Rocket Takes a Bounce

So I've figured out why my writing over here has slowed to a trickle. It isn't that, after five years, the well's run dry, or the league has passed us by. It's that what keeps me writing on a daily basis, and what has "FD-ness" constantly subject to re-examination and its own wicked permeability, is the shock of the new. The sense that, in no particular order, there are new faces cropping up in the league, bringing with them new ideas about how to play the game, no matter how micro they may be. This season, however, such jagged wonder is in short supply. LeBron's Cavs, and the unleashed James and Wade, are ironically among the few things that consistently grab and shake me like they demanded my attention. We can argue about exactly what NEW means, but I know it when I see it.

Everything else, I term "appreciation." That's not to say that Granger or Harris or boring or uninspired. Just that they don't call me to action in the same way. They're unique, but not original to the point of shifting those around them. They break with the Right Way mold, but don't revolutionize all by themselves. And perhaps most importantly, while better than we'd anticipated, they aren't surprises. These two, along with Durant, Roy, Jefferson and Rondo, are somewhere between NEW and old guard. They're the guard changing, in such a way that if we had to redo the book right now, I feel like only LeBron, Paul, Kobe, and maybe Amare (down year) would be in a revised edition. The next generation is settling in, hierarchies becoming clear, and while the league feels different than it did in 2007-08, a shift is not the same as blaring change.

I don't believe this is just fatigue on my part. I think Mayo has come the closest, even if his game isn't particularly radical. With all the hype surrounding PGs, Rose was supposed to be this good. Actually, I did feel something watching Webber on Inside the NBA on Monday. With all due respect to Barkley, fuck Barkley. Webber says shit like "prominence doesn't equal significance," engages Kenny is a discussion of personality vs. character, and seems like he's going to burst if he can't get some of this shit off of his chest. That personality/character distinction might be exactly the snare I've been hitting. Webber was claiming that no matter what LeBron's outward personality was, you could see his dead-serious character in his eyes on the court. Kenny wondered if the lack of a cutthroat manner was still a problem. Or something like that; I wish that clip would appear.

What I'm still not sure of is whether this season is rich with personality but low on character, character-rife but lacking personality, or proving that, at least for me, the two are inseparable. EDIT: To me, the question was whether one trumped the other, and whether one, the other, or both were absolute. I think that's applicable to my take on this season.

More importantly: If you want to own a piece of history, and live in the Pacific Northwest, hit me up and I'll tell you what store currently has Detlef Schrempf's record collection in its possesion. The collection is equal parts 1983-1987 R&B like Shalamar and Ray Parker, Jr., European pressings of Dylan and Neil Young, and some stuff that's literally, drably, Kraut rock, as in, campy rock by self-satirizing Germans. If Germans are in fact capable of such a thing intentionally. All the black stuff is still in the shrink. I will be charging a small finder's fee for each tip.

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At 1/21/2009 4:33 PM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

I'm pretty sure Kenny's argument was that even though you can see the character in his eyes, the personality still has an impact on his teammates because he sets the tone for everyone as a leader.

It really was an interesting discussion.

At 1/21/2009 4:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even as a nonliberated fan, I have to admit the only compelling storylines left for this season are:

1. The Return of Monta

2. The possible vindication of SSOL in as pressure-free an environment as you can get (no results necessary till 2011)

3. Donnie & Stephon

4. Why is Indiana so good against good teams and so bad against everyone else?

Compared to all that, I'm supposed to stay interested in TMac's heart/knee and RonX2's ankle? Nah.

At 1/21/2009 4:47 PM, Blogger ABlock said...

Please tell me Detlef's record collection is in Portland.

At 1/21/2009 5:49 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

That was it. To me, the question was whether one trumped the other, and whether one, the other, or both were absolute. I think that's applicable to my take on this season.

I am neither confirming nor denying any information about the Schrempf Collection, except over email.

At 1/21/2009 7:41 PM, Blogger Robert said...

I can't say that this season is as compelling as last season, but few are. This is the time when being a team fan can count.

Will Nene and Kmart hold up? Will Melo come back rested for a run? Will George Karl's passive aggressive antics mold this team into a facsimile of the Indians from Major League, a contender from a bunch of rifraf that everyone wrote off?

And of course, the J.R. Smith question. What is the next step in his parable?

I like their dirty wins over Dallas and Phoenix. It shows that Chauncey will do what he has to, and he isn't going to put up with 3rd quarter meltdowns for too long.

So anyway, I guess I can see the advantage of being a homer in times like this. Because I definitely agree with what's being said. But don't dismiss the gravity of a "changing of the guard" situation.
But I'm rambling. I just bought the book; it's amazing. Props.

At 1/21/2009 8:28 PM, Blogger photoguy said...

I think Ty has it right above... though Shoals unleashes a bloggish cheap shot on Barkley, one can only agree that C Webb is eager and interesting to watch and listen to... Barkley's an eminence grise, no matter that he still wants to party, and that position puts him in the role of pontificator- the tension there created by whether he has (on any given night) the energy to break out of it.. moot point for a bit, it would seem.

At 1/21/2009 10:33 PM, Blogger VictorVonRimp said...

I don't know, I think there are more than a few compelling storylines this year:
1. The Magic's prominence, driven by the play of not Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, but the exceedingly short Jameer Nelson; This cat reminds me of Tim Hardaway minus 3 inches, which is pretty astounding.

2. Lebron's dominance. This kind of affected blase' attitude about his progression is kind of silly in my opinion. The dude has turned into a straight up LOCK DOWN defender. Did anyone see what he did to Paul Pierce last time they played?
He's doing what Jordan used to, coming back every summer with a new wrinkle, and killing people with it...pretty much what you would expect from your superstar.

3. Atlanta is relevant. Joe Johnson is a beast(nothing new to anyone here).

My point is, there are still a lot of shit going on in the league that is noteworthy and "captivating"

And BTW, I think Barkley is kind of a one trick pony, but "FUCK Barkley isnt necessary." C-Webb is cool and all, but having him talk about character and persona is funny, considering this guy literally shit his pants in any big situation going back to college. Him talking about winning is like hearing Matt Millen talk about team building during the NFL Playoff.
Barkley is, no matter what you think about him, exceedingly real. Webber strikes me as a guy trying to find profound things to say, like the guy in your college class who raised his hand to ask a question not for the sake of clarification, but to hear himself talk in a public forum.
That being said, when him and GP clown around with Amhad on Tuesdays, I love it.

At 1/21/2009 10:34 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

Amar'e isn't suffering from a "down" year. D'Antoni's move to NY has convinced me that among other things, SSOL does a brilliant job of covering up and compensating for a flawed player's deficiencies.

For a guy who talks so much about being The Man, it has been a sublime joy to watch him get exposed this year as a very, very good player, as opposed to somebody that can lead his team to the Bigger and Better Things.

What I like about basketball more than any other sport is that there is significantly more opportunity for individual agency...and I appreciate artistic flourishes and impressive feats of athleticism. That said, I want to see that style and individuality harnessed within the concept of winning games.

Which brings me back to Ama're. He's a loser. Doc Rivers had a good quote after the Boston-Phoenix game, talking about what it takes to win a title, and how most guys want to win but by continuing to do the things they've always done...in other words, they don't want to sacrifice touches, they don't want to sacrifice minutes, they don't want to sacrifice money if need be, they don't want to change their games...if that's what it takes, then fuck it, they'll revert back to being concerned about their touches and their stats and their money. Amar'e is the kind of guy who has no shame about being out on the court in the 4th quarter of a blowout when his team is getting pounded so he can get his stats, when the rest of the starters are grabbing some pine.

He talks about being The Man, but doesn't make more of an effort to be a better defender. He's a tremendous athlete, so there's no excuse for him being such a lousy and terrible defender. If he became a two-way player, it would go a long way towards solving a lot of the Suns problems. He wants to be The Man, when maybe that's not exactly what the Suns need from him, and when being The Man would come at the cost of the Suns being a better team. He just doesn't get it, and I doubt he ever will. Sometimes it clicks for guys and a lightbulb gets turned on and they transform, but I've never seen any evidence of that from Stoudemire.


At 1/21/2009 10:51 PM, Blogger Hardwood Paroxysm said...

As a violent partisan, it disgusts me to say this, but I have to.

Your salvation has to lie with the playoffs. Which is, inherently, un-FD. Which is why it makes sense.

The Lakers are probably the answer. They're loose, they're unfiltered, they're deeply flawed, and they're relevant without being Boston-blatant. I root against them night in and night out, but if they were Memphis or Charlotte or Indiana, it would be spectacularly amazing. I mean, Odom being a dynamite finisher? Gasol swirling? Bynum being a great raw talent but terrible at everything fundamental? Ariza? With Kobe at the heart?

Meanwhile, the Eastern four could end up Cleveland-Miami-Atlanta-Orlando. Boston will almost definitely bounce one of them, but they're at least vulnerable. Think about that set of four.

There's hope. But it comes in April, which is just...wrong somehow.

At 1/21/2009 11:23 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

VVR and others: That was pro-Webber, not anti-Barkley. Flip and rhetorical, as in, "I don't miss him."

Hawks are doing it without much Josh Smith, and with much Bibby, which pains me.

Raise your hand if you fully comprehend the Magic. At the heart of that is Nelson's season.

Zeke: Amare is a mess now, but he was extremely efficient the last two seasons. Ask Ziller a question about usage or something. I think he needs a coach and a system that can "mask" his deficiencies while taking advantage of his strengths. Does that make him a disaster as a player? Because when used correctly, he's unstoppable. He just needs some structure or, um, lack thereof.

HP: The playoffs will force me to get excited about something, no?

At 1/21/2009 11:26 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

How the Amare situation figures into the ongoing excitement surrounding 2010

At 1/22/2009 9:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a buddy who is falling in love with hoops, Actually his girl is from the bay area and she got him into hoops and hip hop. He likes Bjork.

Anyway I implore him to get the book and he asked...will it be relevant. And I was like...yes and no. This season seems to mark the mortality of a generation of good-great players.

Nash, Pierce, Dirk, Baron, Jax, Camby are giving way to Aldridge, Wallce, Smith, Rondo, and Harris. It is fun but it seemed to happen so quickly.

At 1/22/2009 10:19 AM, Blogger avery said...

...this season is more about the loss of ground than gains. New Orleans, and Utah seemed to be spinning their wheels, while Dallas hasn't gotten their groove together, the Suns have lost a step, and the Raps have probably fallen the worst (after such great hopes). Throw in the shell of the warriors, and the clips becoming normal, and there is nothing except expectations for 2010. And perhaps that talk brought deflated the balloon before it was even filled up.

orlando, cleveland, portland don't make up for the disappointments.

At 1/22/2009 11:42 AM, Blogger GHOSTS said...

is there any way that individual sacrifice or team defense can be anything but "right way" and as such hemlock to the "liberated"?

At 1/22/2009 1:09 PM, Blogger wfresh2010 said...

I know the distaste for Simmons, but he said that anyone playing for D'Antoni looks about three times better than they do with any other coach. I think Amare has the wrong coach and even if shaq wasn't there he would still struggle. That team is lost, and will amount to nothing for years to come. They are old too.
PS whats the beef with Amare and KG?

At 1/22/2009 7:35 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

while Dallas hasn't gotten their groove together, the Suns have lost a step,

Those franchises have a lot in common and are now in pretty much the same boat. They both had their chances to get it done and couldn't for one reason or another, made panic trades in response to Gasol, and have some hard choices to make.

The Suns need to blow it up. If you're trying to become a half-court, defensive-oriented team, Nash (can't play d), Ama're (won't play d)and Shaq (won't show on the p'n'r)are not the right personnel. They have an old, aging core. Do you really want to go into the playoffs depending on Shaq, Nash and Grant Hill to be fresh? They're set up nicely for 2010 though.

Dallas is essentially stuck. They're not as bad as KG's final days in Minnesota, but essentially it's the same situation. They don't have the pieces to trade themselves back into contention, and as long as Dirk is in his prime, they won't be terrible. If you blow it up, you're not winning shit for 3-4 years, 1-2 years to bottom out and then another 1-2 years to get it moving in the right direction. Their current core is done together, it just doesn't equal the sum of the parts. The Mavs should dump every part of their core outside of Dirk and bet everything on landing somebody in 2010.

At 1/22/2009 8:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Zeke - Since there's already a new post, I expect this to go unanswered, but what CAN you build around Dirk? As far as I can tell his only 'unstoppable' move is the turnaround J, which seems a kinda low% strategy even if you're GOOD at it.
IMO, players you build around are physically dominant because of their speed or their sheer size. Dirk's not super fast and he's a pretty "dull" seven feet. His skill is a practiced thing, so yeah, if he plays till he's 50, he should still be able to hit a 20 footer, but IMO, when his warranty's up, people are going to wonder how anyone ever saw anything but Keith Van Horn in his game. Building around Dirk Nowitzki is HILARIOUS. Nobody in their right mind but Mark Cuban would try it. You basically have to go to Charlotte to find a team whose #1 player isn't worth less than him.

At 1/22/2009 9:42 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

@ tredecimal:

but what CAN you build around Dirk?

He's a 7-foot shooting guard. You put slashers around him. They had a really good one that they traded to New Jersey. They have another good one that has been in an erstwhile funk for the past year.

He's a matchup nightmare because there's such a high release point on his jumper. Very few players can bother him. It's pretty simple: he can take lumbering bigs out on the perimeter to shoot over them. He can take smaller players off the dribble on face-up drives to the hoop. At his apex, he shot 50%/90%/40% while committing very few turnovers. He's probably the most efficient scorer in the League. And the scouting report on his defense needs to be seriously updated. He will never ever be confused with Garnett or Camby on that end, but he is leagues above Amar'e or Carmelo. Because he's so much more efficient than his man on offense, he will easily win his matchup most nights.

but IMO, when his warranty's up, people are going to wonder how anyone ever saw anything but Keith Van Horn in his game.

I guess you're blind, then. There's a lot of catch and shoot white boys in the League. You know them as Kyle Korver, Matt Carroll and in seasons past, Steve Kerr and Tim Legler. Dirk is more than a catch and shoot white boy.

Building around Dirk Nowitzki is HILARIOUS. Nobody in their right mind but Mark Cuban would try it. You basically have to go to Charlotte to find a team whose #1 player isn't worth less than him.

Building around Dirk Nowitzki got the Mavs within an inch of a title. If it's hilarious and a joke to build around him, then it's fucking hysterical to build around 25 other guys. I'm not a Dirk groupie blind to his flaws as a player. While his reputation has never fully recovered from Golden State, but by any objective measure he remains one of the top 5-9 players in the league. I have to seriously question somebody's basketball acumen that thinks only the Bobcats possess a worse #1 option. And it wasn't Mark Cuban's decision to "build around" Dirk Nowitzki. That was Don Nelson.

At 1/22/2009 9:51 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

That's also why the Mavs suck now as opposed to 2006. With Josh off in space, most nights Dirk and Terry are the only guys who can hurt you. The year of the Finals run, Dampier and Diop manned the paint, while they could put four other scorers on the floor. On any given night that year, they had 6 guys (Dirk, Jet, Josh, Devin, Stack and Marquis) who could go for 20 plus. That puts a lot of pressure on a defense. I miss that team, and how versatile it was. They could go big, they could go small. They could play halfcourt, they could go uptempo, depending on the team that they were facing. They could find your weakness and force you out of your comfort zones. Avery was still The Little General, not The Little Dictator.

At 1/23/2009 8:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have to go to Charlotte to find a guy who's number one is worse..

Dirk is top 5-9.

The truth lies somewhere in between. It would seem that a player like Dirk would register pretty low on the FD factor.

Do fans in Dallas see the trade for Kidd as a huge mistake. Could it be seen in any other way?

How close are we to seeing J Kidd and Steve Nash becoming back-ups?

Nash looked rough in recent games against Rondo and Chris Duhon. He could be backing up Jose Calderon in no time

At 1/23/2009 10:20 AM, Blogger Zeke said...

If I'm a GM, there's much more than 5-9 guys I'd rather have than Dirk. If I'm a coach, I can only think of the following I'd rather have to try and win a game or a series that started tomorrow:


The following I put at the same level:

Garnett (better defender, less efficient and versatile scorer, less desirable crunch-time go-to guy.)

I think he's on the outer edges of the top 10 players in the League. I don't think that's bias, just objective reality.

And yes, the Kidd trade is a killer. He will end up being both bookends to the best era in franchise history. The Mavs can't even afford to suck next year and go into the lottery, because the Nets own that pick. They're better off finishing ninth and missing the playoffs this year.

I'm pretty sure Nash signs with New York in 2010, whether Bron Bron goes there or not.

At 1/25/2009 8:01 AM, Blogger maxmillian said...

I love your take on basketball in general. I hope you begin to write more. I have read often, but this is my first time commenting. Here's what I think is interesting about basketball today - what deserves to be written about, that is:

1. The rise of a new basketball culture

Following the collapse of the 2004 Lakers mega-team starting four future hall of famers against the tough team-oriented Pistons, the established school of thought about winning has been challenged. The pistons beat those lakers with good team work, and little star power. That had not been the formula for winning in the past, as you well know.

The dominance of the Spurs over the next few years furthered the "starless team" mentality, as the focus of winning games was shared by many Spurs, whether it was Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili sharing the scoring load, or Horry hitting a game winning shot, it was all of them, not just one. Though indeed there are hall of famers on the team, they ACT as though they are all equal. And that's the key.

The current champion Celtics are the latest example, and the one leading the culture change in the league. The equal sharing of the scoring load, the careful distribution of touches, the cheering loudly for bench players, the statement that "team is above all" - these Celtics won the title convincingly while practically preaching their philosophy.

The league has caught on. Now you see Portland's young guns telling reporters about how they hang out off the court all the time. You see Kobe smiling happily as he sits out the fourth, talking about how he's never got on better with his teammates. You can see, in teams all over the league, the attempt to embrace this team-above-star mentality.

But there is one star in the league who is above the team. To me, the most fascinating story of this year is the rise of the "starless" teams in the NBA - and the juxtaposition of that with the meteoric rise of LeBron James. He has carried his team to the brink of a title practically alone the last two seasons.

I am definately looking forward to the second half of the season.


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