Artless Self-Sabotage and Other Pragmatic Vows

It's the off-season, where we ignore people on the court and retreat into the realm of the theoretical. Except for when Anthony Randolph scores 30, which sends me scurrying to said theoretical realm with a newfound urgency.

We all know what Liberated Fandom is. Despite all the chaos prompted by this spring's high-stakes Lakers/Celtics series, it remains pretty simple: Fuck where you live, who raised you, what's on tv the most. Make an exhaustive survey of the league and cling onto what moves you, even if it's a lost cause. That can be individuals, a team, or a subset of individuals on a team.

Yes, there's a degree of aestheticism to it, but more importantly, it's about having the freedom to exercise taste in basketball. If that means only jocking winners, fine. If that means pursuing only teams doomed to fail, that's rosy as well. It doesn't even matter if there's little or no consistency to these allegiances, or if they're totally fleeting in nature. What's important is that you maximize your positive enjoyment of the league, in an era that offers far from perfect pro ball product.

This site's other great conceptual shibboleth is the notion of the Positional Revolution. Roughly, this means that traditional positions are cast aside, or deconstructed, in favor of something both new and effective. However, when you actually sit down with this idea, tangles become evident. For one, the Suns and Warriors have long been touted as the apogee of this movement, with the Hawks in this year's playoffs a sentimental entry on the ledger.

Conventional wisdom is that these teams pursued something resembling true apositionality, where roles and responsibilities were flexible from one moment to the next. Of course, the catch here is that Phoenix and Golden State relied on absolutely elite point guards; we can split hairs about the degree to which Nash produced that team's being at any given moment, vs. Baron's reliance on the collective playmaking ectoplasm. It seems, though, that we have no choice but to accept the point guard paradox, and perhaps state that its stability allows other responsibilities rise and fall organically.

However, this kind of extremism is, while very charismatic, unrealistic, infrequent, and, as the Warriors and Hawks prove, such a function of chemistry and circumstance that it may not even be real. If the Positional Revolution stands for player flexibility, or a redistribution of responsibilities, it's almost insane to expect this ever-shifting tapestry of style, in which each player becomes both an existential whir of uncertainty, and the team's sense of order thrives on something that skirts disorder. (Note: Ziller wonders if the ideal apositional team wouldn't be comprised entirely of Diaws and LeBrons, which is dangerously close to what we heard D'Antoni's dream was when he came to New York, which again raises the question of whether the pure PG is the source of this freedom or a compromise).

What I don't get, though, is why the Suns have been held up as a model for the rest of the league, when they represent near the lunatic fringe of positional fluidity. For one, why don't teams see Phoenix as an impractical ideal, but apply this philosophy of flexibility less radically. Instead of changing everything on an instantaneous level, why not just redistribute responsibilities more statically, or at least less dizzying in their iterations?

Does that sound hopelessly vague? All I'm asking is that teams show a little fucking imagination. This fixation on the Suns model, which makes apositionality the goal, is too literal. What the Suns teach us is that imagination can get somewhere. Imaginative coaching just might have a shot in this league. It's not about getting a team full of players who can do everything, but just about organizing what you've got in a creative manner. This can stem from having a franchise player whose singular talents demand this approach: That's the tragedy of Garnett in Minny, probably Iverson in Philly, LeBron right now, and quite possibly Durant for a while. I may not be the ultimate coach, but it's not so hard to imagine that, if the focal point of a team is a complex individual, the team's (relatively static) structure must follow suit.

Or, on the most basic level, what about simply creating some new roles that translate across teams? The Anthony Randolph postulate is thus: There clearly now exists a long, springy brand of forward whose offense consists mostly of reaching, floating, and dunking. Very little in the way of polished moves. They grab boards without really banging, block shots, and have the foot speed to stay with the likes of Richard Jefferson or Melo (the former model for "three by elimination"). Of course, the fact that Randolph got drafted by a team that specializes in ignoring positions, not re-defining them, might obscure or impede his particular case.

Why exactly couldn't this become a new type of SF, who would then be paired with a PF that has some outside shooting? Or be included on a team where the PG packs an offensive wallop? When I look at the Raptors this season—and yes, I am usually wrong about the Raptors—O'Neal's arrival seems like a chance for Bosh to once and for all stop trying to be a "big man," and instead embrace his legacy as the Next Garnett, in the sense that Young Garnett has only managed to make it as a "big man" because he is absolutely indomitable.

I also can't help but think toward the Bulls. Why exactly is it a problem to just fucking play Tyrus Thomas, and figure out a way to have Deng and Gooden pick up the slack he creates? Wasn't one of the fonding principles of Phoenix that Marion would cover everyone's ass? Not as glamorous as an offense that boggles the mind, but without those contingencies, that team would never have had a chance when it came to defense or rebounding.

And so I collapse. Not tired, or betrayed by the Revolution, but wondering if all the glare hasn't distracted us from seeing a more viable, if less orgiastic, road to the future.

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At 7/14/2008 5:22 PM, Blogger Hardwood Paroxysm said...

Isn't the enemy here really efficiency?

The Marion reference holds this particularly true. Marion would cover everyone else's ass. With Thomas, and in theory, Randolph, the team is having to cover their ass. If you're a coach, even in principle this has to make you nauseous at least and enraged at worst. It requires a vision that is not only haphazard to winning, but to the very core assumptions that come with coaching. It's not even so much an issue for the rest of the team, since they won't pick up on it. That part of the game is organic to them. It's only when Marion or Randolph or Smith are taken out of context and used as focal points that the system fails. You can't look at it. If you look at it, if you do anything but ride it, it stops working and buries itself into the ground.

That's what Phoenix did. When Kerr came on, they started introspection. And you can't have introspection when you're moving that fast. The Hawks don't ponder the voracity of their makeup, and the Warriors were more a tribal unit mid-rampage than clan.

Self-awareness is the devil, and the search for efficiency is what births that self-awareness.

At 7/14/2008 5:26 PM, Blogger Louie Bones said...

That was an inspired piece. Seems like it fell right out of your mind onto the keyboard too. I love it.

What is the word we are looking for when describing small, fast players who dominate the ball, but don't NECESSARILY always look for the dish, or go for a lay-up? Can't you win with Monta Ellis in the PG spot, without him being a PG? The Spurs did it with Tony. Tony may be one of the most trusting little men in the league, in that he is always willing to give the ball to someone else, so they can get an assist, hockey-style.

Also, a co-sign on asking for more fucking imagination. Thinking of a team using a Kirilenko as a shooting guard instead of a forward type shit. Or, to go the other way, asking the Melos and Josh Howards of the league to man up at the 4, without posting up.

I have run out of thought.

At 7/14/2008 5:37 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...

This SNews post also shows promise: http://www.sportingnews.com/blog/the_sporting_blog/entry/view/8809/c.j._miles_rapping_his_way_out_of_utah

At 7/14/2008 6:50 PM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

@HP: But isn't introspection what births these new forms in the first place? It seems like you can't be an imaginative team without questioning, breaking, and reconstructing positions in a way that makes introspection fundamental to the creation of the system. In a perfect world, introspection would breed continual reevaluation and imagination. I don't mean this in the fly-by-seat-of-pants way; I mean that a GM/coach/owner continually reevaluates the best possible combination based on what the players on the team can actually do.

No argument on your efficiency point (if I understand you correctly), but I do think that it's a certain kind of efficiency that ends up mucking everything up. The Suns probably could have addressed their problems in a manner that didn't run back to Right Way dogma, but that's not really the issue for me w/r/t this post. The problem was that they did it without paying enough attention to how that new system was inefficient, or, maybe to put it another way, without realizing that the new inefficiencies can be just as problematic as others even though they're more prevalent in the league.

For me, this post calls for a more nuanced view of positional/player relations, one in which attributes interact with each other. So it's not that the other Bulls have to cover for Thomas -- it's that they all cover for each other in some way. This concept gets tougher to work through when you have a player of Marion's quality (in that he will cover for others more often than they cover for him), but it's always at play. The Spurs obviously do this and remain boring, but that system always looks like an interlocking of parts, whereas this new view seems like more of what you get when you mash together several colors of Play-Doh. I think there's an important difference there.

Shoals covered this point really well in my favorite FD post of last summer when he argued that a secondary piece (e.g. Marion) can be more important to a team's identity than a primary piece (e.g. Nash). I would link to it if I weren't lazy.

At 7/14/2008 8:02 PM, Blogger Hardwood Paroxysm said...

I would agree that introspection holds that birthing power. But I would say that has to come later. I think first before you can paint the Mona Lisa, you have to unweb your toes. There's an evolution that has to take place, if not a revolution. And that evolution can't take place over night. And as long as we live in an era where imagination is taboo, the steps are going to have be Cro-Magnon in nature, from where I'm at.

I think it's the search for efficiency before form, rather than efficiency through form, that limits the concept so restrictively.

I'd argued a few months ago on HP that the only way to improve the Suns by subtracting Marion was to add a series of pieces with specific attributes, which is close to what you're discussing, if I'm reading you right.

I have a feeling that the first major step in that evolution has to be a significant jump, like lungs, or Chuck Berry, or Josh Smith.

At 7/14/2008 8:26 PM, Blogger db said...

This is the most succinct expression of liberated fandom yet, and should be linked to whenever someone says that there's some kind of veneration of failure going on in FD.

I also think the question of positionality/revolution/apositionality is a slightly more narrow view of player/team interaction than I see. I think the development of a team is fundamentally about an identity expressed in a system, even if the elements of that system are subconscious for the players involved. There has been a dominant system in place (classical positionality), with various attempts to fit square pegs into round holes, until players manage to either will their way into setting a team's system around themselves as superstar (Magic, etc). But fundamentally it is about finding an ethos under which players can collectively find the full expression of their talents. An identity. The Spurs, Suns and GS all found this.

But now there is a more agnostic approach to what kind of system can achieve success. Perhaps Lakers/Celtics only proved this - two teams with an ability to impose their (very different) games onto others.

The problem with a coach like Skiles is that he still believes in a pre-civil-rights era basketball system and is unable to accept that hoop in the hip-hop era is not only about disliking The Eagles (as if such bands were one among many); but is also an attempt to show that another genre of life exists even if it isn't played on the radio. While this revolutionary impulse can be read into individual players who don't fit established positional norms, it remains potential until a collective consciousness is established, either through sheer feudal dominance (LeBron), a more collective street uprising (GSW) or more utopian, vanguardist coach-led movements from PJ's hippie-corporate zen-triangle to D'Antoni's Second International. OK, so all those readings are a bit loose but the bottom line is that the link from player to collective identity is more problematic than we might think.

At 7/14/2008 8:27 PM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

I don't know if I'm talking about direct replacement of Marion with specific traits, just because that seems like a sort of orthodoxy that I don't usually like. What I meant is that, no matter which player replaced him, those in charge would need to realize that the replacement came with his own set of issues that create new problems (and add new strengths, obviously). So it's not just that Marion-for-Shaq made them better rebounders and better defensively inside; they'd need to evaluate the lack of defensive cover for Nash in the same way that they once looked at the lack of rebounding. This sort of analysis of that trade isn't really new, but talking about it in terms of player-to-player interaction pushes the discussion into a different, broader direction. (It's possible we're talking about similar things here and I'm just not familiar enough with your post to give a short answer.)

I certainly agree that it's more likely that it happens in steps given our culture, but I don't think it's necessary. Portland could be an important test-case here, because Pritchard has assembled a lot of that team without regards to positional tradition. Oden is obviously the classic center, but the Bayless/Roy backcourt is very comboish and their roles should bleed. And Aldridge and Oden will require some invention to reach their possible peaks, too. It'll be interesting to see how McMillan, a presumably classic coach in terms of strategy, deals with that. Of course, in this case, Oden could just play the grounding role of the awesome point guard that Shoals talks about here, just with less acknowledgment of weirdness because he'd be a Superstar Big Man.

Anyway, as long as the Warriors and Hawks can make the playoffs, I don't think that innovation by way of monolith is impossible. But you're definitely right to say it's unlikely in this NBA/social culture. Although, from another viewpoint, that kind of innovation doesn't come out of nowhere if we see the precursor as philosophical (i.e. what Shoals describes here) rather than similar in on-court function.

At 7/14/2008 8:48 PM, Blogger Hardwood Paroxysm said...

I think the biggest challenge to that evolution is going to be, to wrap things back around, efficiency. Because in the beginning, things that try and adapt or change, die. And we've seen with Phoenix that there is a prevalent atmosphere of "If it doesn't work, scrap the entire thing and trade for a $40 million black hole"

Portland, though,is even an evolution. What most people marvel at isn't the immediate turnaround that's been constructed, a la Boston, but a long term, steady vision.

Innovation by monolith isn't impossible, but it's going to have to be a cumulative monolith. The breakthrough will have to occur a thousand times over, or the ceiling will heal itself in the face of "good solid basketball that wins championships." At least, that's where my thinking leads me.

Most of this is what leads to me to Jawai. And I know that road only ends in disappointment, but I can't help myself.

At 7/14/2008 8:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"but apply this philosophy of flexibility less radically. Instead of changing everything on an instantaneous level, why not just redistribute responsibilities more statically, or at least less dizzying in their iterations?...

"It's not about getting a team full of players who can do everything, but just about organizing what you've got in a creative manner...

"Or, on the most basic level, what about simply creating some new roles that translate across teams?

"There clearly now exists a long, springy brand of forward whose offense consists mostly of reaching, floating, and dunking. Very little in the way of polished moves. They grab boards without really banging, block shots, and have the foot speed...

"Why exactly couldn't this become a new type of SF, who would then be paired with a PF that has some outside shooting?"

How have you not just described the Triangle offense. There is nothing "new" to this approach. Phil and Tex orchestrated these principles and 6 banners hang in the United Center to show for it. This "new" SF/PF pairing sounds like a less ambitious echo of the Pippen, Kukoc, Rodman monster.

At 7/14/2008 8:52 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I have never made any secret of the fact that my understanding of the Triangle is at best, sketchy. Partly because it seems to change with personnel. But maybe this does a little to explain to certain angry readers why I liked this year's Lakers team so much.

At 7/14/2008 10:08 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...

The only Blazer player who intrigues me is Von Wafer.

At 7/14/2008 10:14 PM, Blogger T. said...

I was going to type something up, but Alexandre beat me to it. One of Jackson/Winter's main tenents of the triangle IS the postionless revolution. Throughout all of the teams - they've never really had a true point guard. Or even a small guard who brought the ball up the floor - usually its either a shooter (Paxson, Kerr, Derek Fisher) or another BIG shooting guard type (Ron Harper, Brian Shaw) - in fact one of PJax's laments upon arriving in LA was that they had traded Eddie Jones, because he had visions of putting Kobe and Eddie in the backcourt together.

At 7/14/2008 10:51 PM, Blogger Anthony Wilson said...

Once again Shoals, thinking outside the box. That's what FD is all about.

Did you guys watch Generation Kill last night? Shoals, we need a 7-week mini-blog on this show. I know you're probably busy, but I almost demand it.

At 7/14/2008 11:55 PM, Blogger Press Row said...

What's sad is, Lamar Odom was, essentially this player, then developed into a more complete player, and now that he is fully entrenched in the triangle, had a chance to play Pippen and would have won LA a ring. Alexandre said it best. Odom was someplace in between Rodman and Pippen, and because of that, we look at him as being ineffective. At least, I think so.

Why exactly couldn't this become a new type of SF, who would then be paired with a PF that has some outside shooting?

Purely from a basketball standpoint here: don't you mean a guy like, say, Al Harrington?

At 7/15/2008 12:17 AM, Blogger Michael said...

This post does both good and bad things for me. First of all, it's very, very close to a definition, which troubles me, since I've always thought of FD as a post-modern type of place and thought; how can there be one, correct definition? However, the good has been mentioned extensively above, especially in regards to the Triangle Offense and the Lakers.

My final point is not a big one, nor do I expect it to generate that much more commentary, since I offer it only as a statement (because that's what it is): Tyrus Thomas is one of the most FD players in the League right now, if not top 5. Period.

At 7/15/2008 12:32 AM, Blogger Anthony Wilson said...

Right. And those guys T. was talking about, the Harpers and the Fisher's and the Paxson's, were only really "point guards" in name only. We all know that Pippen was, for all intents and purposes, the "point guard" for Chicago. If the role of a point guard is to bring the ball up the court, create opportunities for his teammates and be the primary playmaker for others, etc. And Kobe played the Pippen role in his first year under Phil, then he tried to break away from it that second year before getting back on board and playing perfectly in the playoffs (only two real scoring outburst), and then in 2002 he played it perfectly the whole season. But the triangle was flexible enough that when he needed to become a scorer he could, because once guys pick it up you got five guys out there who all know what the hell they're doing.

At 7/15/2008 12:36 AM, Blogger Nathaniel Jones said...

What strikes me from this comments section is that in many ways the Spurs seem to be very close relatives of the type of basketball a lot of us around here seem to pine for. From Parker's point guardlessness, Duncan defining his position rather than being defined by it (leading to the PF/C ambiguity), the interaction between the franchise's identity and players' identities, turning useless pieces of scrap into something functional, etc. There's even something about the lack of condescension in Popovich's coaching that seems like it could be the building block towards something cooler. I don't really know what point I'm trying to make yet, but I guess I feel like if you tweaked one small thing somewhere at the foundation of the team, you could end up with an alternate universe bizzaro Spurs that could somehow live up to FD's ideals.

At 7/15/2008 1:19 AM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

I've been thinking the same thing about the Spurs for the last few hours. I've decided that my problems with them are 1) that their two most exciting players are held in moderate check by a boring player and 2) their attempts to fill in the holes around those three tend towards finding players that fit the preordained system and not seeing if new types of players could work.

I've come to terms with the former given that the boring player is incredibly good and the two exciting players still do exciting things, but the latter still bugs me. As much as I dislike Maggette, it's a shame that he didn't sign with San Antonio just so we could've seen how Pop put a different kind of scoring talent at the small forward into the mix.

At 7/15/2008 1:42 AM, Blogger Dude N Plenty said...

I've watched Duncan on the big network games or when playing the Lakers. I have seen him play maybe 100 games, which is a small % but still a decent number. He has been involved in some of the most exciting NBA games in the last decade and that leaning fade-away shot over Shaq (one of the few times Shaq has ever credibly defended anyone that far away from the basket) was as exciting a shot I have ever seen made. I don't know about the rest of you all but Fisher's shot to steal that game has done nothing to make me forget the shot that made .4 possible.
Seeing that part of the ethos here is in the style of play rather then the final outcome, how come these moments don't overcome at least some of the perceived lack of "style" in Duncan's game? He is a player known for making back to the basket moves that result in automatic bank shot from 8 feet away and yet two of his most defining plays were jumpers (okay, set shots) from 16 feet and out. Can a player who makes the fundamental bigman basketball play, day in and day out, be considered boring if on the biggest stage he can escape form and make his shot anyway?

At 7/15/2008 1:45 AM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

Yeah, I think so. Because those events (which were admittedly really cool and exciting) are very rare for him. I won't deny that he was exciting for those moments, but I don't think a handful of plays should define the guy when we have so much evidence to the contrary.

At 7/15/2008 2:06 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

@CB, my problem with the Spurs is that they lack one of the fundamental FD tenets which I was recently reminded of by link to the first FD post which defiantly demanded that Darko be granted freedom to either showcase or squander his potential. The missing principle in this case is potential. The Spurs are completely and utterly devoid of any form of potential, be it unrealized potential or potential that is in the early stages of blossoming. With the Spurs, there is no potential to realize only superior foes. It therefore comes as no surprise that the team is legendary for never losing to an inferior opponent. To beat the Spurs you have to overcome their abilities as the team will never defeat itself. GSW's magical playoff run was the realization of the potential after struggling all season and barely making the Playoffs.

The lack of unrealized potential in the Spurs structure and system extends to the team's players. Their leader, Duncan walked out of the NCAA womb in a calm and orderly fashion. Revealing to the world a fully mature 20-10 big man and team leader that was immune to the rookie growing pains and developmental struggles. The Tim Duncan of today is almost identical in both style and ability to the 2nd year Duncan that led the Spurs to an NBA title. While there may have been other players that took the league by storm during their rookies seasons (see Magic, Lebron). But unlike Duncan, the early dominance of Lebron/Magic seems to be a tantalizing taste of things to come. Whereas with Duncan we got the full package from the start.

Manu Ginobili's also came to the league fully formed- a prototype of grizzled veteran maturity and male pattern baldness. TP is the only core SA player that has shown improvement and the unlocking of potential.

At 7/15/2008 2:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Ty: Isn't Ginobili a "new type of player" that the Spurs have managed to integrate without homogenizing? I mean, he's not just filling Sean Elliott's shoes or whatever.

Does anyone know Stephen Jackson's mood during his time in San Antonio? (I don't.) If he enjoyed it, doesn't that say...something?

At 7/15/2008 3:04 AM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

Yeah, that's why I specified a new type of player at small forward. I think the system becomes very different when you have three guys who primarily get into the lane and draw contact instead of two. Their small forward has traditionally been a jump shooter.

At 7/15/2008 4:23 AM, Blogger Dude N Plenty said...

To my mind, part of what made those plays so exciting was the fact that these were not the sort of play you see Duncan make on a regular basis. Its like he's conned us all into thinking he is a prototypical bigman and then the bamboozle moment comes. He hits a three to win at the buzzer, he made a 16 foot leaning fade-away with a monster in his face. He showed us the 8 foor bank shot a couple of thousand times all so nobody knows he's trapped some shooting guard in his arsenal.

Sounds to me like the flaw you see in the Spurs is that there's no room to grow. I wonder how you felt about Parker's struggles against the 04 Lakers and how he grew from that experience or even how his game effected the team seeing that it got pretty far with him running the pseudo-point as a rookie. Same pretty much goes for the Poo God's first few years. That potential was still on its way to realization and has since shown growth rather then how you've described Duncan's entrance. I'm curious as hell as to how they integrate some of these youths playing in the Summer League and wonder if that infusion of talent prolongs their run or if they'll feel the need to fundamentally retool in the next couple seasons in the hopes of taking advantage of Duncan's waning dominance. I'm not even wondering that as a captive fan of the Lakers. I'm just curious at how the Spurs' culture responds to everything turn, turn, turn.

At 7/15/2008 7:05 AM, Blogger Kaifa said...

Great points on the Spurs, now my reevaluation process begins. And the first names that come to mind are Stephen Jackson, Devin Brown and Speedy Claxton. All three were functional pieces on the Spurs, two of those shrunk in a different setting while Jackson seemingly landed in an environment even better for him. So even for a useful cog, a working system or team identity (like the Spurs') could be hindering their full potential.

Re creativity in roster building/working with the pieces you've got: this discussion here also allows for a new take on Right Way-Larry Brown's Sixers. In this regard, the Finals-bound group of AI and his gang of fast legs and/or sharp elbows might have even been a predecessor of some kind.

And speaking of the Sixers, Arenas (via his blog) would like to chime in regarding team identity, style of play and positionality:

whoo! Elton Brand in Philly … it’s hard to tell how that will work out. The way Philly played last year, I would have went after Josh Smith hard. You got long, agile, up-and-down players and if you had Smith at the four, Dalembert at the five and Iguodala at the three, you would have had a jumping, running, young and exciting team. If you want to utilize Elton Brand, you’re going to have to slow the ball down. That should be interesting to see how that actually pans out.

At 7/15/2008 9:54 AM, Blogger Sweat of Ewing said...

Has anyone ever commented that, maybe, the Spurs always seek out the types of players they do, and play that system, because the system is legitimately the most effective to surround Duncan with? Not necessarily the most effective system for every team (BIG MAN + STAR GUARD = SUCCESS!!!1), but given that Duncan's talents are based upon method, positioning, technique, and angles, it makes sense that his team's system is also defined by those concepts. This just comes back to the idea that a truly dominant player infuses his team with, well, himself. Hence why Jordan's Bulls were offensive AND defensive juggernauts with a flair for the dramatic, Lebron's Cavs are kind of disjoint savants that haven't yet figured out how to play with each other. Nash's Suns (before Shaq) were a well-oiled machine far more than they were explosively dominant. Etc, etc.

At 7/15/2008 10:20 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

--"It's not about getting a team full of players who can do everything, but just about organizing what you've got in a creative manner."--

Seconding a couple of others, this is what makes the Bulls so frustrating. Having Gordon and Hughes isn't a problem, just throw them out there with a platoon of Thomas, Noah, Deng and you got something. Having Safolosha, Gooden, Hinrich off the bench changes the dynamics, but it shouldn't change the flow.

The Bulls feel like a deeper Hawks, but with real PG's, crazy shooters, and high-flying forwards.

Skiles' order was like that freaky juvy book from my childhood--The Wave--where everyone had to do a totalitarian hand signal to sit in the bleachers.

At 7/15/2008 12:39 PM, Blogger dickey simpkins said...

What angered me so much about Skiles is that while their offense was technically "fast-paced" if you're just going off the numbers, there was no sense of flow last season at all under him or his crony Boylan. They sucked the life out of the team, making it boring and horribly inefficient. A team with a glut of young players, built to run around and improvise were being handcuffed, and told "play hard, play the right way." But this kind of boring rhetoric ultimately took the place of player development. I find it hard to believe that Skiles didn't see the value in loosening the chains on Hinrich. He coached Jason Kidd, Penny, and Marion in Phoenix. How the hell do you spend a season with those 3 players and NOT see the value of a fast-paced offense when you don't have a dominant post presence?

At 7/15/2008 1:08 PM, Blogger dunces said...

I don't think that building around your strongest pieces requires a lack of planning or thought. I don't think the Suns fell apart because of introspection, but because changing that team and winding up with something better required an effort of thought that was beyond Kerr.

I have nothing against the Spurs, except that I've heard the jam before and I'm hyped for the new summer hot shit. But as someone who doesn't watch the Spurs regularly, when I catch a game I'm always amazed at all the things Lobstah mentions; the angles, the calculation, the way that Parker throws himself into the meat grinder with full knowledge of the years it'll take off his later career.

That said, I'll watch Josh Smith over them any day. That's just how the world works.

At 7/15/2008 1:15 PM, Blogger Josh R. said...

How the hell do you spend a season with those 3 players and NOT see the value of a fast-paced offense when you don't have a dominant post presence?

Maybe when you have Kirk Hiinrich instead of Jason Kidd running the show. (And Kirk in the midst of a god awful shooting slump, to boot.) Or Ty Thomas instead of Shawn Marion.e Or Noah instead of Amare. Or Gordon instead of Barbosa. In other words, because the personnel were and are a step down from the talent shown in, say, Phoenix. Just because a player kinda sorta reminds one of another player, doesn't mean the first player is ready to fulfill the responsibilities that the latter makes possible. Perhaps in the future, but at the present? And, seeing as how Scott Skiles' job is to win games, and was let go for failing that metric, I can see why he'd be skittish in conducting an experiment for which his players were not ready. Perhaps that assumption (that they were not ready) is wrong. I suppose it is up to Vinny del Negro to see. I wish him luck, if for no other reason than Bulls games are on free television in these woods, so if he fails that means one less option for entertainment.

I'm also unsure as to whether last year is worthy anything analysis wise. From the pre-season contract fuck ups with Deng and Gordon, to the constant Kobe rumors early in the season, to the pallor over Skiles, and then his eventual displacement, that team was fucked from the get go.

At 7/15/2008 1:18 PM, Blogger Josh R. said...

To summarize a bit better: I guess the point I was making was that if you're Scott Skiles and your job and the millions of dollars that it brings with it are on the line, you're going to reach for the tried and true rather than unleash an experiment that may ultimately just bring your demise sooner, rather than later. Especially when the tried and true seemed to work the year prior and had everybody buzzing about your team in the preseason.

At 7/15/2008 1:37 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Happy to see some respect and thoughtful discourse about the Spurs on the board here. That said, I'm starting to get frustrated with our management for avoiding "FD" players at all costs. Donte Greene was still available at 27 (where we picked George Hill) as was Darrell Arthur. There needs to be a little more inventiveness. I sort of agree with the idea that the Spurs have completely maxed out their collective potential as a unit thus constructed. There needs to be atleast one unknown quantity.As oppsoed to last year's Hornets who might be able to do something crazy and win, the Spurs just needed to execute and do things the way they always had to be successful. In some ways I felt like we would fail because there was no "unknown/undefined" factor that could step up and lead us to victory (ala Stephen jackson's barrage of 3s in the 2003 finals) The Spurs (IMO) need to add one of these guys this offseason: Matt Barnes, Louis Williams, Kelenna Azubuike, JR Smith. Not likely (I know)but would infuse us with some potential and possibly even convert some of the Haters.

At 7/15/2008 1:52 PM, Blogger Josh R. said...

Not likely (I know)but would infuse us with some potential and possibly even convert some of the Haters.

The hegemon always wishes to be loved, but it never is no matter how benevolent it may (or may not) be.

At 7/15/2008 2:27 PM, Blogger The Hypnotoad said...


1) You are not on the Spurs.
2) I have no interest in putting any thought into how the Spurs can get better or win another championship.
3) The Spurs will always have dudes that hit their barrage of 3's. Damn them so.

At 7/15/2008 3:14 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I was born in SA and have lived there (or within 100 miles) for my entire life. so excuse the pronoun confusion. Still your just a HATER (@ hypotoad) Jealous of success. Plus if Timmy dominated the league from your city, i bet you'd be fine with it.
@ Hypno:
1) I dont care
2)then why did you comment?
3) yes we will and we'll also crush your favorite team 9 times out of ten
In many ways your hate validates our dominace.

At 7/15/2008 3:38 PM, Blogger Fat Contradiction said...

On the necessity of the point in positional fluidity:

Under Doug Moe, the Nuggets of the 80s and their "passing game" offense often functioned without a canonical point guard.* This motion offense excelled at freeing guys for midrange jumpers, as long as the squad on the floor had five guys with the willingness to pass and good awareness of where the other guys were going to be/ what they wanted to do. This continuity is difficult to achieve on a purely practical level, given injury and the iron cage of personnel turnover.

And on an operational level, there are major difficulties in maintaining an offense with minimal post presence. Simply put, in the playoffs, jumpers stop falling quite so easily. And without a (single) stern hand on the tiller, it's difficult to accomplish the task of successfully implementing and executing a Plan B once Plan A has been stymied.

We'll see whether these Warriors can navigate this Scylla and Charybdis. (Certainly those Nuggets suggest that the second round is about the limit.)**

On 3s as 4s, redux:

As for the 3-as-4, my primary worry is that this is simply the rehabilitation of the long, lean, athletic guy with no discernable basketball skills. Darius Miles is the prototype here, I'm afraid--throw him out there and he'll certainly finish, get boards in the absence of banging, and block the occasional shot from the side of weakness. And sure enough he's the proverbial Matchup Problem.

But rarely does this seem to redistribute accountability in any really effective way. Continuing to throw these guys out there, at whatever position, seems less an exponent of Coaching Creativity than a simple desire to Get Something out of an Investment. Fuck it--we dropped all this coin, might as well trot the cat out there, see if he can do some good.

I do believe that there is indeed a viable future in positional flexibility--I just suspect it lies in the hands of men with multifarious skills, rather than athletic ability in slighly longer frames than we've been used to.


PS: There isn't, I think, a necessary connection between positional fluidity and the lack of an offensive post presence, but the first very often seems accompanied by the second.

*Fat Lever, the squad's nominal point guard, was once described as "a paradox, being asked to produce a show he'd much rather be starring in".

**The example of the triangle is somewhat instructive here. The responsibility of running the offense indeed is distributed, but with clear roles, making that Stern Hand either the coach's or the system itself's. The other thing the triangle requires is players with real basketball skills and understanding across all positions. A squad that can make the triangle work could make pretty much any offense work...so maybe it's not a surprise that these teams found success with some unconventional structure(s).

At 7/15/2008 8:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@MC Lawrence- thanks for that link, if only because I now know of the "other" C.J. Miles. WOW.

wv: ioequxm- scrabble bingo neutron bomb

At 7/15/2008 8:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Admittedly I ride for the Kettes, but even so, this post made me think of what could be if Screwston went all "you don't have to be 6'9" to play here, but it helps" Atlanta:

PG: TMac
SG: Donte Greene*
SF: Shane Battier
PF: Mandry
C: Luis Scola

Actually, if Greene turns out to be all that and the team doesn't get blown up in the next two years, I wouldn't be at ALL surprised if that's the lineup who they start finishing games with.

*god I wish summer league was a reliable indicator. 40 points!

At 7/15/2008 11:26 PM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

I just know I'm gonna throw this out right before another proper post goes up, but still:


With Fatkid Gordon coming off the bench. What's the current story on Shaun Livingston?

Also, the Portland/Sacto game was a spectacle of flaws and flashes, especially college stars now suddenly looking embryonic. Bayless, Batum, Hawes, Sean Singletary, my guy Jason Thompson, and new revelation Petteri Koponen. Dudes getting thumped to the floor every other play, lobs with no knowledge of the receiver's leaping ability, and not a fully formed identity among them.

At 7/16/2008 5:27 AM, Blogger T. said...

@tredecimal - I know I've mentioned it before around here, but that reminds me of the late 80's Illinois Illini. Kenny Battle, Kendell Gill, Nick Anderson, Ken Norman, Marcus Liberty, Steve Bardo - a bunch of 6'6" to 6'8" guys - and I maintain that that squad was the ultimate FreeDarko squad, when viewed through the positionless revolution lens.


Possibly my favorite college basketball team of all time.

At 7/16/2008 10:05 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

As if the triangle offense hasn't been explained enough.

Triangle Offence
Basketball U The triangle offence was a motion offence created by legendary University of Southern California coach Sam Barry in the 1940s. One of Barry's guards was Tex Winter, a man who would later bring the triangle offence to the Chicago Bulls in 1989 when he served as an assistant coach to Phil Jackson. The Bulls enjoyed great success with the triangle offence, winning six championships in the 1990s. Tex Winter joined Phil Jackson again in Los Angeles, helping the Lakers win the NBA Championship with the triangle offence.

The triangle or triple-post offence is designed to bring out the best skills and talents of an individual player within the framework of a team offence. It assumes all players have the versatility to play any position on the court, which was possible for the Bulls with talented mid-sized players such as Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.

The offence consists of constant player motion, cuts and passing. The object is to space the floor to create opportunities to drive, pass, shoot or cut. Players must recognize mismatches of size and/or quickness between the offensive player and the defensive player.

The offensive team sets up the triangle on the strong side with a low post player, a baseline player and a player on the 45-degree angle, forming a triangle. Each of these players, when they have the ball, has the option to shoot, pass or drive. If the ball is passed, the passer cuts to the basket or screens away for a weakside player. The passer is replaced in the triangle by a weakside cutter coming to the strong side. It is important that the floor is balanced and spaced for cutters and there is constant passing and movement by the offensive team.

The triangle offence often leaves the baseline open, where a great offensive player like Lakers guard Kobe Bryant likes to drive. If defensive help comes, Bryant can dump the ball off to centre Shaquille O'Neal for the dunk.

At 7/16/2008 10:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@T- that team was worth the price of admission just for Marcus Liberty and Steve Bardo's names. I saw them light up LSU reeaaal good @ home. I think it was Chris Jackson/MAR's frosh year, or the year before that. I can smile about it now, but at the time it was terrible. There was no defense for Marcus Liberty. Not even with Vernel Singleton jumping over cars...

At 7/16/2008 10:30 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Ty--You're an asshole. Just kidding, let me know if you need a place to stay when you're in Seattle next month.

To clarify my Triangle gaff: I've never exactly understood the mechanics, partly because my brain doesn't work like that, but I get the concept. I also think it's even more radical than people give it credit for, since it does change depend on personnel. So while there's this myth that Jackson is the NBA's equvialent of Stalin, he actually seems to use this basic template as a means to get the most of his players' particular skills. Aside from never having a real point guard, of course.

At 7/16/2008 10:50 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Also, new SN column on Artest's market value.

At 7/16/2008 12:12 PM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

I swear on my mother that wasn't me. I'm only a partial asshole.

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At 7/16/2008 4:27 PM, Blogger Dude N Plenty said...

Clare is a full-blown asshole with no invite to my camp in Portland.

At 7/16/2008 5:51 PM, Blogger Louie Bones said...

Uh Clare, you know Lifelock's CEO did IN FACT get HIS identity stolen after advertising his SS #. You worthless piece of shit adbot, go elsewhere. There are plenty of people here to delete your obnoxious advertising.

At 7/16/2008 6:12 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hey, sorry for the way that post sounded. I'm actually a first-time reader/poster/whatever. What that first line probably should have read: I'm sure you've read stuff like this, because it's not like the triangle has been written about enough, but... and then basically just pasted the part about the specific apositionality.

Sorry about that wording. (if this makes any more sense)

At 7/16/2008 7:12 PM, Blogger T. said...

Brandon Jennings signed with Virtus Roma. 3 year deal with a buyout - including a spot for Jenning's younger brother on the youth team and enrollment in an english speaking school.

There's a great chapter in Big Game, Small World about the rivalry between Virtus and Fortitudo Bologna:


At 7/17/2008 5:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Oh that's cool! Although it's Virtus Roma and not Virtus Bologna. But still.

Btw, did you know that Fortitudo Bologna brought out Nique to play for them in the nineties? Yeah, that was rad, he played the 4 bumping and dunking on everybody.


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