I Am Somebody
You cannot stop me, I am still excited to see Deron Williams in the playoffs—at least when it heads back to SLC. I now fully accept Iguodala after his game-winner, which at the same time, I do not hesitate to chalk up to circumstance. A rookie playing his best game of the season in his first playoff appearance? That's not improbable, it's attributable to a kind of logic we have boldly ignored up until this point. Proof of Kobe's greatness? Just say "Kobe" and "playoffs" in the same sentence and try not to get chills (even if you have to scoff at last year's Finals). And damn, the thought of what Kevin Durant would do in the playoffs is flat-out scary.
There have long been concerns that FreeDarko is somehow not suited for the playoffs. Either because it marks the elimination of cult players and sideshows (it doesn't) or, more darkly, because there's no way to ignore the fact of winning and losing (we don't want to do that). I suspect, though, that there's some intuitive truth to the thought that the individual is sublimated more than ever in a certain, largely mythological, form of playoff ball. That the playoffs and style are mortals enemies who, while they may be reconciled, always rest uneasily at opposite poles. Of course, this depends on defining style as separate from function, and presuming that the playoff mindset is not only generic, but bound to affect some sort of uniformity in those who submit to its sway. Which frankly, is an insult nor only to what "FD" has come to mean, but also to the players themselves—as if the competitive spirit were somehow not an individual question.
The postseason inspires players. It's understandable, and in no way reflects on their attitude toward the regular season. But the stakes are higher, they dig down deeper, and in some cases, you find them more fully-realized, ferocious, and expressive than ever. I point to Williams, for the zillionth time, and submit that Jazz/Lakers will be enjoyable simply because I get to watch this heightened and enhanced version of an elite PG. This is, simply put, playoff style, and it's the intersection of FD's more esoteric concerns and our more hum-drum interest in who goes all the way. That's why a series can be interesting even if the outcome's a no-brainer, and why the drama inherent in any postseason context is ramped up by the NBA's capacity for the individual to contribute to this ambience on a micro-level.
So while the playoffs never make me avidly dislike a player, they can certainly open my eyes to what they're all about, or make me their biggest fan all over again. Playoff style proves, like Iguodala did today, that it's when players push themselves to the limits that they expand and discover just how resourceful, and awe-inspiring, they can be on the court. Today was the best I've seen Josh Smith play all season, and it was a hell of a lot of fun. We talked earlier today about Ariza's coming-out party; J.R. Smith and Beasley didn't do so badly, either. This is when basketball matters most, and consequently, when players put the most of themselves out there. And in the end, there's no way that happens in a manner devoid of, or hostile toward, style.
FreeDarko Recommends Updates: Mike James Kirkland's Hang on in There is so good, I just defied my own personal record spending freeze to finally bid on a copy; I keep staying up way too late reading The Buried Book, even it's about Gilgamesh and British archaeologists; Speaking of indispensable basketball books, Robert Peterson's Cages to Jumpshots, which tells of the NBA's pre-history (I can't muster a Gilgamesh analogy right now), is out of print; this Les Rallizes Denudes live album is enduring proof to me that noise has heart, even soul; Barry Hannah's High Lonesome falls under the category of "stuff that's really influenced my writing that I can still stand to read"; I think pot is absolutely hilarious, and Laurie Colwin's The Lone Pilgrim contains the single funniest short story about pot ever written.
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