As Weird as Finger Panes

It's not online, but you'll have to take our word for it. In today's New York Times, the following words exist:

If Milicic does decide to leave for Europe, his lasting impressions on the N.B.A. may be as a cautionary tale about raw talent from overseas and the fact that he helped to inspire a young group of bloggers who started the site Free Darko.

The site has gone on to be one of the better N.B.A.-related blogs and last year produced the book "Free Darko Presents: The Macrophenomenal Basketball Almanac."

I lead with this not only to crease my own mask (it likes it!), but also because it pertains directly to a post I'd planned to write anyway. Darko is inseparable from "raw talent", albeit in practice, less often the overseas variety. We fixate on players in part for their singularity, but also in many cases because of their ability to tickle the imagination. It's alternately laughable and pitiable to watch NBA teams wait on, and ultimately admit their folly with, the likes of Darko or Kwame Brown. It's like the change of seasons, but with less Wordsworth and more scrap heap.

How then, is that so different from what we've been through with (deep breath) Andray Blatche, Amir Johnson, Rashad McCants, Julian Wright, Donte Greene, Javaris Crittenton, Al Thornton, Alexis Ajinca, Anthony Randolph, and Bill Walker, to name a few. Asterisk as many of these as you want, especially since some are recent or facing coaching oppression, but there's a sinking feeling associated with all of them. I know GMs in businesses are supposed to eat crow, but you've got to think their investment is more personal, emotional—as ours is entirely.


We've also been right quite a few times, and in other cases been stuck waiting to see if, to name the ultra-dude, J.R. Smith will ever become whole. Or Thaddeus Young achieve stardom, Francisco Garcia get those minutes, and so on. Those may just be a question of admitting that not all ideas become flesh, or that a league full of superstars wouldn't make any sense (1965, I see you!). With someone like Amir Johnson—once posited as a stroke of luck who would make up for Darko—it's harder to know what to feel. Did we stake a franchises's future on him? No, but our enthusiasm for Amir was every bit as real and concrete as, well, ours for players real and concrete. And now, we are forced into an expressive bind: Either admit that we falsely expended energy, spewing it back forth into the cosmos, or find value in the act of love even if this love is in the end proven false.

And wait, isn't this textbook bad faith? GMs are just stupid. We are willing to let our love of the game, or at least some scrap of it, hinge on potential without a road ahead, sometimes well after potential has ceased to quiver and gone still, mocking, obdurate. We celebrate the uneasiness and blind faith, while GMs gamely wait on their investment to pan out. They made a choice, and are forced to live with the consequences. We believe more the less dreams come true. That's not to say we resent players who realize their potential, but that excitement is different than belief. Do GMs believe? Do enchiladas dream?

I would be happy to learn that the universe is one big circle made up of syllogism. So when I die, they would say "his blog ended up lending its name to the All-Star point-forward FreeDarko Greenton, as well as both encouraging and extinguishing a certain elitist strain of fandom." But I don't want to stop now. DON'T MAKE ME STOP NOW.


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At 12/20/2009 6:49 PM, Blogger Mouth said...

"In the N.B.A., all those aspersions cast his way have finally sunk Darko Milicic, who announced he would leave the league after this season, perhaps simply to remind people he is still in the league."

There it is in black & white; I see it--justification for the existence and writing of Mr. Shoals. Congrats on your NYTimes blurb.

And now a paradox and an examination of lost childhood:
". . .or find value in the act of love even if this love is in the end proven false." I watched David Lee win dunk contests in his youth and contain his athleticism until the most opportune moments in the college game. James White banished himself to skinny, sub-Ricky Davis type efforts in a Bearcats uni and Billy Packer admired Matt Walsh like a dieting fat kid admires his/her advent calendar. For me, a Gator hater, it was Lee who made me watch SEC ball. I've been delighted at my fandom (love?) being justified statistically, but Mr. Lee has grown beards and turned into a boring, starting-5 talent power forward. It's not quite the change my NYC buddies paradoxically enjoyed & suffered in watching Skip to My Lou become Rafer Alston, but it seems close. From a GM/enchilada perspective, Mr. Lee is a success, but he's not the basketball player I once loved, no homo.

At 12/20/2009 7:11 PM, Blogger mookie said...

Wait, someone has already named their human child, Freedarko? There goes that one... I'll be naming my first-born, Balldontlié (pronounced ball-dont-lee) or possibly Bothteamsplayedhard (pronounced cut-the-check).

Nice to see the NY Times keeping it real.

-- mookie

At 12/20/2009 8:31 PM, Blogger Dylan Murphy said...

This article made me realize how much I love NBA GMs. Their stupidity makes basketball fun. Only in the NBA can a team take the under-performing college center over the more talented player, twice. Yes I'm talking about you, Portland. And the idea of tanking for free agents (the Knicks destroying their roster for the summer of 2010) should be re-named the "Donnie Walsh." Who knew tanking could be applied to the draft AND free agency. This is as opposed to destroying your team for no reason, a.k.a. the "Isiah Thomas."

At 12/21/2009 1:55 AM, Blogger Christopher said...

George Hill is my favorite player in the NBA

At 12/21/2009 9:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My favorite player is Tim Thomas.

At 12/21/2009 9:18 AM, Blogger David said...

Yes, GMs are stupid (apart from our beloved Morey) but when several of them gamble (and fail) on a guy, are all blinded by his "potential" (despite the regular failure of that potential to ever actual become actual)... then you start to think it is the player rather than the GM who has a problem. Stromile Swift is another who comes to mind.
Randolph is early enough into his career to be able to emerge, but he needs another team and another coach to get a fresh start. The potential is vast, but then that's what GMs always say.

At 12/21/2009 1:06 PM, Blogger Toasterhands said...

When Keith Benson (Oakland University) gets drafted in a year or two (he's a junior) he will end up being one of FD's posterboys, guaranteed.

At 12/21/2009 1:20 PM, Blogger Deckfight said...

i'm confused...are you saying the site has been 'wrong' to promote those players, or just like a misguided GM? That there is no 'wrong' only varied degrees of rightness? Or have those guys failed on their own accord? These are the questions that keep us all up at night.

fav. FD player from the 90s if there had been such a thing: cedric ceballos.

At 12/21/2009 1:36 PM, Blogger Vijay R Gorrepati said...

Re: Beaubois
Please don't be a bust, please don't be a bust. . .

At 12/21/2009 1:59 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

I think we all remember Ceballos, and I don't think he was very FD. I liked him okay, but he's almost like Jason Richardson, who has flummoxed most of the FD inner circle for years.

At 12/21/2009 4:40 PM, Blogger Mouth said...

GM stupidity is trading Jason Richardson. Why would MJ allow that? I don't care how good Boris Diaw or Raja Bell might be or how excited the line-up change makes Mr. Shoals in his Bobcats preseason assessment (I could totally tell you secretly have them as a surprise #4 .500 playoff team.). How stupid was that trade? Not as stupid as the decision to draft Trajan Langdon #11 overall, but still stupid. JRich is a star--not the brightest star, but not lower than 2nd tier, either (Mixed metaphors are fun!)--in my perspective.


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