We Can't Be Stopped
I meant to write this yesterday, but got overwhelmed by exactly the monster I had hoped to combat. Yesterday was truly awful. Miserable, boring, sad, ugly, voyeuristic, base, and nearly resistant to any kind of fine distinction. I know that not all of Cleveland felt that way, and yes, LeBron James did that city some wrong. But the story wasn't that nuance, at least until after the game, when some fans at the game admitted they just needed that catharsis, and James showed some vulnerability on the subject of this summer. Confidently, of course, and with one gaffe that everyone jumped on. Still, he was there, acknowledging that the night did matter to him. We watched, though, hoping for the worst, or at least something that would justify this night's marquee billing. I was back and forth between TNT and Michael Vick, and granted, I kind of had to tune in. And yet that wasn't an event: it was a set of conditions that we hoped would yield one. Nearly all the possibilities were bad. It was not what I love about the NBA, or any sports. Reggie Miller was in his element, though. Good for him.
Afterward, though, we got some vintage Monta Ellis -- albeit in a loss -- and a reminder that the Steve Nash is always worth watching. I even briefly appreciated Jason Richardson. On Wednesday, Blake Griffin had one of his most profound (and shocking) games to date, pure joy that, in the Twitter I inhabit, led to nearly as much chatter as Heat-Cavs. Eric Gordon, who has quietly grown into a scoring dynamo, with more power than you think, was in the building, and Baron Davis looked like the old Baron again. Shit, even during the Heat game, LeBron's third was a reminder not of what Cleveland's missing, but the real reason he matters to us in the NBA community. No one can put together that kind of quarter, one where the court shrinks, the basket lowers, and defenders are little more than apparitions, or cones in a ball-handling drill. What's past degree of difficulty? Playing like the game could use a few more impediments.
It's ironic that James is still the league's standard-bearer for ecstatic basketball (though Griffin is getting close), since last night, and the Heat in general, have overshadowed a season that's brought more FD Good News than any in recent memory. The Class of 2003 was supposed to take over the league, and instead, the principals have confused that narrative and, at best, put their ascent in dry-dock. Carmelo Anthony, too. Amar'e in New York isn't exactly a league-changing endeavor, and Gilbert Arenas, another slightly older fellow traveler, is trying to work his way back to being worthless -- not just pitiable. These were the figures that launched FreeDarko and all of them are suffering. Except the league as we see it is healthier than ever.
Every night on the highlights, you see Russell Westbrook doing something or other outrageous (Durant's around, too). Rajon Rondo has responded to this summer's sour USA Basketball experience by ascending into the point guard ether. Chris Paul is back, and he and Deron Williams have resumed battling each other until the end of time like something or other from Norse mythology. Michael Beasley has recovered the game that made him such a beast at Kansas State, and along with Kevin Love, has made the Timberwolves the league's most thrilling exercise in futility. Gordon and Ellis are among the league leaders in scoring; Monta's Warriors are not only intriguing, but also downright functional. I long ago stopped talking bad about Steph Curry, and now I'm about to do the same for David Lee. Dorell Wright is a revelation! John Wall is averaging 18 points, 9 assists, and nearly 3 steals, and we're still waiting for him to really announce himself. The Spurs are very nearly Manu's team, which is both unlikely and intoxicating. Lamar Odom is having his best season since Miami. Have you watched Jrue Holiday? It's hard, given that team, but worth it when he shows what he's capable of. No one remembers Tim Donaghy or looks at results as a function of sportsbook betting.
There are problems in the world today. The Kings have gone purely dysfunctional, with Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins at the heart of it. Blatche is fat. Brandon Jennings stopped taking that next step we had expected. Anthony Randolph is sphinx-like as ever, even to Mike D'Antoni. And obviously, the Heat were supposed to transform basketball theory and aesthetics. For the most part, though, I am in hog fucking heaven. Why do we need to turn our eyes toward LeBron in Cleveland when, more than ever, it's a fine, fine time to simply bet on the NBA writ large. I'm bad at giving thanks and making toasts, but apparently that's only because they put me on the spot. I am so happy right now.