9.12.2010

Workin' My Way Back Home

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So it was with something far from eagerness, and even a wistful glance over at the first day of full NFL action, that I build my first day of vacation around the FIBA gold medal game.

I'm more than finished with the "Durant saves the globe" narrative. Woj took the moral high ground and flushed it down the toilet last night, which is sort of like when an infinitely dense point in space collapses on itself and creates a black hole of meaning. The doomsday scenario of a non-NBA qualifying team (discussed in the "Averting Disaster" section of this Works) is less frightening, and more colorful, than anyone else has bothered to notice. What's more, while America's best and brightest languish on the couch, it's not as if every international of note is risking life and limb to martyr his summer off. For all the parroting of the "more important than the Olympics to everyone else" line, we're not seeing it in the teams other countries have brought. Or maybe it's that, in those parts, individual is smaller than the collective—not ideologically, but in terms of their effect on outcome.

Really though, I just hate this team. Hate, hate, hate this team. Anyone who thinks Durant will walk unmolested into this same role next season, or on the 2012 team, is guilty of the kin of wishful thinking—or is it cynical—that's threatening to turn his name into an basketball adjective completely separate from on-court performance. The fact that Durant has taken on such a central role, from the second possession changes until someone—usually him—gets or denies the bucket, shows you what a headless, faceless, aberration of a team this is.

I've discussed this on the The Works previously, but Rose and Gay are two peas in a pod. I can think of a thousand Lamar Odoms I would rather see play center than this one. Forget innovation and revolution. This team is a grab-bag coasting on one superstar's limitless potential, amplified by his teammates' limitations and the lesser competition, and the ability of Rose and Gay to stay active. All those guards, including shooters like Curry and Gordon? They might as well be Kevin Love—the logical choice to get most of the minutes down low, but someone who has nonetheless had to make due with being a "sleeper". This team will win, but they wouldn't be such an abomination if they went with a point guard who could think, vital shooters, more versatility (other than then "sure, I can do whatever" variety), and a real big man. Does Curry, Iguodala, Granger, Durant, and Love sound so bad?

Other than Durant, Andre Iguodala is the only player coming out of this looking like he's earned some new acclaim, and that's largely because he looks far more natural in this role (stopper, skilled scavenger, feel for the game that suppresses his athlete's need to make big plays at all times) than he has at any time on the Sixers. He would be the perfect complementary piece to find his way onto the 2012 Olympics.

I frankly don't understand what Coach K is doing, especially without D'Antoni to whisper in his ear and slip him peyote, or a strong player cabal to lay down the law. There's a team buried in this morass that doesn't defy logic, nor require all sorts of new-fangled explanations to come to its defense. Nor one where we can only feel good about it relative to its performance in the tournament, which when we know that America always expects nothing less than supremacy, and Team USA has had very few close calls so far, makes the "see, they did it!" moot. I'll watch today because my wife likes Turkey, and there's the off-chance that something unexpected will happen. It sure has in all these other countries' games, which I wish I could get into—I somehow blame college basketball. Ultimately, though, today will be a day like any other: I'll hold my nose, watch Durant drop 40 and Team USA dunk the ball, and then wonder exactly what it means if anyone bothers to say "see, I told you so!"

P.S. Hey, who want to read and see the new, revamped, classic Z-graph?

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16 Comments:

At 9/12/2010 6:49 PM, Blogger The Other Van Gundy said...

"Does Curry, Iguodala, Granger, Durant, and Love sound so bad?"

I'm confused by Love's relegation to the bench. It's not like his supporters have to wave around efficiency stats and per-36s... the guy was posting double doubles in a goddamn hurry.

Steph Curry, on the other hand, wasn't going to help the team as much as Rose/Westbrook. Considering the amount of street-crime that's being allowed on the perimeter, Curry and his protractor don't make sense. I'd rather have Westbrook, who can physically take it; mentally, he didn't get as irked as Billups did.

 
At 9/12/2010 7:46 PM, Blogger Kareem Elzein said...

Curry was getting murdered. I felt that Odom and Love should have split minutes at 5. Chandler was god awful. Disagree on Odom, though; he played solid basketball throughout the one-and-done's. The final was a bit of a let down, in terms of excitement. The sound engineers don't mic the crowd enough. I wish the sound came through as it does in the soccer, with the crowd bleeding through any moment when the announcers are silent (rare for Fran, I know).

 
At 9/13/2010 1:07 AM, Blogger Dave M said...

I'm not so sure about the overall tenor of the post. You might see the team as a grab-bag of limitations (save for Durant)but they're the guys who bothered to show up. Personally, I kind of enjoy watching a bunch of role players haphazardly decimating the rest of the world.

 
At 9/13/2010 1:07 AM, OpenID KCraigETSU said...

This post--and the related one on The Works--are an example of the stupidity and emptiness of your basketball "writing."

An "aberration" of a team? I understand that basketball presents some wonderful stylistic elements that can be enjoyed apart from the outcome of any game, but at a certain point, your comments should have *some* relation to the actual games--which this team has won.

You try to make it sound like you have some kind of sophisticated aversion to this FIBA team. Actually, you just dislike them because Coach K is the coach. He is a well-known personality and you consider yourself some kind of basketball intellectual and therefore above giving acclaim to anyone known to the masses.

Coach K has been coaching for about forty years. Multiple championships. Hundreds of wins. Thousands of practices and tape sessions.

Don't you think that he might--I don't know--actually *know* something more about basketball than you do? I mean all you do is sit on your fat, barely employed ass and watch it on TV.

This website is not "basketball writing." It's hipster fan fiction that uses NBA personalities as the basis for made-up stories that bear little relation to anything remotely related to basketball.

 
At 9/13/2010 1:57 AM, Blogger Tree Frog said...

You think Shoals is fat?

When attempting to specifically diss the position or words of another person, at least do some research and know who or what you're rebutting.

 
At 9/13/2010 2:27 AM, Blogger milaz said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 9/13/2010 2:32 AM, Blogger milaz said...

Maybe this is why you guys don't get "why everyone hates us". It's because you think this is a business. You (Americans - and apologies for using this tone) believe is it some sort of sacred duty to win the gold medal, to prove to the ROW that you are the masters of basketball. But it has been a while since that has been the case and there was only one team that deserves the honor and title of outstanding (or Dream team if you will). This is simply an international tournament - it lasts for two weeks and has knockout games. You win it based on the talent you bring and the luck you have in the knockout stage. The US brings a team designed to "beat the rest" - i.e. the Spains, Argentinas etc. but they also paid the price when they barely beat Brazil 70-68 in the group stage... Yeah, this team had one pure scorer and a bunch of guys running around... that was it... sorry... Tournaments with knockout games will always require some luck, but even a great time like the US can be on a bad day, or take a mental day off and lose one against a focused opponent (or one can lose if they had a tough night the night before)... there are countless examples in this tournament as well...
I will pass on the "lesser competition" comments, since most of you do not follow the Euroleague and even considering Ginobli to be European... So there, you can all tell us you told us so, you are - actually - the best in basketball and we can move on.

 
At 9/13/2010 3:09 AM, Blogger Benjamin said...

I'm often of a piece with you, sir, respecting your writing and the general tone and timbre of the often excellent stories you post. What's interesting here is you seem to go against the grain of the metanarrative you've constructed; namely, the philosophical and ideological joy derived from enjoying basketball as a irregularly-oiled machine comprising seemingly mismatched moving parts. This team seems right in your wheelhouse.

It appears, however, that (unabashed Simmons-level love for Durant aside) you've consigned these folks to the global dustbin. They've played as a unit and the team roles are clearly defined. Durant is the offensive beast we knew he was. Iguodala? Wow. Imagine the possibilities. It's a mistake to overestimate the value of Odom's and Billups' international experience and veteran leadership. The kiddies have brought in all the way in and are either producing (Westbrook, Gordon, Rose), are great training guys (Love) or designated towel-wavers (Granger - didn't see that coming, Curry and the rest).

They've won and won and reclaimed the gold and the system Team USA has implemented to better compete internationally seems to have borne fruit. This is, I think, in keeping with the premise put forward in your first opus. What's not to like?

 
At 9/13/2010 8:40 AM, Blogger W2 said...

Shoals, would you consider sharing with us your ideal team for this tournament. I too am surprised at your lack of support for a team featuring Lamar Odom, Iggy, Durant, and Westbrook.

And Danny Granger is awful.

Personally, I missed Rondo a ton. And instead of his brand of chaos we were stuck with what I percieved to be DRose becoming a Coach K yes man and Chauncey just leading and shooting which lacks imagination.

Is this part of your beef. I would love for you to elaborate.

 
At 9/13/2010 10:11 AM, Blogger Tables Hansen said...

Personally, I like this team more than previous incarnations of USA basketball. I'm actually just glad they won without the three headed Miami ego monster. Durant is a good kid with his head in the right place. Billups and Odom perform their roles admirably and quietly. Give this team a break...

 
At 9/13/2010 12:23 PM, Blogger Andrew said...

Milaz, and apologies for using this tone, but your post is an incoherent mess of slapped-together cliches and pettiness. Try again. Or better yet, don't.

 
At 9/13/2010 1:45 PM, Blogger W2 said...

Yo...I know I so a post a second ago. Disappearred like Jermaine O'Neal in the playoffs.

 
At 9/13/2010 1:48 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Prematurely published, up now.

 
At 9/13/2010 2:06 PM, Blogger Mars Sunshine said...

Shoals, I too hate Coach K, but this was a team that had too much to like.

+The Iguodala Power Forward, was an epiphany, and truly great when you consider...

+The Odom Center, a hub of activity and passivity not unlike that of all too-distant past Sabonis, which of course is about as beautiful as life can be, until you witness...

+The Billups-Westbrook backcourt, did Coach K really play a point guard with a shorter shooting guard, during the most intense stratches of the Tournament? Yes, yes he did. And while this alone does not destroy the Legacy of past Laetners...

+The Durant, did. I mean, did he play Shooting Center? Power Guard? Or was he just the birth of a new Super Nova so strong upon the Universe, that all Hurleys and Wojos, have become mere shadows of darkened stars? What I know is this: His true power to define the game was allowed to show true, in no small part due to the guidance of Coach K.

And that, while not a completely erasing the legacy, has helped changed the History of Mr. Duke.

 
At 9/17/2010 10:39 PM, Blogger Yago Colás said...

Nicely done, as usual. I don't feel the hate for the substance that I choose to believe, in this case, underlies the nonsense surface hype. But I despise the infantile narrative. I really enjoy checking into your blog every day. Not sure what the protocol is here, but I've just started my own and thought you might want to check it out http://yagoc.blogspot.com/

 
At 9/21/2010 1:25 AM, Blogger east said...

People who dismiss you as hipsters should stay away from this site. You guys rule but thie piece doesn't. I know that you got to take a stand and as always the s%^t is readable but why hate on this team? This is the first international team that I've actually rooted for.

EGor finally got a chance to show everyone that he's better than Rose and should have been ROY, Durant is just beautiful, Odom... why are you trashing News of The World?

You know why this team rules? Because this bunch of players who no one had ever heard of (most of the world doesn't read this blog) kept their heads up and took this seriously despite playing to EMPTY STADIUMS on floors with slippery decals.

They also showed FIBA that the rest of the world has a thing or two to learn about playing defense.

Now that the U.S. is taking international hoops seriously, the NBA should adopt the international rules that make the game go faster: fewer timeouts, no giving the ball to the ref after baskets and timeouts only allowed on a dead ball.

 

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