We See the Canvasser at Work

With the regular season creeping to its merciful end and the playoffs almost set (please, basketball gods, let us have Monta Ellis for another week), it's time to recognize the acheivements, both dubious and noble, of the players of this fine association over the past six months. We begin with our first annual update to the "Freedarko list," taking note of the young men who have climbed to the top with the corresponding list of the displaced.

[Text provided by Bethlehem Shoals, Billups, Dr. LIC, and yours truly, BR, Esq.]

The Welcome to the Jungle, Buckethead Award

Monta Ellis, Golden State Warriors:
Number one with a fucking bullet, Ellis is the kind of scoring point guard that isn't supposed to be able to succeed in the NBA, especially not at age 21. Maybe he wouldn't be as effective on a team not coached by Don Nelson, but we've enjoyed witnessing the experiment so far. His Rookie/Sophs performance is still seared in my brain.

Andris Biedrins, Golden State Warriors:
Once best-known and loved for sharing the amazing story about the night he, Zarko Cabarkapa, and Nikoloz Tskitishvilli rode around Manhattan in a horse-drawn carriage, Biedrins is now a bona fide NBA starter, averaging a near double double and looking like one of the best young big men in the game.

Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics:
Shoals recently inked a paean to his boxscores, so I don't really have much to add. I'll just point you to April 7.

Kevin Martin, Sacramento Kings:
If you would've told me the next Reggie Miller would be a biracial hick with a haircut straight out of 1989.....I would have said that sounds about right, actually.

Elton Brand, LA Clippers
: We certainly can't make the case that Brand benefitted from a breakout season this year, but we did start to look at him differently. Once criticized on this very blog for having a boring personality, Brand now seems more like a laid back professional who's comfortable with who he is. Okay, 99% of the reason he's now on the list is learning that he produced a film directed by German auteur Werner Herzog.

The Just Take Your Stuff and Leave Award

Marquis Daniels, Indiana Pacers:
Fell from top ten to not mentioned at all. One of the most enjoyable NBA moments of the past five years was watching this undrafted kid from Auburn join up with the last pick of the first round to command notice on a veteran Mavericks squad whose rotation seemed to be pretty set. The fact that he looked like a lizard and had some morbid-ass tattoos only added to his appeal. But, at some point, you have to perform on a consistent basis, and Marquis hasn't done it.

Jermaine O'Neal, Indiana Pacers:
I know the Pacers were just mathematically eliminated today, but they've been irrelevant for a lot longer than that, and so has their star player. O'Neal should be entering his prime, but injuries and his team imploding on him have tarnished his star considerably. Even off the court, where he once seemed righteous, he now seems whiny.

Shaun Livingston, LA Clippers:
He once seemed like the perfect FreeDarko player: young, full of potential, and with style to spare. But, now three seasons in, it's hard to keep waiting for him to do something already. I really do feel for the kid with all of his injuries, especially the last one, but at some point, we have to deal with the real. If it were all potential, his namesake Randy would be on the list, too.

Larry Hughes, Cleveland Cavaliers:
Hughes has been a frustrating player his whole career, a guy who can average 20, 5, and 5, lead the league in steals, and still make you feel like he isn't really trying. At times, that has seemed kind of bad-ass, but lately, it just pisses you off. Everyone knew going to Cleveland was a mistake, and unsurprisingly, this season has been the most aggravating yet.

Sebastian Telfair, Boston Celtics:
I'm not even sure why he was on the list in first place, I think Shoals had just seen that ESPN documentary and was a little caught up.

And now on to the rest of the awards........

The Meta-Landmine of the Plains Award
Recipient: Amir Johnson, Detroit Pistons

I've always thought "too FreeDarko for FreeDarko" referred to someone like Iverson, whose excess of (insert keywords here) showed that there was some nuance around there parts. Instead, I discovered Pistons forward Amir Johnson, who takes the embodiment of the FreeDarko core principles to a whole new level. I feel like I'm handing out a middle school trophy here, but it's like his story was created to elevate the entire FD community.

I first heard of him from my FanHouse comrade Matt Watson, who relayed that dude was igniting the drab D-League like no man before or since. Johnson had sent himself down there, since he couldn't stand to be off the court. Enthusiasm, honesty, and work ethic. . . all from a guy who plays like an unbridled cartoon. He was to go down in history as the last high school player ever drafted into the National Basketball Association, and likely a melancholy footnote. But he promptly grew two inches, blossoming into a 6'11" bundle of small forward-ish-ness. And if Darko's legacy is this the mixed blessing that fuels this site, Johnson stands to set things right—for the Pistons, and for us. Who would have thought that a raw, under-the-radar black kid, unwanted by policy and practice, would be Detroit's grand stroke of luck. Not an abstract, highly-touted Euro who distracted them from what made them soar in the first place.

The following is spoken as a man who swore by 2000 Sheed and 2002 Ben Wallace:

Johnson and Maxiell for President.

Back II Life Award (aka The Jason Street Memorial Award)
Recipient: TJ Ford, Toronto Raptors

Science is fucking alright by me. Only psalms I read were on the arms of Amare Stoudamire, right? And I have so much faith in man’s quest for knowledge that I smoke the better part of a pack of Camel Lights a day, just to show my confidence in the lab rats. They’re gonna have cancer wrapped up before the next M.O.P. album drops, right? I AM GOOD. Fuck a microfracture! Tommy John surgery? That’s what they do! With the wizards in white coats on the case we( and by we I mean NBA players) (and by NBA players I don’t mean Grant Hill), have come to a point where a career threatening injury is as anachronistic as mid-range jumper.

All injuries are the same. All injured players are different. Some dudes, be they youngin’s or grey like grandpa, call for Dr. Quinn as soon as their athlete’s foot hits condition orange. Some walk hand in hand with science and say, “I ain'’t born on the fourth of July! I got next!”

TJ Ford couldn'’t walk it out like Usher BECAUSE HE COULDN’'T FUCKING WALK FOR A SECOND. After a year of rehab he got back in the shit. And after a bit of blessing from some deity he got out of Bucktown and fled to Toronto. Most middle class point guards would’'ve been happy as Sean Penn in Bolivia with the numbers Ford had in 05-06. But TJ wasn'’t even done with the fucking preamble. In 06-07, he keeps feeding and feeding Bosh, torturing Senator Herb Kohl from north of the border. Don'’t call him a comeback. When you see General Joke'’s-On-You-I’'m-Still-Alive, salute him.

Still Crying Over Spilled Hypnotiq from Dale Davis’ Chalice Award
Recipient: Bonzi Wells, UNEMPLOYED

Actually, fuck me. This isn'’t really funny. There'’s haha Tim Duncan likes jazz funny. And then there’'s just fucking sad and weird. I love the shit out of Bonzi. The ‘98 Blazers (Mighty Mouse, Rash, Bonzi, Sabonis, Jr Rider! Walt Wizard, Stacey Augmon, John Motherfucking Crotty and of course young Jermaine O’'Neal… shit is like Ocean’s Bakers Dozen) are one of my favorite teams ever.

I always thought Bonzi’'s particular instability was rooted in a deep desire to win basketball games way more than it ever was an aversion to having assholes with thinning hair tell him what to do. Although he seems to have a pattern of not liking that either.

But Bonzi’'s exit is more like Harry Dean Stanton in Paris, Texas than it is Latrell or something. He quit (quit!) the Rockets via text message. He decided to just lay up in the cut in Seattle. Nobody goes to Seattle to get their mind right. Shit is like the Epcot Center of Manic Depression.

Maybe dude isn’'t suited to being a journeyman. Maybe he can’'t accept his body no longer doing the things he tells it to. Maybe Bob Sura freaked him out. The optimist in me hopes he catches on with the Lakers in the Phil Jackson Free to Be You and Me stable; or maybe Dumars does an extreme makeover on him. But if you ask me when I'’m sober I'’d say Bonzi is the type who needs to napalm a situation to get himself out of it. I just hope he ain’'t in a hotel room somewhere muttering, ‘"Saigon… Shit, I’'m still only in Saigon.’"

The Eddie Griffin/Kim Deal "Where is My Mind?" award for potentially f'ing up a really big contract/extension after finally fulfilling The Promise, recording a lot of blocked shots, and looking sullen but in a cool way
Recipient: Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks

Ok, Smitty's done nothing close to riding around liquored up with porn in the DVD player, crashing into someone and attempting to bribe the victim with "anything but a Bentley." Nonetheless, J-Smooth's profanity-filled screaming on Coach Mike Woodson has already got John Hollinger and others wondering if the guy is mentally mature enough to prove he is worth a big-money extension this summer. The incident occurred at the end of a close game versus the 76ers when Smith's failure to drive to the hoop (and settle for a long jumper instead) infuriated the coaching staff, leading to the big tiff between him and Woodson. I'm siding with Woodson on this one. Who wants to see Josh Smith do anything except be two feet from the basket at all times?

The Darrell Armstrong/Alan Henderson "Mad Grizzled" award for a player who is mad grizzled, barely plays, but nonetheless receives a nice little contract from Mark Cuban
Recipient: Kevin Willis, Dallas Mavericks

Seriously, at this point, Cubes is just throwing money around. Kevin Willis has played ONE MINUTE and has probably earned about $27,000. Pundits will praise the Mavs' cunningness for obtaining a big with veteran experience to provide some backup to their dinged up frontline. I call stupidity and more Right-Way pandering from the wah-wah "Look how Avery motivates his team by saying they don't look playoff-ready even after winning 60 games" Mavericks. On a sidenote, I started following the NBA closely when Kevin Willis was coming into his own and never understood why he didn't get the same tough guy reputation, as say, Charles Oakley. I'm renaming Kevin Willis NICE OAKLEY.

Draft Crew of the Year Award
Recipient: The Entire 2003 Second Round

Out of that entire round, about a third are solidly in the pros, which has to be all kinds of records. Here are those names, including any special distinctions they have earned:

Luke Walton: Along with Odom, the Ebony/Ivory of multi-skilled SF's that makes the triangle churn
Jason Kapono: Respect the Three-Point Shootout. It's sponsored by a soda and a phone company.
Steve Blake: You know the Denver roster. And still he gets his minutes.
Willie Green: Nothing special, but he should be in Europe and he ain't.
Zaza Pachulia: Name a better young Euro center.
Keith Bogans: Holding out for next expansion draft.
Matt Bonner: Pop doesn't know a good thing. This is the pale, impaired man's Robert Horry he's dealing with.
Mo Williams: Starter game, starter money.
Kyle Korver: Laying back, smirking at Kapono's plastic crown.
James Jones: Faster than you can say "Tim Thomas 2."

It's not like these are refugees from the first round, which has only five or six players who have legitimately fallen off the earth. Nor was this a bad year for the earlier selections, what with Melo coming into his own, Bosh looking like a future MVP, and Josh Howard the league's best supporting actor. On the whole, though, the guys above did more with less, and thus mathematically accomplished more, than their pampered shelfmates.


At 4/16/2007 1:06 AM, Blogger Ben Q. Rock said...

I don't know what I like most about this entry. There's MonTAY Ellis, Bill Murray doing his best Gerald Wallace impression, and Dubya playing dress-up. I'm thoroughly impressed. No honorable mention for Trevor Ariza, though. He's got 3 of the top 10 nastiest dunks this year (facials on Mourning, Okafor, and Jermaine) and is at his best when he is freakishly out of control. Is he at least on the radar?

At 4/16/2007 1:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always liked Elton Brand's Duncan Lite game but I'm might be in the minority of FD readers who enjoy the double handful or so of big men with truly refined skills in the post and solid defense. It's not really the sound fundamentals that are so attractive although they're an instrinsic part that makes the function beautiful. It's more the rarity of big guys who've really advanced to the point where to the point where they can make spins, drop steps, moves and countermoves look as gracefully deadly as Steve Nash handiwork or an outrageous Tyrus Thomas/Josh Smith/Gerald Wallace/etc. block.

It is, by the way, extremely awesome that Brand produced a freaking Werner Herzog movie. That has to be the coolest thing I've heard all week. Maybe Werner can replace Billy Crystal as the Clippers' obligatory celebrity fan. I bet Jack Nicholson would be in favor of that. It's strange because I was just struck out of the blue the other day by a Kobe/Kinski in Fitzcarraldo comparison during the Clips/Lakers game and here Brand is producing Herzog. Amazing.

Also it's a small point, but Zaza Pachulia the best young Euro center? What about Biedrins, for one? And since Pachulia is really more of a 4 there's Dirk, Bargnani, and arguably Darko plus a couple potential guys in the upcoming draft (Ante Tomic is the only I can think off the top of my head).

At 4/16/2007 1:37 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

i cosign the inclusion of tervor ariza within the fd family.
also: i pray that the enigma that is guillermo diaz will at some point in my life be unleashed upon the league (hopefully wearing a suns jersey. think leandro but quicker (!) and gullier.)

At 4/16/2007 3:34 AM, Blogger Thomas M. said...

Someone pointed out at work this week that Biedrins has taken something like 15 shots all year that weren't 5 feet or less from the basket.

Andrins "Finish Your Breakfast" Biedrins!

At 4/16/2007 9:09 AM, Blogger EL MIZ said...

what? no love for the first MANIA since HULKAMANIA, yes I am talking about BALKMANIA, the one and only Renaldo Balkman. dude runs around like his head is cut off. it only took isiah until game 70 to realize it.

and on more of a knicks note, regarding take your stuff and leave, please add once promising channing frye and owner of the worst contract in sports, jared jeffries.

here is JJ-squared's line from the last game:

9 minutes: 0-0 from the field, 1 block and 5 personal fouls in 9 minutes. utterly pathetic.

At 4/16/2007 9:43 AM, Blogger Ben Q. Rock said...

5 fouls in 9 minutes? Maybe it was Michael Doleac in a Jared Jeffries suit.

I still think the worst contract in sports, or at least the NBA, is Allan Houston's. The Knicks are still paying him! And they gave him $100 M because he was a decent jump shooter. I had no idea that 1 basketball skill = $100 million.

At 4/16/2007 10:29 AM, Blogger EL MIZ said...

benQ, the thing about jeffries is he is actually out on the court TRYING and accumulating 5 fouls and 0 points in 9 minutes. at least houston is off the court and not hurting the knicks on it.

monta ellis could have just finished his sophomore yr in college, is this true?

At 4/16/2007 10:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rondo is for real. That April 4th line might not be the one you want to be showing off though.

April 7th - 14 points, 8 assists, 8 rebounds, 7 STEALS.

If the kid learns how to consistently shoot, he's gonna be scary good. Or maybe thats part of the allure.

At 4/16/2007 10:56 AM, Blogger EL MIZ said...

and to back up my BALKMANIA post, here's dude's line for april 4:

31 minutes: 17 points (7-11 FG, ie 64%; 3/4 FT), 16 rebounds (7 offensive), 3 steals

if he's lucky isiah will start giving him 30/game next yr at the very least.

whats greg anthony got to say now?!?!

At 4/16/2007 11:04 AM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

dan--yeah, my bad, i meant april 7. fixed now.

At 4/16/2007 11:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Justin Williams warrants FD mention, perhaps over the biracial hick.

Community college in Kansas -> University of Wyoming -> NBDL's Dakota Wizards -> Sacramento. A meadow-filled tour of duty.

Also, he drinks a Red Bull before every game. Only when he got called up to Sac, he was never playing, so the Red Bull made him jittery. So he stopped drinking them. Then he got some PT. Now, double-doubles against Tim Duncan!

At 4/16/2007 11:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nenad Krstic is way better center then Zaza Pachulia.

And how do we count Andris Biedrins as? PF or C?

At 4/16/2007 11:32 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...


how about "name a more adequare Euro center than Pachulia?"

At 4/16/2007 12:49 PM, Blogger amangill said...

agreement on balkman. i moved to nyc a knick hater, went to a couple games, found that balkman's firecracker-that-loves-the-rim ate my antipathy.

my first comment but i've been reading for a year and the man's FD.

At 4/16/2007 1:14 PM, Blogger Ben Q. Rock said...

Does Balkman play the 3 or the 4? Either way, Lee and Balkman can totally nullify Eddy Curry's complete lack of rebounding skills.

At 4/16/2007 1:18 PM, Blogger Kirk Krack said...

chaunceybillups...blogging's FOAT?

At 4/16/2007 2:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a fantastic article.

At 4/16/2007 5:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No Linus Kleiza? Josh Smith will be just fine. And he'll get paid.

At 4/16/2007 6:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Better than 'Scarface,' better than 'Citizen Kane'." - Elton Brand on the Herzog movie he bankrolled.

also, according to the Page 2 article i read, he watched seven Herzog films in two days. FreeDarko inclusion is completely justified.

At 4/16/2007 7:42 PM, Blogger Justin Lieber said...

"Zaza Pachulia: Name a better young Euro center."

Nenad Krstic, on the Nets. Zaza's still pretty good, though.

At 4/16/2007 9:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Josh Smith = Darius Miles with a slight upgrade... not worth anywhere NEAR max money

At 4/16/2007 11:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

great piece.

and didn't know about the brand/herzog connection. wow.

(and cobra verde. double wow.)

At 4/17/2007 1:21 AM, Blogger Sergio said...

And of course, how could we forget Mardy Collins? His tale is one of redemption, as who can fail to be inspired by a man who has converted himself from a Sports Center villain into the least likely triple-double threat in the L?

At 4/17/2007 6:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...



38 minutes.

also, bones' mom signing off on the dnp apparently.

At 4/17/2007 11:12 AM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

mardy collins cannot be FD for a variety of reasons, but i did add him to my fantasy team. he and rondo are doing magical things. in the boxscore, at least.

flight white would have made the list if he weren't in the DL all year. nice to get him get a little shine.

At 4/17/2007 3:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elton's a shoe-in. Besides the fact that he's a baller turned indie movie mogul and a Clipper (aka not a Laker), Elton's a 6-8 PFC who's built like a tank and routinely swats dudes that tower over him. no freaking brainer.

At 4/17/2007 4:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe someone compared Josh Smitth to Darius Miles. That hurts. Darius never played that hard or filled up a boxscore like Josh. That's it.

At 4/17/2007 7:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check out the Championship Dream snippet of KG on NBA.com:


As always it is a little bit melodramatic. But still, there's probably no other guy in the League that has earned it more to be playing in a relevant game or two than Garnett.

Also, seeing KG and Marbury together (and of course immediately thinking about the "all nude" commercial) I was thinking about how certain player pairs just fit well with each other and can overcome some of their flaws to produce something special, whichever way it may be. It's really hard to describe, but I guess everybody playing hoops has been in a situation where you have a teammate in your pick-up game whom you have never played with, yet he always seems to know what you plan on doing and vice versa.

In the NBA I'm not thinking Shaq/Kobe, because with them it was always rather the sum of their parts that was just to much to overcome. KG/Marbury provided what I'm going at, as did Carter/McGrady in Toronto (the series against the Knicks comes to mind). Kidd/K-Mart were definitely scarier than Kidd/VC (although not necessarily better), and Stockton/Malone obviously had that bond even if their style was nothing to raise any eyebrows in the FD realm. Oh yeah, and Payton/Kemp of course.

Right now I'd say Nash/Amare may be on their way (not a great difference with Nash/Marion) while Kobe/Odom and Iverson/Melo will never get there in my opinion. Who am I forgetting, past or present?

At 4/17/2007 10:48 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

mardy collins cannot be FD for a variety of reasons

Brown Recluse hates the Knicks. But no matter what he says, Renaldo Balkman is definitely FD.

At 4/20/2007 11:53 AM, Blogger MC Welk said...

Umm, Kelley Deal is the one who was on the horse. I can understand the error as they are twins.

At 4/13/2009 4:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...




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