4.20.2009

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.

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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.

(Clarification: We get paid even if you buy something else, as long as you go in through these links/the widget/the FD book links.)

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31 Comments:

At 4/20/2009 6:54 AM, Blogger db said...

The brute exigencies of duration that the playoffs bring about (each game, each possession intensified) seem to me to be not so much the enemy of style than the enemy of stylistic exploration. The Suns' runs (or GS vs Dallas) have shown that Another Playoff Style Is Possible, but you have to hone this through the regular season and have it pretty sharp to stand up to the imposition of Standard Playoff Basketball. But didn't Fanon say that in the conflict between colonizer and colonized, the only option was to try for an overthrow of the whole system, as a dominant culture/style would never bend to accommodate an intruder in any meaningful way? FD might then be a revolutionary project, and even the charming expressions of those persevering against the playoff machine are only enjoyable for their representation of a better way, which (even if it never comes to pass) will give people a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

Even outside of Williams, who is awesome, the Lakers unit is something to watch and worth a post in itself.

 
At 4/20/2009 10:51 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I don't see why you're persisting in this prescriptive/proscriptive "playoff basketball" model. How many guys looked MORE themselves over the weekend than during the regular season? That's my point.

 
At 4/20/2009 11:27 AM, Blogger djturtleface said...

Totally agree, couldn't have said it better. Only thing I would add to your argument is that the intense focus on every possession actually heightens the importance of "FD" type players because these stylistically strange players can more obviously change the course of the game. Think J-smoove's dunks possessing the ATL crowd, or JR Smith's 10 straight making the Hornets curl up into fetal position right when things were looking up. Or one of the most often forgotten starters on the Nuggets, K-Mart, projecting his showboating, nearly boorish toughness onto the entire game-being real. There is no way in hell the Hornets could beat the Nuggets in a mix of street ball and street fight, but K-Mart's style transformed that game without the Hornet's having any hope of civilizing play.

 
At 4/20/2009 11:31 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Totally agree. I touched on that in TSB wrap-up with regard to Smith. Those highlight dunks also won the game.

WV rudgion=religion based around things Paul Rudd says on set.

 
At 4/20/2009 2:01 PM, Blogger Greg said...

One way in which the playoffs are anti-FD is the increased physicality which refs allow. That isn't de-facto anti FreeDarko, but it hasn't historically been something which writers here have often got pumped about? Garnett's hard foul right at the end of game six in last year's final was characteristic, individual, sure, but the way announcers talked about was in terms of an NFL-y 'winningness' that wasn't the aesthetic NBA I love.

 
At 4/20/2009 2:02 PM, Blogger Business or Leisure? said...

Colwin is a genius. Doesn't that book also have the story about the woman addicted to being in water as well?

 
At 4/20/2009 3:59 PM, Blogger Teddy said...

To my mind, what set up the FD versus the playoffs stuff last year was the combination of: (1) a perception that some major chunk of the FD crew rejected what they saw as the individual style-negating approach of teams like SA and Boston; and (2) the facts that Boston won it all last year and SA has won it all a bunch recently. The result was that it looked like FD was rooting against winning teams and identifying its rooting interests by using some Byronic notion of doomed romance for its rooting interests.

Although I thought that way myself last year, I've changed my mind. I think the key to overcoming the issue is the brilliant throwaway "guys being more themselves" line that BS added in the comments. That definition of what it means to be FD opens the door to an FD-view of even teams like the Celtics or Spurs. After all, there's nothing more Spur-like than further sublimating your individuality to the team's design (and maybe even its dasein) in the playoffs. Each Spur expresses himself through chosen (not forced) sublimation. As long as there is an appreciation for that stylistic choice, there's no potential for a false choice between winning and self-expression.

In other words, while James Brown had style, so did any given Temptation or Top.

 
At 4/20/2009 5:01 PM, Blogger Alex said...

You're right--the playoffs don't make me dislike any player, either (not avidly, at least). All of these high stakes games tend to bring out the best in a lot of guys who I wouldn't have otherwise thought much of (see: Chris Andersen). Playoff contention, however, does make me dislike beer bottle-throwing crowd members. Quite oppositely of the players, it brings out the worst in some fans.

 
At 4/20/2009 5:50 PM, Blogger Alex said...

I was surprised not to see FD on this year's list of Pulitzer Prize winners today, by the way. The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac for General Nonfiction? Maybe next year.

 
At 4/20/2009 9:12 PM, Blogger djturtleface said...

As much as I hate to double post, how come Ben Gordon gets no love. So far if both teams were wearing white you would think he was Ray Allen. Well Ray Allen but at least a step quicker then you ever remembered him. Nobody gives him any love in the media because apparently the 17th leading scorer in the NBA (who has excellent percentages and low TO's might I add) is somehow not valuable. Shoals please take this dude's case, Gordon drips with style.

Also one request, daily FD updates in the playoffs please? That is unless its a Lakers-Jazz, Cavs-Pistons doubleheader...

 
At 4/20/2009 10:22 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I didn't realize we took requests.

Ben Gordon has always bugged me. He always seems in denial of that fact that he's as much J.R. Smith as Ray Allen. My hands are hurting, so there might not be a new post till tomorrow, where I will somehow extol Rondo and still manage to complain about the Celtics. Wait, that's dumb.

 
At 4/20/2009 10:30 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Also, I've decided that explaining my recommendations is over the line. I'll just periodically remind you to check the widget. That makes me feel less bad about not posting tonight.

 
At 4/20/2009 10:37 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

What are the odds of y'all posting a video of Ray Allen's game winner?

Slim I bet.

 
At 4/20/2009 10:41 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Was that some kind of "gotcha!?"

I'd rather post one of the jumper Rondo made late in the 4th, alongside video of Duncan's three from last year and Amare's banked-in three from 2004.

 
At 4/21/2009 3:44 AM, Blogger Alexander J said...

I am worried that the illusion of commenter based clout is surfacing in the minds of my fellow web-based brethren who browse this blog.

Iggy hitting shots like that will and always should take precedent over a recap of first round playoff outcomes; wanting more posts is like asking CNN for more coverage during election time, why can't we do more research on our own and use this forum for more specific ideas/desires/goals. We gotta live together people, I don't want to read fanmail, I just want to get involved in engaging discussions.

I also have been living and working in a small provincial capital in Spain where I get no access to league games, this site and some score feeds are all I got whenever I can get internet in the first place; maybe be a little more grateful and buy a book.

I sound like an obnoxious asshole earlier, let me soften the rhetorical stool that I'm dropping; I've noticed a little too much sass in the comments and not quite enough substance.

That said, Rondo hitting jumpers is of note, if not much more so, as much as his Triple Double.

The Amaré 2004 bank three is so amazingly ignored; it had shades of a middle school game where the tall, athletic/uncoordinated PF throws up one of those out of nowhere shots that gets everyone a little excited after screaming, "NO!!!!!"

word verification; hessoma, a rare blood disorder that causes one to play poorly in game ones of first round playoff series; see Hilario, Maybyner

 
At 4/21/2009 2:13 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

So I'm watching Bulls/Celtics with my girlfriend last night, and she excitedly asks, who's that short guy hitting all those shots? And I had to explain why I hated Ben Gordon, which was something like, "He thinks he's a lot better than he really is, he's too short to play shooting guard, he's a defensive liability, he can't dribble, and he never passes the ball."

Later in the game, when he refused to pass to a WIDE OPEN Brad Miller standing directly under the basket, she understood what I meant. And, yeah, I know he ended up getting fouled on that play, and that he scored like 400 points, but whatever. I don't like him.

 
At 4/21/2009 3:36 PM, Blogger Headless Chicken said...

WV: walin

No. Please, everybody stop that. I refuse this WV!

Then: Brown, to me it feels like telling someone you hate Kobe. And admire what he does and did. Though that seems far more easy and hard at the same time. I'm lost in paradoxes today...

I like what Alexander J wrote. Requests are for Y!Sports blogs. Not here. I think.

 
At 4/21/2009 4:10 PM, Blogger Dave Fonseca said...

Gordon's reaction to himself last night turned me into a fan, even though I have regional ties to the Celtics.

BRE is right in that he's arrogant and and out of position in ways that aren't cool or endearing, yet ... I still find myself drawn to his game.

He just seems like ... a cool motherfucker.

This morning, I was talking to a co-worker and I said, in a super self-satisfied way, that "some team is going to feel really stupid after they pay him $15 million next summer and then realize he's only good once a month." Immediately afterward I felt dirty and wanted to take it back.

Basically, Ben Gordon is responsible for invoking all kind of weird emotions in me, and almost none of them have anything to do with his dreamy biceps and icy gaze.

 
At 4/21/2009 4:17 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

"I sound like an obnoxious asshole earlier, let me soften the rhetorical stool that I'm dropping; I've noticed a little too much sass in the comments and not quite enough substance."

I know I came off like an asshole with my comment (sorry dudes), but really, what makes a video of AI's shot more worthy of being posted than Ray's?

 
At 4/21/2009 4:30 PM, Blogger djturtleface said...

Let me clarify, the request was not with intention of any sort of adoration for the commenter, but rather from the basis that a good FD post spurs good reflection and discussion from all parties.

Clearly this presupposition was wrong; after all, this post has remained active and interesting.

Oh well, I guess that makes me the goose...

 
At 4/21/2009 5:28 PM, Blogger W2 said...

Regarding posting Ray's game winner. Don't we expect that from Ray (despite his game one horror show). Iggy hitting that against the heavily favored Magic (did anyone outside of Philly pick Philly to win game one).

Additionally if you were thinking about posting a play and while I am a huge Celts fan and a giant Pierce guy, the Rose block on Pierce followed by the save through the legs to ignite another Bulls fast break was epic. If Noah's finish was even remotely as impressive as what Rose brought to the first part of the play the earth would have stood still and the Bulls would have won.

Just a thought.

Looking forward to the Celtics-centric post.

 
At 4/21/2009 6:04 PM, Blogger Jacob said...

"but really, what makes a video of AI's shot more worthy of being posted than Ray's?"

Really? Does this question even need to be asked?

 
At 4/21/2009 6:57 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

yep

 
At 4/21/2009 7:00 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I hate the playoffs.

 
At 4/21/2009 7:47 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

Not to be too heavy-handed, but Iguodala's game-winner changes his whole narrative. Ever since high school, he's been the guy who prefers to be the second (or even third) banana and do all the little things, rather than be a star. He has all of the physical tools to be an All-NBA player, but not the mentality.

Thus, hitting a game-winner in a playoff game against a heavily favored opponent seems like pretty good evidence that he's getting in touch with his inner alpha-dog.

Ray Allen's game-winner conveys none of that. It mostly just reminds us that he's a deadly shooter, which most of us already acknowledged.

 
At 4/21/2009 11:32 PM, Blogger Ritchie said...

I hate Ben Gordon, but I do enjoy his out of this world arrogance. I remember during his rookie season he made some comments about being excited about playing the Bobcats so that he could dunk on Okafor, which made me stop and think "Ben Gordon can dunk on NBA bigs?" Obviously he can't, I don't think it's ever happened but somehow Gordon thinks it could happen. I'm pretty sure he still thinks this.

Sadly Gordon is a fantastically uninteresting player. He just shoots a lot. And sometimes a lot of them go in and he looks great. More often a lot of them don't go in and he's just a bore. Ben's line against the Celtics in game 2 is quintessential Gordon: 42 points, 1 rebound, 0 assists, 1 steal in 44 minutes. He's the anti-Rondo. Zero assists for an undersized guard in 44 minutes of basketball, yikes. I don't care how many shots Gordon made, turning the Bulls 4th quarter offense into give Gordon the ball and see what kind of rushed shot he throws up yet somehow makes killed the team down the stretch. He's no Kobe or Wade or Lebron so there's no need to abandon all other plans than putting the ball in his hands and at least all of those true basketball gods are smart enough to pass the ball on occasion.

Did I just accidentally make the argument for Gordon being interesting?

 
At 4/22/2009 12:21 AM, Blogger holopawer said...

Daniel, please at least give a compelling argument for Ray('s shot) or just stop leaving the snarky comments.

Is it possible to like Utah and hate Jerry Sloan?

 
At 4/22/2009 1:40 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

I don't know, I thought it was kind of compelling to see Ray bounce back in such a huge way after his horrible game one (and first half of game two). I realize that that's a much smaller event compared to Andre's shot now. Brown Recluse's answer straightened me out. I haven't followed Andre much so I didn't really know his story.

 
At 4/22/2009 12:11 PM, Blogger gabeg said...

Seeing Dikembe go down last night was awful. As an unliberated Blazers fan, I can muster ill will toward any Rocket, but not Mutumbo. Here's hoping he sticks around the league in some capacity, perhaps with a guest stint on TNT.

 
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