also be a good complement to Camby and Nene, but the main thing Plaisted brings to the table is negative swag. (BR)

21. Nets: Courtney Lee, Western Kentucky
The Nets have way too many mildly intriguing big men on their roster, (inevitably) replacing Vince Carter is like one of those movies where you have to stay in your aunt's haunted mansion, and Richard Jefferson deserves one more shot at "best player on bad team." I'm not disparaging dude, but his brand of SF is uniquely suited to that role. Thus, stuck waiting, frustrated, and sad, the Net opt for the shortest player anyone could conceivably take in the first round, despite this being a draft of mildly intriguing bigs. No more redundancy, no promises for the future. (BS)

22. Magic: Bill Walker
The "surround Howard with shooters" plan has the potential to get boring as he acquires more/any post moves, so let's inject them with a freak wing who could gruesomely injure himself any minute now before it's too late. Plus, apart from whatever Walker brings to the table, he will make a great buddy for Howard: Bill's acrobatics will challenge Dwight to stay true to his beastly self and, at the very least, their mutual love of on-court props (urine-soaked towels, popcorn, capes, etc.) will produce the greatest dunk contest moment ever -- a transcendent attempt that prominently features a bidet, a Redenbacher heir, and the drama freaks from a local high school. (TK)



23: Jazz: Roy Hibbert
Not necessarily because the Jazz would want anything from him (other than maybe replacing Jarron's 6 fouls per 40 min), but because Roy would certainly want to be with the Jazz. They're pretty much the only team that would give him time to lumber down the court, plus Mehmet's vertical would make him feel better about himself. Draftee's needs >> team's needs. (CB)

24. Sonics: Goran Dragic, Slovenia
The death of Watson/Ridnour is complete. Also, Dragic: Magic performed by dragons. (TZ)

25. Rockets: Brandon Rush.
He will make an ideal replacement for T-Mac, when McGrady is (finally) shipped out of town. At least he is a proven postseason winner. Rush is the stealth contender for FD ROY. Darryl Morey is the smartest GM in the NBA; he's with me on this, I'm sure. (DS)

26. Spurs: Semih Erden
Spurs....obscure foreigner....funny name....will blossom...etc. (Dr. LIC)

27. Hornets: Nicolas Batum
Chris Paul has become so dominant that you draft guys whose talents will mesh well with his. Think of the success the Nets had giving Jason Kidd Kenyon Martin and Richard Jefferson to throw alley-oops to. Batum is probably the most athletic player in this draft, so if he's available here (which he won't be), it's a no-brainer. Since the Hornets already have a very solid team, they can provide a nurturing environment for this young buck. Plus, he's French, which gives him a better chance than most at making sense of Creole. (BR)

28. Grizzlies: Darrell Arthur
I know the point of this exercise is to wile out and visit lightning and steam upon the entire league-scape. I also know that, sometimes in the middle of a drug binge, you look over at a friend and think "damn, he needs some water and a sandwich." So while it's tempting to saddle the Grizz with yet another running joke, or insanely FD prospect who may or may not be crushed by circumstance, instead I'm handing them that sandwich. Arthur's not the most glamorous player in this draft, and he might go 15 years without a Stu Scott moment. But he's sane, solid, and skilled, and in this NBA, mental stability manifested through non-brute production (see West, David or Jamison, Antawn) is the new Charles Oakley. (BS)

29. Pistons: Robin Lopez
As Dumars hopefully begins to cast off some pieces and organize the team around Stuckey and the other reserves, the bench will need a reinvigoration. What better way to provide that than with a shot-blocking center with the most gracefully awkward post moves around. Lopez will also serve the important role of designing Disney Princess tattoos for the whole gang: Amir gets Belle, because both want more from this world. (TK)

30. Celtics: Serge Ibaka
It might not have been the most important thing, but on some level the absence of whiteys (no offense, Scal and Scot) had to have helped facilitate the total buy-in to Ubuntu at least a little bit. With all due respect to Kosta and everyone else left on the board, Serge probably has a leg up on the whole thing—the Congo is only a hop, skip, and a jump away from South Africa, so he probably knows Cheetah already. Most importantly, at 6'10" with supposedly the highest vertical of the draft, he can hopefully offset some of the flat-footedness of the rest of his team. (CB)

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6.20.2008

Murky Invasion



The Official FreeDarko Mock lurches toward completion. ETA of this afternoon, maybe willing? In the meantime:

-In case you're still seething over us and the Celtics. . . lap up this latest Quotemonger. There are Green Guys in it, but I think I'm pretty fair and friendly.

-Getting an email from Keith Olbermann was really rad, even if it forced me to admit I'm full of shit.

-Yesterday, I took a look at a certain plaintive Garnett commercial and found myself affected as ever. Dr. LIC claims that this, more than anything else, makes him feel happy KG got the ring. I can't decide if the sadness it visits upon me is about Garnett's lasting pathos, or missing that pathos, which would be a little weird and mean.

Then, I started digging up some of the classic Adidas ads from around that period. Shit was really weird, and pretty visionary. The T-Mac/Clipse joint? McGrady with wings and flame? The Infinity Gauntlet-like one with Duncan, McGrady, and Garnett being built in an ethereal workshop? And then, it turns to the Basketball Brotherhood, which is about as down-to-earth and de-fantasicized as these things get. I'd call that the 2007-08 Celtics of brand strategy.

Nate Jones and I were talking about the sneaker game yesterday, and he suggested that Adidas decided to brand itself and go from there, instead of developing their unique players as brands. The former makes sense with Duncan and Billups, but Garnett and T-Mac certainly lend themselves to the latter—what Nike's done with Melo some (B.More), and, remember, what made Jordan such a revolution in the first place. Nate submitted Arenas as a step in the right direction, but I think that went too far. Those shorts were more likely to make you eat your shoes and set money on fire.



Randomly, this is where Beasley comes up. He's going to be a star, and has absolutely indomitable personality. I can't imagine anyone keeping a straight face as he gets squeezed into the template of Brand Jordan drama and honor, or Adidas's sentimental grind. Seems inevitable that a brand would have to break tone with him.

Oh, and more Beasley: This him to the Sonics possibility has to count for something. If any team is in a position to get the real story on him, it's Seattle. Plus, if you figure Durant's going to resent ownership at some point soon, and will likely leave when he can. . . all that changes if they bring his best friend on to form a ridiculously awesome tandem of contrasts and versatility. Despite my hatred of Clay Bennett, I would buy some season tickets if that came to pass.

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6.19.2008

It Gnaws, We Feed



Anyone remember that post, about two weeks ago, where I proclaimed the Lakers a more realistic, subtle version of FD principles, and likened it to growing up? It pissed a lot of people off, and that was around the time some of these names started showing up regularly in the comments section.

Anyway, I've been watching the Garnett clips again, and came to a parallel realization about the Celtics. All that rhetoric about sacrificing, making a change, being ready, and making no more excuses isn't just about a winning attitude, or good, sound basketball, or embracing tradition. Garnett's only 32, but he's been in the league 14 seasons. We could sit here and argue about if he and Allen are starting to age a little; what's really important to me is that KG, and Pierce, and Allen, got that their time was running out. That's what inspired this championship, as well as any and all changes that we're arguing about: A sense that it wasn't going to last forever.

This wasn't a desperate ring-chase; no need to hang on anyone's coattails yet. As Big Saxmo points out, all three have their flaws and idiosyncracies. They came together in a way that, while not as organic as I might've liked, made each of them into super role-players. Defense was the bedrock, because that's easier to get going right away than offensive wizardry. I'm not sure why everyone's shocked they won it this first season together, since the whole plan was designed to be as effective as possible as quickly as possible.

Which is why, of course, some of you are convinced they'll open things up next season.



At least one or two comments have suggested that I've accused Garnett of selling out. You're right, but is that such a bad thing? Think about how long we've all been fans of KG. Think about all that's transpired in your own life since then. I'm a few years younger than Garnett, but same generation. And as fun as this whole writing racket is, I spend a lot of time worrying about my IRA, toying with the idea of a real job, wondering how soon I'll get certain family health problems, and understanding that a year goes by a lot faster than it did in my twenties. And not to compare doing a book to winning the LOB, but that deal did, in a way, make me feel certified.

Once on WIP (yes, I use this example a lot), the daytime guys were arguing about whether you could rock the jersey of a player much younger than you. Their best one: No middle-aged man needs to be wearing a Darius Miles joint (this was 2002, I think). I'm not saying that my taste in basketball is youth-fetishizing, anymore than I'm willing to cop to its being a backhanded form of cultural studies. Woody Allen was almost ten years older than me when he wrote his essay on Earl Monroe. Some forms of radicalism age gracefully. The beauty of taste is that you're allowed to appreciate, even on some level relate to, shit produced by those of—or from—a different age. Timelessness and all that.

But one day later, and, truthfully, with the season over—and the subjective and objective tension surrounding the Celtics now subsiding—I'm a little less rabid about it. The Big Three, wanted, even needed, their rings. Of course winning is always the point, but this year, there was little room for error or experimentation. The sense of urgency wasn't joyous, it was apocalyptic. It was the kind of discipline in which anxiety plays a large, large part, which is why the vibe of this Celtics season had as much to do with the demons of the past as a brave new future.



Garnett made a choice, and he wants us all to know it. It's not hard to get why he did, why the revolutionary freak of his Minny days might now be game for as much sublimation as possible. That same focus and intensity implied on a macro level. On some level, I can feel the same pressures that drove him in that direction; they're about the most universal thing in all of human experience, and no one's ever said that settling down and raising a family was a bullshit life-path. On the contrary, staying forever young can be embarrassing for everyone involved.

I may prefer the old Garnett, or wish Boston had a more imaginative offense. But past sports, and whatever grandiose symbolic world I may have built out of it, I can now look back and feel Garnett's decision right in my gut. There's ambivalence there, but it has everything to do with being human, and nothing to do with skill sets, length, and when someone does or doesn't scream.

P.S. Check my latest Sporting News column. It's about what this loss means for Kobe.

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6.18.2008

Career Suicide: The Dead Sea Scrolls



For the record, after Shoals took my post down last night, we had quite the screaming match on the phone. I said some things I probably shouldn't have as did he, and we both seemed to be attempting to revoke each others' FD membership. He didn't want me to put this out there, but at point he threatened to leave FD altogether and start his own blog. Obviously knowing that Free Darko would fold in his absence, I had to bribe him back into the fold by promising I would pay for his League Pass subscription next year. He thought that was ludicrous and declined, but I guilted him into at least letting me purchase him this Brother Ah record on eBay. The whole thing upset me so much though I couldn't sleep last night, so I put up my post again at 430 in the morning. When I woke up it was gone again and I knew that Shoals had again put the clamps on me. At this point I wrote a really incendiary and personal email to him. He sent it to the other members of the Free Darko high council and this morning it's been a real shitfest hashing things out. I guess the compromise is to release this version of the chat, below...

Also, for the record, I agree with Caleb Tyler Adam that it is selfish if I deny in any way the greatness of KG winning his championship. I am being completely selfish here, both in my KG bitterness and my angst over Boston, yet I am extremely about happy about KG winning his championship. And at the same time it doesn't mean I have some other thoughts about what KG has become as an individual (not just this year, but over the past three and a half years...). Upon re-watching the Tafoya Interview on Odenized this morning maybe my stance on contrivedness has softened, or maybe that interview is more just a poor piece of evidence to support the broader point of players playing into their narratives/caricatures.



Also, everyone please read THIS bit on KG before proceeding. And...Onward...

Bethlehem Shoals: First off, I think you're in crisis. That was like catharsis for the whole year of bullshit Garnett.
Dr. LIC: Yeah, you're probably right. But let me make my point again: KG is playing into the caricature that the media has created for him: "KG IS SO EMOTIONAL/INTENSE." Just like the whole "Duncan is boring" thing or "Bellichik is enigmatic" meme.
Brown Recluse, Esq.: I think I'm in the middle between Dr. LIC and Shoals on the KG "speech." Leaning more toward Dr. LIC.
Dr. LIC: The interesting thing about the KG speech is that there were parts of it that were real, but the parts that were fake are what everyone will eat up.
BS: The crying seemed real/scream was actually kind of dumb.
Dr. LIC: Yes! Exactly. We needed more crying.
BS: The Malik Sealy shoutout=real
Dr. LIC: Props to Tafoya=fake
Dr. LIC: And seriously, the fact that he didn't burst into tears way earlier in the night was indicative of his whole role in this series.
BS: Whatever, I think someone sticking a mic in your face in iconic fashion is what makes it real.
Dr. LIC: This may be egocentric, but I'm wondering if this championship was actually more about South Carolina/Chicago/Sealy/Minnesota than it was anything having to do with Boston. This is redemption for things in the past. That is real.
BS: Well, that's why I'm moved. Why else would he dwell on his old team?

BR: Maybe this part shouldn't go into the chat, but I think part of why I've tired of KG's shit is that makes him look kind of stupid. Like so reflective, he's unreflective.
BS: How is screaming reflective?
Dr. LIC: That's not the reflective part.
BS: You mean on the interviews?
BR: During the season, he'd just become that first John Thompson interview all the time. That interview was awesome, but seeing it over and over again, it doesn't feel as real

[The Recluse clarifies: "my take is that the KG/John Thompson was one of the greatest things ever, so great in fact that even KG himself allowed it to define who he was from then on. It's like when famous people talk about themselves in the third person in a legitimate way.]

Dr. LIC: I just got a text message: "time to put a straitjacket on kg"
BS: Are you going to deny a man his pain? Or do we really not care about KG?
Dr. LIC: What is KG's pain?
BS: LOSING
Dr. LIC: Malik Sealy, Stephon Marbury. That's his pain. Losing isn't his pain, that's his own fault. And Flip's.
BR: Losing is not pain. If that's his pain, it's shallow as fuck.
BS: So you're saying KG should know better. DLIC, I think you have a reservoir of feeling for KG few can understand. For you, the years of the max contract choker KG were salad days.


Dr. LIC: He lost so much because he scared the shit out of minnesota and never quite committed 100% to staying there forever. for all that "I'm 'Sota" talk, he was trying to be GM behind the scenes all the time...get Joe Smith signed, sign Troy Hudson, re-up Sam/Spree's contract (plus the max contract thing). And ultimately, they had to do what KG wanted.

All along he gave the air of "i'm just doing the best i can do....i love MN" but there was a lot of other shit going on.

BR: i still blame all of this on jordan. He fucked everything up for everyone.
Dr. LIC: Everything is fucked. I mean, we're at the point where Stu Scott is ELICITING the memory of Doc's dead father before Doc can even spontaneously give a dedication to him.
BR: Jordan again!
Dr. LIC: To me, KG's scream was so far from primal. It was literally like an Oscar speech. You keep it on hand just in case you win. But then the real KG crept out.
BR: I agree with that. The stuff after the scream and the shoutouts. The rest was raw emotion. The Bill Russell conversation was the best part.
BS: Weeping and saying "I'm certified" is really the opposite of screaming.
Dr. LIC: Look, my bottom line: the KG speech was part contrived/part real. He couldn't make a decision between the stuff he had "pseudo-memorized" to say and the spontaneity of the moment. We did see more spontaneity from him then we've gotten all year.
: but it's like, all of my minnesota friends have been cheering for the celtics. i guess that's liberated fandom at it's finest, but really? when you look at what kg did the last couple years he was in minnesota....i just feel like if it takes paul pierce AND ray allen AND kg AND the perfect aging stragglers who will flock to whichever team has the best chance for a ring...then that championship trophy is way less special then, um, say lebron winning a trophy with cleveland

AND LEBRON HASNT EVEN SUFFERED

yet


Dr. LIC: also, it's funny how NON-representative i am of minnesota fans right now. people in mn are loving this.

BS: I'll edit this tactfully.
Dr. LIC: I'll expect to wake up to a bloodbath.

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Notes from an Intervention



Shoals speaking here. . .

Right at the buzzer, Dr. LIC put up an extremely bitter post decrying this championship. For those of you who only recently discovered FreeDarko, the Doctor is pure Twin Cities. He was around the organization pre-Garnett, and met KG the day the teen joined the team. Needless to say, he has some very complicated feelings about this. Still, I thought he was being way too subjective, so I took it down.

I also couldn't have had a more different reaction. When Garnett gave THE INTERVIEW, I had the sudden revelation that, wow, underneath this all he still really was the player I had such a strong affinity for. The Recluse was a little more cynical, wondering if KG hadn't become a caricature of himself, or at least had parts of that interview that were more contrived than others—like, he said, a guy holding an Oscar speech in his pocket. To me, though, that only heightened the "finally!" feeling of it.

But in the end, the three of us agreed that this is a tremendous relief for Garnett, even if we might've preferred it to have gone down differently, or with some other team. From his on-court past and from the tension of this season. But not from all of whatever pain lives inside him, since that's deeper than just winning and losing basketball games; he's an emotional athlete, not an escapist. But you probably didn't need us to tell you that, so let's just stop arguing about Garnett until next season.

Oh, and for all the issues I had with Dr. LIC's first outpouring, he did make one absolutely brilliant point: "I'm certified" was perhaps the first real show of arrogance in Garnett's entire career. And he waited till the only time he truly felt he'd earned that right.

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6.17.2008

Lunchtime Dialectic



Note from the title, I'm not even disguising this one. . .

I am not quite sure why this Finals is leading to such an eruption of FD soul-searching. Maybe because I need to understand my feelings about this series, especially when I acknowledge that they're conflicted. Maybe I'm just bored and want to hide from the truth.

But I did have another bright thought today about this whole "you do not love winning" accusation. A friend of mine who doesn't follow sports much read the post and asked if "winning" was the quality of a game, or just the final outcome. Of course, the two aren't mutually exclusive, but I think we can all agree that there's something very unsatisfying about a victory in name alone. Case in point, game five of this series. I know that sports are all results and bottom line, and that traditional fandom demands first and foremost that we look for our jersey to be raised above all others. I can't help but wonder, though, if a Lakers fan wouldn't feel better about game five if it had come in remotely convincing fashion. Aside from that one Kobe play.

This also seems to hold with the question of "dominating," and the two are actually, to me, quite related. Can a team or individual dominate and fail—that is, lose? Win the game despite never evincing dominance? That depends on whether we interpret "dominance" as a quality—you can call it aesthetic if you want—or a question of what shows up in the box score. Dare I say, I'd rather watch a player/team dominate and lose then whatever the opposite of that is. Great men, amazing feats, drama in the air, and going down in a cloud of gunsmoke. What bugs people about the Spurs, however unfairly, is the perception that their dominance is quiet and elusive. Effective, but deceptive.



All of this, and the problem of style, come back to process. You can exude dominance along the way without that being the end result. The same even goes for winning—do we wait till the buzzer to utter the phrase "heart of a champion?" No, since these are qualitative assessments of how someone's play strikes us, what effect or influence it appears to have on the course of the game's outcome. The same thing can be said, on the other end of the spectrum, of style. Style has a use, and can be applied—usually toward some version of dominance, in fact. However, that application is no less simplistic than working backward from a final score to a game worth watching again.

It's the challenge of not just winning but WINNING, of style taken into the trenches and made into the language of competition, that I want. A product that doesn't lend itself to a dominant/dominance illusion. Is that idealistic, unnecessary, and a disaster waiting to happen? Sure, but don't go saying that this position misses the point of sports. I'm just not willing to settle.

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6.16.2008

They Stumbled at That Stumblingstone



First, read Shoals on the site’s principles. It is important.

Recent posts on this site have claimed that this Celtics team has diluted the styles of its stars for the sake of Right Way winning, and, for the most part, I support these views. After tonight, though, it now seems clear that Paul Pierce has escaped that sublimation. Tonight was vintage Truth: Stackjackian long-considered threes; simultaneously awkward and graceful drives to get the rim; and 19 free-throw attempts that, depending on your point-of-view, were either complete accidents or hard-earned tries culled from little more than a few cracks (or holes, since this is the Lakers we’re talking about) in the defense.

The Lakers have been a profound disappointment this series, but Pierce’s ability to buy into Ubuntu while maintaining his personal style can make the Celtics likely victory palatable for even the staunchest gingerphobe. Since their arrivals in Boston, Garnett and Allen have always said that this team still belongs to Pierce, and, in this series, it’s apparent that he’s still the core of the team’s offensive personality. KG and Allen certainly get a lot of attention and produce their fair share of points, but their contributions often hang on the stylistic periphery, coming in the form of conclusive jumpers and finishes. On the other hand, Pierce’s points are as much about process (again, read the Shoals piece) as the caps to those moments.

Plenty of bytes have been spilled here on the fact that the Big Three never became the forceful standard-bearers that we wanted them to be, but PP’s success can certainly act as some consolation. There are certainly points to be made here about the difficulty of bringing together three unique on-court personalities and letting each keep his essence. For now, though, let’s appreciate that Paul Pierce is on the verge of attaining the LOB on his own terms.

(FYI: Shoals is “100% back in love with Paul Pierce” but didn’t want to say it himself.)

Speaking of limina, we have potentially awful news in DraftLand: FreeDrafto favorite Bill Walker is in limbo yet again. MRI won’t come until tomorrow morning, but it’s possible that he’s suffered another bad knee injury – this time on the eve of the deadline to declare. This event shouldn’t be too shocking for anyone who knows the man’s history; moments of uncertainty have defined his career over the last few years. After parting ways with OJ Mayo in high school, losing his eligibility and heading to K-State a year ahead of schedule, tearing his knee, having the coach who recruited him skip town after one season, and sharing the spotlight with a top talent who overshadowed his abilities, the draft represented Walker’s chance to escape flux and remind everyone that he was once one of the shining lights of the recruiting world. If the MRI brings bad tidings, then Walker will have to return to Manhattan for more rehab and a diminished chance of ever recapturing his transcendent athleticism. That would be a shame. Whatever happens, he must be remembered.

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6.15.2008

If We Stop Talking. . .



Not sure why I feel the urge to put an open thread up for this game. Especially since it means burying A TOTALLY OVERARCHING, THOUGHT-PROVOKING, AND ESSENTIAL PIECE ON THE INTELLECTUAL FOUNDATIONS OF THIS SITE. Must be because I did a link dump already this weekend, or spent way too much time qualifying my take on this series. We have sold out, so buy the book as a relic from when we still had integrity. Tomorrow, exclusive photos of Jeff McInnis putting a clock radio down his pants.

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On This Day of Contemplation



Every once in a while I read a book, and in doing so, am forced to consider exactly how my ideas—if taken seriously—fit into some kind of larger discourse. One thing I've become especially sensitive to lately is the fact that the themes of style, identity, and personalized functionality in basketball hardly began with FD. They've been around at least as long as Nelson George's Elevating the Game, which makes me wonder if this site isn't the intellectual equivalent of the white players who introduced the jumper and no-look pass to the mainstream. These weren't stolen so much as learned from another tradition and then revealed in a space where they were taboo. Still, kind of a buzz-kill.

Last night I was reading Gena Caponi-Tabery's "Jump for Joy," which takes as its basic premise that jumping has a socio-cultural significance and, not coincidentally, emerged as an innovation in dancing and basketball at the same time. I don't think I could ever get away with writing that. But there were two things in here that pinpoint exactly how I see FD relating to this strain of scholarship.

First, there's section about the 1967 Alcindor Rule:

The most extreme example of personal style, slam dunking is a jamming of the ball into the basket that has no parallel in any other sport. A football player may spike the ball and dance in the end zone after making a touchdown; a baseball player may make a victory run around the bases but no other sports allows the athlete to celebrate his individuality at the moment of triumph to "personalz(e) the act of scoring. Of its banning Jabbar wrote, "The dunk is one of basketball's great crowd pleasers, and there was no good reason to give it up except that this and other n[egros] were running away with the sport." Former college coach Robert Bownes said "Look, if a guy is seven feet tall, he is going to score from close in whether he stuffs or just lays the ball in. That rule wasn't put in to stop seven-footers. It was put in to stop the six-foot-two brothers who could dazzle the crowd and embarrass much bigger white kids by dunking."



See, that's the kind of thing that made me jump out of bed. I'd never underestimate the importance of style, what it tells us about a player's identity, or what meanings it might hold that affect fans, coaches, and other players on the level of culture. But the dunk, while totally fucking rad, simultaneously hangs out on the margins and casts a long shadow over the foreground of this discussion. In a way, it's a red herring. With very few exception, the sheer act of finishing, or dunking, is not the most meaty part of a play. The will to dunk, whether it appears at the last minute or fuels an entire individuals or team action, is far more important—and is responsible to a lot more meaningful content—than the finish in point. Case in point: Iverson or LeBron.

But then, lower down on the page, there's this:

Part of the essence of that game is something composer Olly Wilson calls the "soul focal moment", a point of unity between audience and player that occurs when a player—whether musician or athlete—performs what is necessary with exceptional ease, grace, and flair, taking a risk while maintaining control. The soul focal moment is not gratuitous showmanship—its artistry is functional and accomplishes what the moment requires, but with a degree and twist of virtuosity that is unnecessary and unexpected. The audience gasps in surprise, exclaims with pleasure, bursts into applause, and audience and player are united in the endless inventiveness of human expression.

Yeah, that made me grimace, too. I'd say this applies to the Showtime Lakers, or peak Jordan, or the first Dream Team, or whatever. But it just seems naive, and a little foolish, to try and apply this kind of superlative to even the most FD teams. I know that the Warriors, Hawks, Garnett on the Wolves, etc. are flawed. And probably less likely to succeed than if they did things the right way. That's what has always bugged me about this intellectual current: Not only is style important, and meaningful, it's also the key to absolute goodness if applied responsibly.



I don't want And1, but it also bothers me that the application of style could be so monolithic. What fascinates me about the players I like is the unevenness and experimentation that occurs as people try to succeed with this kind of outlook. Style for its own sake, or hood for its sake, is boring and doesn't work. At the same time, as the Spurs and this year's Celtics have shown us, style and personality are on some level antithetical to winning. What interests me is the drama that occurs as individuals or teams try to change that law. It is all about compromise and disaster, but this ongoing work-in-progress can never be totally defeated nor solved through one mere paragraph of generalizations.

At the risk of sounding like a woman, process is important here. The development of players. Their personal histories. The ups and downs of young teams. What exactly leads up to the dunk, block, or other chest-pound worthy incident. How it is that players can be effective while acknowledging that The Gospel of Style is no less absolute or impermeable than that of The Right Way. It's trial and error, give and take, tightrope and abyss. To presume that a playing being himself is the key to freedom is to admit that with freedom comes a whole new set of problems.

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6.14.2008

Save Everything, Everyone, Everywhere



In every community, there must be dissent, dialogue, and healing. Like a family where people actually like each other. I love all of you and have learned a lot in the past day, about both my own foibles and the way in which I still believe in the unlikely (and occasionally idiotic).

I've often wondered if the world needed or wanted regular FD links posts. They'd help our traffic, and occasionally there are things we have less than 600 words on. But I don't want to insult your internet savvy. Today, though, I'm kind of bored, so bear with my umpteenth crack at this:

-Screw you, agents of potential: HOOPSWORLD explains how the recession hurts J.R. Smith and Monta Ellis.

-Olympics loves Melo: I never get tired of this one. He's the golden child of USA Basketball, even if in the NBA, he has problems striking a balance between swagger and good, sound play. It's almost like he thrives on not being given a choice to make, like at Syracuse.

-Baron Davis gets his karma on: Fear the Beard hooks up a digital short with Baron buying people smoothies and mass transit tix. No, I'm not jealous or anything. The new frontier of what blogger-types (if such a thing exists; it probably just means "not newspaper guys") can do with access.

-The lo-fi makes it earnest:



Does having him stand on an outdoor court really establish the necessary basketball cred? I would pay good money to see him debate Stern, though. I also would like to state unequivocally that, as much evil as Stern commits, I will always admire him. He is like my own private Farrakhan.

-Tommy is the devil: This Ziller post itself has five tips in it, and one big blockquote, but it's the headline that's noteworthy. Yes, we should blame Tommy Heinsohn for conspiracy theories. I've long said that his brand of incessantly pro-home team blindness isn't just ignorant, it's irresponsible. Like, I know you want your team to get every call and make every shot. Sadly, it doesn't work like that. Granted, Tommy's the extreme of this, but when team's official voices are flush with outrage and justice defiled, it sets the whole competitive edifice on a sloshy foundation.

-Touching Father's Day item: A Weekend America producer puts a sentimental spin on shit like watching two games at once, one on the television and one on the laptop. And I thought my dad was nice for taking me to Wizards games.

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6.13.2008

Scoff and File



First, feel the rage of Dr. LIC's nightlife. And before this post gets any further, know that I don't agree with him that Garnett is "secretly boring", but am proceeding from his "KG has become hardened and humorless" line.

Last night's game changed many people's lives. I was not one of them, and as such feel like I should recuse myself from these Finals. Not because I'm some abject Lakers homer, or even blinded by my allegiance to Kobe Bryant (a purely invented one, right?). It's just become clear to me that the swirl of emotions I'm dealing with here have little or no relationship to ways and means of the 2008 Finals. So allow me to air these grievances one last time, take my lumps, and then disappear unless we end up going seven (we won't).

-My better half and I were supposed to go to some hot film festival ticket about Indians and human trafficking. Then she remembered grad school, and I was left driving downtown with a choice to make. The series wouldn't come back to life unless the Lakers one, but I didn't want to miss something important. So I drove to Jamal Crawford's bar, where I got to hear a bunch of Boston fans shout "Jesus" (Spanish pronunciation), "HAAAAAAUS", and not much else, and the Lakers contingent exhort LA to "shut 'em down," as if that were the reason for the collapse. I don't drink, and in a bar, really all there is to latch onto is the broad, basic endeavor of watching the scoreboard and bitching about fouls. It's hard to take in the game on any more subtle, informed, or non-hysterical level. That's why I kept nodding off during the third.



-Kobe Bryant is fascinating and supremely talented, but I wish there would be a gag order on him. Like Iverson once was, he gets people talking at length, which I guess is good. But it's always so tense, tendentious, and boring that I just don't care. Face it people, arguing about Kobe is like arguing about religion. It's never going to be a friendly, rational conversation. It's the grown folks equivalent of boo/yay, or Republican/Dem (circa when that mattered). I am beginning to realize that the Celtics are like this too, and the Lakers in general. I guess hatred is a solid emotion, but that's message board shit. And at the risk of sounding like an out-of-touch sports snob, I'm simply not that interested in that thick, poison air.

-I've been strangely oblivious to how hard it is to talk about the Lakers without falling into those tarpits. People, Kobe is a weird human being. As athletes go, try and find who better fits the old Greek stories. Lamar Odom is as close as this site gets to a patron saint, assuming that the expensive ones are all taken. Gasol/Odom is truly a thing of beauty. Farmar is an athletic Jew. I could care less about Los Angeles; I've never even been there. And it's not even like I relished every moment of the Shaq/Kobe dynasty—fine, I liked seeing Kobe win, because I selfishly like feeling like I'm witnessing greatness. But if anyone thinks for a second that I had more emotion invested in them than I did those Kings teams they vanquished, they need to check the archives. Webber belong in the same class as Odom and pre-Boston Garnett, the players whose plight fueled this blog for years.

-About Boston, again: It's true, I've spent a lot of time there and don't like it. And the Celtics endless history lesson annoys me, as I'm sure the Los Angeles one does, too. But admit it, that's not played up, exploited, even, in quite the same way. Here, though, I really just don't like this team. The defense is absolutely freaking amazing; what they did during the comeback proved that it doesn't take Josh Smith to land on the right side of my creative/destructive binary. That was like the anti-matter triangle, a system so forceful that it made the Lakers into scavengers.



But here's what really gets me, as articulated by someone who has seen only a few Celtics games this years: Except for the truly transcendent stretches of defense, this isn't a "greater than the sum of the parts deal" team. It's everyone involved, slightly muted, pieced together like a puzzle. Really, does this team scream "chemistry" to anyone? That's my team/individual beef. Teams should be about chemistry from beginning to end, not functionality. Again, I get that from the defense when it's really on, but the rest of the time, this team just does nothing for me.

And then there's the most flimsy, and maybe pathetic, reason: As I've said a zillion times already, three players I once really liked seem changed to me. Maybe it's the above stuff about the style, and what it's done to their games. Maybe it's the all-business attitude, or the corporate sheen that the 21st century Celtics were born to emit. I just know, however puerile this may sound, that Garnett's about to get a ring and I feel nothing. Actually, last night when he hit that wise-intelligent floater over Gasol down the stretch, I looked up and realized I was sitting under a signed KG Wolves jersey, with a photo of the younger, more vital Garnett bending and flexing all limbs at once mid-air. No shit that sounds like an objectification of the black body, except I could care less about him getting to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the honor of Hondo.

At this point, I really don't give a fuck who laughs at this, dismisses me as only liking obscure players, or claims it's all in my mind. Also I find it fascinating that I had no interest in Paul Pierce when he sunk into utter infamy, or now when he's riding totally high. Go take that one apart. But please, for the sake of my sanity, take a look at these videos from The Big Three before they existed, and tell me if you don't think some of that personality is gone. Sacrificed in the name of teleology, when I really wish they could've survived, on and off the court, with style intact. There is nothing wrong with a little frivolity or excess, right?

Also, fuck everyone.





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Chicago Disturbs Me a Great Deal


Dare I be so egocentric as to think a personal experience matters as much as the intrigue of what happened on the court tonight? I would like to think the anecdote I am about to relay is important as it speaks to the fundamental issues and principles that FD stands for and against...

My best friend was DJing tonight at a spot in Chicago called the Burlington at 3425 W. Kimball between Bernard and Kimball. It's your standard fare dank, PBR-serving spot. A really attractive reviewer reviewer on Yelp describes it as "Where the hipster/art school/music snob/bike messenger kids hang out in Logan Square." I've had some good times there and some boring times there, and at this point find it fit to return only when my friend DJs there (another good friend works the door there on occasion).

Knowing that I would be attending this bar on this evening, and knowing that it's a million miles north of where I lived, I arranged to get a car through my I-Go car sharing membership at 930, watch the first half of the game in my apartment, take off around halftime and catch the rest of the game at the bar. I should mention that last time we hit up the Burlington to see my friend DJ they kindly switched whatever TV movie was showing on their flatscreen to the NBA on TNT to let us watch some playoff game. Frustratingly, the person using the car before me was late, so I missed the whole third quarter and was fairly steamed. I zipped up to the North side around ten, listening to the game on ESPN radio. It was so intense I had to turn it off, but by the time I got to the bar (10:30), i knew it was a 1-point game with about three minutes left. I rushed in and saw my friends, saw that the TV (a gigantic flatscreen behind the bar) was off.

When I told my crew the circumstances of the game, my friend Kachel, the best haggler of my friends politely requested to the bartender to turn the game on. She asked the acting manager and he came over with a rejection. At this point, I got into it and was as vocally angry as I've ever been. I essentially told him in not so many words that it was ludicrous for him not to turn the game on and that we would only be watching (with the sound off mind you) for about 7 minutes. He gave a reasonable rationale that he didn't want to pay his DJs to play good music while people were distracted by watching the game. When I explained that the DJ was my best friend since 7th grade, the manager didn't care. Amongst the things that came next from him included:

--"it's not a Cubs game, so the policy is to have the TV off"
--"We're not a sportsbar!" (emphatically, repeatedly)
--"Isn't it the Lakers vs. the Celtics? Then why do you even want to watch it?!" (i.e. it's not a Chicago team, so why would you care)
-- "who still cares about the NBA?"
--"most of those guys [in the NBA] are jerks"
--"the NBA is all fixed"
--the requisite, "You can go somewhere else."
--"If you can find two other people in the bar who you DON'T KNOW who want to watch the game, I'll turn it on." (Unfortunately, we knew most of the other people in the bar).

As he again remarked that "this isn't a sportsbar" and as two girls caught in the midst of this complained that they didn't want the glare from the TV, since they had been "working all day," I admittedly (and embarrassingly in retrospect) uttered, "You know, there doesn't have to be such a disconnect between sports and indie culture." (ha). At the moment of ostensible defeat, guy turned on the game with about a minute and a half left and proceeded to give us the finger a few times and state, "I'm not leaving it on if the game goes to overtime."

I'm not sure if it was because he saw a decent amount of people (including those we didn't know) pay attention to the game when it came on, but for whatever reason, the guy started to ease up...a bit. He asked who I was cheering for and I said that "I don't really know, I care more about players...like Lamar Odom." This incensed him, as he couldn't believe that I wanted the game on so badly and didn't even have a vested interest in a single team.


Moments later as the game ended,, the guy apologized for yelling at us. He even gave us some shots, which he deemed his "fuck you shots" from him to us. I was still kind of shaking about the whole thing. The whole scenario illustrated a few key things:

--I know we talk about it a lot, but this is living proof that there is a wacked perception of the NBA out there, with some definitive classist undertones. This exchange was all too akin of when an employee at a very similar bar in Chicago, The Continental, told me that the DJs aren't allowed to play rap music. The NBA is seen as antithetical to culture and civilization.

--Liberated fandom is a hard concept to digest. There is some primitive notion of humans as fundamentally coalitional, and drawn to associate only with a greater collective rather than an individual. Or maybe this is just a perception of sportsfans as cro-magnons who necessarily band together rather than think for themselves.

--Remarks of "We're not a sportsbar," translating essentially to, "I will lose indie cred by turning this game on" are just at the root of what Chicago has always been blamed for: Insanely segregated diversity. Like, what kind of high schoolian notion is it that 'the jocks sit at this table, the geeks sit at this table, the preppy kids sit at this table.' This hipster/meathead false dichotomy has been rearing itself quite a bit of late, with the obscene irony of mostly white Midwesterners who move into formerly immigrant neighborhoods complaining of this neighborhood now being overrun with "Wrigleyville douchebags." [For the record, I would live on the North Side were it not for the proximity of my apartment to work/school].

Or maybe the Burlington guy and the West Town elitists are right. A few popped collars have soiled the reputation of anyone who wants to Watch The Game once in a while. Certainly the clip below is not a complete anomaly in this fine city (warning: extremely unsettling, but reasonably safe for work)



At any rate, I like to hope that what we do here at FD is provide some middle ground for people who are simply intrigued by the pro hoops game. And who have friends and girlfriends. And who like stuff besides basketball as well.

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6.12.2008

GO OUTSIDE


Spencer Haywood is your father.

Read his interview with the Denver Post today. Then read Haywood's blog for hours.

Read Shoals' bit on nostalgia, and more importantly his piece on Rondo.

See you guys later.

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6.11.2008

It Feels Like Home



Another Finals game, another night of abuse. For what's it worth, all of us in the FD email cabal enjoyed that one, and not just because the Lakers won. But like anyone cares about THE GREATEST FINALS EVER when Donaghy's making noise again. Sayeth I, there's a good reason why the theme of conspiracy just won't let the NBA alone. And why, in truth, it just might be a good thing.

As I said on The Sporting Blog, this kind of thing is all or nothing. We can all agree that stars get the benefit of the doubt. After that, though, there's no way of knowing where to draw the line, especially with no evidence but the word of a thief. Hell, either corroboration or plausible deniability would but add fuel to the fire. You should still click on that link before, but it's much the same with historical sticking points like JFK and Roswell—the real hell of paranoia is not knowing what's left of the shore you've departed from. For all of you who wear grad school like a badge, consider yourself knighted if you pick the just-right theorist for that sentiment.

So in that sense, Donaghy will yet again prove harmless, a crank who inspires only the most dogged and detached of ax-grinders. And yet, the whiff of it, the casual interest in conspiracy, tells us a lot about the NBA's standing in American society. It's a fun, and loaded, aside, that's more about the significance of the game than whether or not it was compromised on such and such day. In the midst of this debate—or by inserting itself into wider debate—the league ends up being, well, relevant, even as the sports media pronounces this a moment of doom.



To begin this inquest, let's turn to some other scandals. Namely, PEDs, Clemens, horses on cocaine, offensive tackles on 'roids, and other shit that really is a hall-of-mirrors style meltdown. Fine, crooked refereeing is about the integrity of the game, but not in the same way that altered athletes is. This seems more a fragment left over from the eighties, when the entire white collar community was fueled by cocaine, and Wall Street performance, while part of the general business drift of the nation, became a competitive sport unto itself. On the flip side of that (FEEL MY SLANG), there's the entire NFL in jail, which should really only be of marginal interest to football fans. It's boring, and just tells you that, duh, sports aggravates anti-social tendencies as often as they reverse them through structures and solvency. Oh, and racism is bad.

But the conspiracy is uniquely expansive and American. For one, it's a motif that unites the league's disparate constituencies. Scratch that—in the abstract, it does so for the whole damn political spectrum. At the risk of offending someone, there's a long tradition of conspiracy theories in the Black community. Yes, it's most evident on mixtapes, in Nation of Islam leaflets, and Jeremiah Wright, but it's not to be ignored. Nor is it that tough to account for. Of course, these suspicions are all about the system winning, and the NBA supposedly favors the system. Still, isn't adding this to the texture of the league—even if only in passing—play right into the hands of this particular core audience? Fuck a nested model of ref bias; if Iverson ever suggested that the league was out to get him, then you'd have a real rallying cry.

On the other hand, conspiracy theories are popular among the same kind of people who supposedly hate the NBA. You know, slightly wacko right-wingers who, if amplified across a generation or two, will have seed who start libertarian militias. Never mind the repulsion the league may cause in them. The added intrigue of corruption, the sense that special interests and wealthy celebrities might be pulling the strings, turns this tiny little sport into political theater. It's not just an imperfect form of competition, it's a metaphor for a world falling apart before their eyes. A team that suffers at the hands of Stern, especially a hard-working one who wrote the book on meritocracy, damn well better trump marketing concerns. If you think that said fan, who longs for the better days on and off the court, who hates affirmative action but isn't really racist, this stuff provides the perfect fuel in this particular basketball/cultural war.



And then, there's the time we live in. Say what you will about the NFL capturing the values moment, or NASCAR representing the rising up of the silent majority, or baseball once embodying the American Dream. I'm not sure if you've checked the news lately—I keep it on 24/7, even when there is a Law and Order on—but in the dying days of this administration, we are wading through a living, breathing backlog of scandal and secrets.

At this point, nothing will shock us. All is so believable, and there's so little we could do—or so little we want to tell ourselves about what we could've done—that the net effect is nil. But still, conspiracy is the fabric of U.S. government. Even if we want Obama, the First Basketball President, to sweep it all away, he's going to have to spend a hell of a lot of time clearing out all the brush that this administration has left behind—most of which smacks of collusion and secrecy.

So welcome to this country. Tim Donaghy's not a shock, he's confirmation that basketball's like everything else. And if we've learned to cope with that, or at least suppress it and try and make modest gains (or keep Bush in office as an easy target, yet another level of cynicism), then we should be able to sit the fuck back and enjoy these Finals. You're right, innocence is lost. It might never have been there. But what's the alternative? Throwing yourself off into the rapids and hoping no one points out you're in the de facto deep end?

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