Real Recognize Self


Go to the bright, shiny, new store, cop this shirt, go to a Warriors game, and maybe S-Jax's friends will ask you to pose for a picture with the man himself. That's what happened to reader DR, who was gracious enough to send along the photographic evidence.

And really, seriously. No comments about Ray Allen's suggestion that Bron get political, or my reaction to it? It says there's a post underneath all the announcements.

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Crazy Commerce, Commerce Crazed

(Actual post follows the store stuff)

With a lull in the season, what better to do than revamp the FreeDarko store, repress some in-demand tees, and roll out some new prints? Yes, starting last night, you can visit the brand new FD Imperial Marketplace, whose clean and articulate presentation alone should inspire you to cut into your tax payment. Highlights are open editions prints of some Style Guides, at a lower price than the artist's edition ones (see Lamar Odom, above), and re-ups of THE STEPHEN JACKSON TEE YOU EMAIL ME ABOUT EVERY OTHER DAY and the Classic 2.0.

Right now we're taking pre-orders on those, but they should be available in 2-3 weeks. And this is just the first wave: Get ready for some totally original new shirts and more portrait prints in time for the playoffs. The shit you've never seen before. Now, in other news. . .

-Me with a point about GM's

-I can't tell if this quote from Ray Allen regarding Bron Bron's future is inspiring or deeply suspicious, like he's trying to undermine the kid's career so the Celts have a clear path as they fade. From CBS News:

"Mike paved the way for all of us to open up the endorsement door," said Celtics star Ray Allen, another Jordan Brand athlete. "But the one thing that Mike never was is political. I think in today's era, the NBA player has an even greater podium if he chooses to use it. And with Barack Obama being the first black president, it's a great forum. I think that would separate him from anybody who's done this. ... It's great to be a basketball player, but to transcend sports is a big responsibility. If he were able to pull that off -- if he wants to pull that off -- I think that would set him apart."

First, let's take Ray Ray at face value, since I like the world better that way. And I might be getting confused due to the ol' cut and paste, but—key to this point—LeBron isn't a Jordan Brand guy. He does have the leeway to push, even redefine with an athlete brand means if he feels like it. I think most of us would agree that politics is the easiest way to alienate a bunch of potential consumers. But, while I know Allen is focused on what Obama the FBP can do in office, let's not forget what a marketing sensation Barack was before the election, when through no fault of his own, he created the Nike of politics. Sure, the stances were at times vague, and style may mattered more (or been as much of a statement as) substance. Though there's no denying the fact that Obama awakened something citizen-like in people while offending or boring as few as possible in an election year. If LeBron were to at least give the appearance of political engagement, and of therefore having a constituency at his fingers, that would make him a leader. And then, "brand" hardly seems a sufficient description.

I'm not saying this would be an altogether cynical maneuver. Nor do I think James could realistically call out China at a press conference. But he's got the world's attention, and a team around him that could do some risk-management assessment on what issues he could and could not get near. Maybe this would just turn him into a world-class philathrophist. The Bill Gates of sports. On the other hand, now that (go ahead, bold and attack this statement) so many formerly "black" issues are now publicly acknowledged to be everyone's problems, it's possible to take a stand on public schools, health care, unemployment or housing issues without seeming like a dangerous radical. Sure, Hollywood talks all the time. And yet we've learned to tune them out, question what little authority they have, and wonder why they bother. LeBron James could leverage an entirely new kind of pop culture politics. It would be a risk, but, to follow Ray Allen's reasoning, it would be one hell of a way to get bigger than Jordan and carve out an unmistakable legacy.

All this assumes that LeBron gives a damn. Maybe all he needs is the right mentor to get in his ear. Or to find that one issue where he can afford to take corporate interests. Fuck a petition; could LeBron James have a trade policy, at least when it came to sneakers? Imagine if he got a Nike plant put in Akron. Or, going beyond the usual thirty-second spot, went before Congress and urged them to not leave behind international aid programs. It sounds ridiculous, but then again, so did the idea of everyone wearing Obama all-over print hoodies after Iowa. If Obama was the ultimate feat of politics crossing over into pop culture, why couldn't LeBron—who is a pop culture brand, not just a symbol of athletic excellence—try the inverse?

Of course, none of this happens if LBJ doesn't get invited to the White House a few times, minus a ton of publicity, and with appearance alone laying the gorundwork for both independence and continuity.

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Big Bucks on Astral Plane


At this point, we should probably just ignore Wade, Bron, and Bosh when they're asked about the future. James just messes with reporters, Wade's the good soldier, and Bosh is too polite to regularly let it smolder like he wants. For the record, on intuition and common sense alone, I figure James stays, Wade too but only after JO's replaced with quality, and Bosh might even be traded to Cleveland by next spring.

That said, I was struck by this Marc Spears Durant piece, which includes the following quotes:

"But after coming here and seeing the city, I love Oklahoma. The fans have been with me every night. What more can you ask for?"

"I like the nucleus that we have," he said. "I'm excited. I want to be here as long as possible. It's like family. I love being here. We're going to get better. We can get better.

"Hopefully, we will make the playoffs next season. That's what we're fighting for. We'll have a good chance."

Fine, maybe your standard clap-trap from a young, upbeat athlete not looking to make waves. But unless I'm just really stupid, Durant and Uncle Jeff will be looking for extensions next summer. So it's not like he's talking to thin air here. More importantly, though, is the emphasis on 1) OKC being a viable home for Durant's prime and 2) how impressed he is with the team around him.

The first point relates to both LeBron's supposed predicament, and possibly, the economy. I've written previously that James doesn't need New York or Miami except as lifestyle accessories; and hell, he can Gulfstream it out there whenever he feels like it, or buy a mansion for weekends. The Knicks, even the city itself in these troubled times, need brand LeBron, not vice-versa. And at the same time, he's elevating Cleveland, turning it from the butt of jokes and flaming rivers into the home of King James. Durant has more of an uphill battle in this respect, since despite his college hype he's been all but invisible this season. Still, this can't last much longer, and if next season the recognition comes, and the fans flock, by 2010 OKC might not be a joke any longer.

But more importantly is Durant's conviction, even good-natured shock, and just how brilliantly-engineered this team's future is. Sam Presti is smart. Sure, being surrounded by bikinis and beaches is nice, as would time spent in a national spotlight you don't have to earn. And yet we've seen that the Knicks can tumble into oblivion, even before the economy collapsed. Presti will not mess up when it comes to developing this team and its players. You could say similar things about Pritchard. If team markets are becoming more and more negligible, and the perilous state of all things financial makes the astute GM more precious than ever, how far are we from Presti being what keeps Durant in OKC?

P.S.: Because I am serious about those Amazon recommendations, the current ones: Eros Plus Massacre is the book on Japanese New Wave and such; The Street of Crocodiles an obvious influence on FreeDarko's prose style and worldview; On the Rainbow Road, the cheap way to some essential Southern soul; Sherman's March is my favorite documentary ever, except for maybe his Bright Leaves; The Wizard of Odds is FD itself; All Things Must Fight to Live will change your life.

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We're All So Close Together

Heading home tonight. I am tired, and I am weary, or maybe I'm just like Hannibal Lechter when he makes collect calls to the FBI from some unholy tourist trap. But I did feel the need to weigh in on the latest stats dust-up, such as it is. I'm not sure entirely what's going on; I know that the Recluse was flush with angst, and that the crux of the matter can be found here. It instantly brought me back to the great PER Wars of a few years back, when myself and Silverbird5000 tried to take on Ziller and Kevin Pelton. We lost, but it was funny. Let the record show that this was all motivated by an attempt to dismiss Lamar Odom's dismal PER; as many of you have probably already seen, Odom's a fuckin' love supreme when it comes to adjusted +/- . . .for the past two years, when the Lakers grew strong again. So on that most superficial level, I'm not out to get stats anymore.

I will say this, though: The serious stats people I commune with also have one foot firmly planted in the very same currents of the game that I call home. Maybe they don't look for cartoons and metaphors, but joyous subjectivity always seems an important part of their statistical inquiries. These judgments are either bolstered or critiqued by numbers that, unless you're a dummy, have an undeniable power. Ever watch a game, think someone's playing well, and then see they actually shot like shit? So it is with advanced stats and more subjective claims about how, in ways both spectral and booming, Battier-esque and Bron-tastic, certain players or teams impact us as viewers. Anyone looking only at old numbers is as bad as the mythic ballhog who looks only at his points total; focusing solely on the new numbers is to imagine the game as an series of iterations that have no cohesion, will, or identity to guide them.

Which is to say, it all comes down to watching the game with some measure of both passion and sensitivity. Stats force you to think with greater sophistication, in terms of both aesthetics and matters most technical, lest stats overthrow your judgments. Maybe this is one man's attempt to come to terms with the way that numbers have begun to overrun this least quantifiable of sports. For that reason alone, though, I look to them as supplementary tools, ways of clarifying what the trained eye can already see. And yes, there is something vindicating about the ways in which some FD darlings have performed surprisingly well in this new realm.

It points toward some unified life force we can all share together, and makes me realize I've either been transformed or ruined by this ambitious book.

(NOTE: Said life force would be just one of the many episodes/stepping stones that crop up in Revolution in Mind. It's the interplay of outlooks that I'm feeling sorely affected by.)

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Ramp Up Those Tablets

I know, just another Wilt video to take the place of actual Shoals writing. I'm on vacation, motherfuckers, and think there's some food for thought here. You also might enjoy watching me get unusually deep on TSB, with a column to follow later.

Anyway, in a far-off context, I've been trying to work through the so-called death/evolution of the big man. It's funny, we've seen the pure point guard reconstituted after a period in the wilderness, albeit with some rough edges that come in handy. The big man narrative, though, is rather different. Look at Wilt. Impossibly tall and strong, but how skilled and fluid he is! Even Bill Russell—through today's lens, he's wiry, athletic playmaker who doesn't live off of low-post volume alone. Exaggerated, maybe, but it's worth noting that these pillars of the center community are, to some degree, in violation of the template of purity.

It's the same way that young Shaq's athleticism made him feel like a real breakthrough, even if the brute strength would ultimately become his calling card. Or how Hakeem's inside wizardry is anything but formulaic execution. You have to ask yourself, how much did Kevin Garnett really change the game? Is Dwight Howard actually as revolutionary as believed? It's less that there are no more big men, or today's tall dudes want to go in another direction, than that the great ones have always blurred these distinctions—just also while keeping one foot firmly planted in the camp of Mikan-esque tradition.

We haven't seen a radical break, or rise and fall of a bygone species. No, to break out an apt but ugly basketball analogy, the chance in the big man's style has been a skillful pivot that decided to say "fuck it" and move off both feet.

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Our Guardian Angel

Special field report on another big time in big shoulder city, by the indomitable Brian Lauvray.

Late last week the opportunity arose for me to actually get to, you know, ask Kobe F*cking Bryant a few questions and for the rest of my life tell people that, "Yes, in fact, I have been face-to-face with a NBA legend in his prime." Naturally I jumped on the chance and today found myself driving a borrowed, early 1990s Pontiac through the blighted neighborhoods of Chicago's Westside on my way to the jointly (Nike/Foot Locker) owned House of Hoops where Monsieur Bryant was going to make a special guest appearance to premier his hottttttt new shoes named after his Philly high school. So let's cut to the chase:

Inside the mall/outside the House of Hoops: Hysteric throngs of teenagers (God! I hate teenagers), shoe heads, NBA junkies and confused parents/legal guardians all crowded around at what first seems to be an invisible force field but in reality, and on a closer inspection, is revealed to be a velvet rope. "Crap!" thinks my brain, "I'm 15 fucking minutes early and I'm already too late. 'Au contraire, feeble brain;' you know someone on the inside. Eureka." My Nike contact is informed by security of my arrival and Blam-O, Kobe is mere feet from my sweaty palms.

The Q 'n A: Kobe and some Chicago-area comedian, it's not Bernie Mac --this I know; are bouncing ideas and questions off one another. Topics include: his new shoes, "Why low top instead of high top?; the competitiveness of Kobe's daughters; Does he have anyone who he steps up his game to play against*; Who he likes to talk trash to? Manu. Shocker!

One Question Interview: After the question and answer session and the five lucky/depraved fans who have been waiting in line since Friday for the new Zooms and the chance to see Mamba get their hotttt new shoes signed by #24, I'm informed by my Nike rep that now is the time for me to go and talk to Kobe. His prickly handler explains that I have one question w Kobe. "Alright."

So there it was. I asked what I thought was an informed and decent question and brought the FD book to show off and proffer to Kobe. Of course, the prickly handler in his haste to usher me away and disassemble and pack up Kobe, demanded, "Are you giving it [the book] to us or what?" Anyway, Kobe is much nicer in person and definitely does seem to take himself so seriously when he's not on the court or in the scrutinizing lights of a sound studio with a Stu Scott on his jock. He's definitely very manicured in his demeanor, habits and way he handles himself.**

*Kobe claims no one, he just approaches every game/player the same way. The "Artest Game" in Houston at the start of March begs to differ.

**His handler took the book for him even as I was offering it to Kobe and Kobe's hand was outstretched...

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A few things.

First, I would like to point everybody to Shoals' latest master-stroke on the NCAA tournament. Vintage.

Second, I would like to again thank everybody who took my study last week. As promised, I will unveil the results. Unfortunately, it pretty much turned out to be a massive (yet inexpensive) bust, which presents me with the following dilemma: I need to present the results of and ideas behind the study, but I would also like to give this another go-around in a few weeks and therefore don't want people to know too much. I'll try to walk this line the best I can...(also, for people who didn't take the study, this will make no sense).

Basically, there were two studies involved. The first study involved being primed via the sentence unscrambling task. To read more about priming see here, and to read a summary of a study that used this sentence unscrambling task to prime the concept of God, see here. Different people received different unscrambling tasks, and I'm not going to state exactly what we were trying to prime in different conditions, but you might be able to figure it out. Also, it is important to note that the prime DID NOT WORK, so we can't really conclude everything. Our basic idea was we were trying to find out how this priming task influenced the subsequent task where people evaluated the humanness of an ingroup member (sports fan of their favorite team) and an outgroup member (sports fan of their least favorite team). However, because the prime didn't work, all we did instead was show that people see fans of their least favorite team as less essentially human, a nice finding, but one that merely replicates the work of decades of psychology research.

The second study was really just a pilot study trying to determine how people behave in common goods dilemmas or free-riding paradigm. Downloading music is a classic dilemma of this nature and we wanted to see how people responded when we framed the question in different ways. Unfortunately, our effects were null on this, but it gave us some good ideas for future research.

So, thanks for taking your time to help me out. And I think I'm gonna throw another one of these up in a few weeks that will hopefully yield more interesting results. Also, feel free to email me with more questions at uchicagostudies "at" gmail "dot" com

In other news, the grand imperial Nick Catchdubs sent this to us.

I have a feeling Seikaly leads a pretty awesome life. Anybody want to make guesses as to what type of music he plays?

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The Official FD Bracket Form


Pretty self-explanatory. We love intricate structures and an excuse for humorous, esoteric metaphors. So while I myself might spend this whole tournament trying to guess at Toney Douglas's pro potential in football, here's this for you to use and enjoy. Big Baby's illo is seriously mentally ill, and the names should be as correct as any significantly less visually amazing bracket you can get from Seth Davis's family.

DOWNLOAD THE FD BRACKET (at your own peril!!!)

BONUS UPDATE: Silverbird, Big Baby and myself visit with Jesse Thorn on The Sound of Young America:

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Help me Succeed

Good afternoon sportsfans,

As few of you know, I am a couple months away from completing my Ph.D. in psychology. Before I do so, however, I could really use your help with one of my research projects. I am conducting a 5-8 minute study online and I need as many people to participate as possible.

There IS a sports component to this study and I think that you will find it interesting. The only rules for participation are:

1. You cannot be a relative or close friend of mine (you will know too much about my research)
2. You must be 18 years of age or older and be fluent in English.
3. You can only take the study once. Only once.
4. You cannot discuss the study in the comments.

I will make the findings known once I get enough participants.

Oh, one more thing....you won't be asked to give any identifying information except for age and gender. Your identities will be completely confidential.

Eternally grateful for your help,

UPDATE: Response was overwhelming and so many people participated that the survey is now closed. Thank you so much for your help. Results coming soon.

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FD Guest Lecture: Rising from the Whirl

Guest post today from Scout PT, whose ideas over email could not be denied.

Recently, I've been thinking about the job of a point guard—what he does and, more specifically, how he's measured. Basketball, as those who read FD know, is often opaque to numerical analysis. Baseball and football have discrete plays which provide clarity in the evaluation of individual actions. Strikeouts. Yards per attempt. OPS+. Basketball is a flow game and thus harder to measure. The player at the center of the flow—the point guard (and I include here for intellectual completeness point forwards, point centers, and point gauze-wrapping trainers...)—is perhaps the hardest to measure.

In the general discourse, PGs are measured first on assists - themselves, the most subjective of all major sports statistics, relying on the charity of a scorer to judge whether a player is credited for facilitating a direct move to the basket. Did or didn't, 8.3 per game or 5.1, no shades of gray, no description of quality, no description of whether the PG hit his forward in stride for a power lay-in or whether he chucked it up for the center to wrestle through four guys for an ugly bucket. Beyond assists, other measures of a PG's effectiveness include points and concepts like assist/turnover ratios—useful numbers, when considered in the proper context. Scoring 30 points a game is great, unless four dudes are watching the other player—sadly, often the best player on the team—go one-on-five every time down the court. The game is about the team and the rhythm. The extra pass. Moving off the ball. Getting everyone on the squad to move off the ball, and then to make the extra pass. That's what a PG should do. That, to me, is the magic, and point guards are the magicians.

How, then, does one measure magic? I've had a few discussions in which certain players are dismissed as "gunners", "ballhogs" or "just plain bad shooters". The determination is usually made by examining shooting percentages. Kidd and Cousy, two of the greatest court magicians, have horrible career shooting percentages, even adjusting for style-of-play in Cousy's era, and often receive criticism for such performance. Does that bad number mean they're bad shooters? Conscience-less gunners? I don't think so. Both guys had pretty good career foul-shooting percentages and, in the case of Kidd, decent 3-point shooting percentage. When they wanted to, each of them could turn it on and dominate. Outside, inside, whatever. Neither of these guys is Rajon Rondo.

One might consider styles when attempting to measure magic. On the other end of the shooting percentage spectrum are guys like Stockton and Nash (at least, in the glory years). Stockton, in particular, posted crazy numbers. Super crazy for a 6 foot 1 player. My gut tells me that the reason was that Stockton and the glory-years Nash were very disciplined shooters. They took shots they thought they could make and didn't take ones that they didn't, and didn't put themselves in positions where they'd end up with bad shots. That's how you shooting 57 percent from the field. But does that mean that Kidd and Cousy were undisciplined? Kidd, maybe, but Cousy? Aw, hell naw.

Here's what else my gut tells me. Cousy and Kidd have very similar styles. They're the kind of PGs that give the best shots to their teammates. Let's call them Superior PGs, in the I Ching sense of Superior. To illustrate, just think about the flow for a minute. If the ball ends up in the Superior PG's hand with 3 seconds left on the clock and he's stuck in a place he hates shooting from. Too bad but somebody still has to shoot the rock. Kidd and Cousy probably take that shot. Another guy might look to dish because he's in bad-spot hell, but I think guys like Cousy and Kidd take ownership for not executing in the first place and letting things get that bad and take the shot.

See, if the Superior PG dishes to his big for an easy lay-in after he drives and draws the big's man, that's doing his job right. But the shooting percentage win goes to his big. If the big's guy doesn't switch and the Superior PG is stuck under the basket looking at a wall of the wrong colored uniforms and thinking about which of a bunch of bad options is the least bad, all that happened because he's not doing his job right. The Superior PG might still take the shot from a bad spot because a) he didn't do something right in the first place and b) someone still needs to shoot the damned ball. And if he drives and things actually go well, and the choice is for the Superior PG to take a good shot or to dish to a guy 5 feet farther in who has a better shot, well, you know what he'll do.

I note as an aside here that there is an unresolved issue in my mind as to whether there is more ego - and less Superior-ness - in taking the shot from underneath that wall of wrong-colored uniforms or in pre-empting the whole issue and making a 15 footer rather than driving in an attempt to get a switch and a lay-in for your big. I also note that much of the PG's choice is dictated by the quality of said big.

But all things require balance, even being Superior. The greatest of all our magicians, Magic himself, had a .520 career FG%. Superior? Not Superior? First, you have to back out the Showtime fast breaks. Half-court Magic has a shooting number much closer to that of mortal men. Still, Magic was a pretty good shooter and, if you'll remember, Magic used to catch a lot of shit in the press about overpassing. He'd have an easy lay-in on the way and WHOA LOOKIT THAT the ball would end up in Rambis's hands.


To his credit, Magic always acted like he had the team's best interest at heart. I'm the assist man, he'd say, that's what I do. He was unselfish to the point of selfishness. It was only after he got it through his head that the game wasn't just about making gorgeous passes - whether for the benefit of teammates' scoring or his own prestidigitational glory - that he ended up scoring 24 a game and taking home MVP trophy #1. That, my friends, isn't ego. It's Superior.

So, we return to the central question. How do we measure magic? The answer is, you don't. You describe magic. Maybe someday soon, 82Games will figure out how to break every PG's game down into quanta. Then we can measure magic. Until then, we watch, we feel for the flow, we think, we debate about whether a Kidd or a Nash, a Stockton or a Cousy, a young Magic or an older Magic is truly Superior.

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Which Way to Christendom?


I can take no credit for the following idea: Skeets said it, left me to think about it for hours, and then said this morning that he'd barely considered it since opening the floodgates. And frankly, I think it deserved better. It may have come out of a discussion of a certain incident I'm sure we're all quite sick of, and not at all interested in hashing out any further. But it's just as applicable to yesterday's GW musings, and sets up a brand new line of inquiry concerning style and intention. Now, I want us all to come together and see it through.

Skeets asked, simply enough, why it is that only defensive plays (or players) are branded as "reckless" or "irresponsible," when certainly there are offensive plays that pose just as much of a destructive threat. This obviously breaks down two ways: Guys who put themselves at risk, and those who endanger the well-being of others. The latter category is easier to get a handle on, but it's generally incumbent upon the defender to get out of the way. The way basketball is constructed, defense reacts to offense. Sure, LeBron could run down the court and crash into someone, or leap right into them and break a nose. But the former is so "reckless" that it borders on incompetence, while in the case of the latter, we make it the duty of the defender to judge whether it's worth trying to draw a charge. If there weren't that agency involved, the charge wouldn't have once been a heroic act.

(Furthermore, in both cases, the defender will be on the ground, while the most serious concern is falls from up above.)

But what about players who play with a self-destructive streak? Or someone like Manu, often described as "out of control." Perhaps inspired by this excellent comment, I've begun thinking about the responsibility involved when a player takes flight. I'm not saying they should hold back and get all timorous, but that through experience guys who jump a lot gain a sense of how to go up in a way that, when they come down, will minimize their likelihood of dying. Or even just knowing how to break their fall when caught by surprise. Falling is, after all, an act of style, and can tell you a lot about a player. And in the sense that it's directly tied to their mortality, it may be one of the most revealing of all.

P.S. Because I am bored: Elevating the Game is like FD with history; When A Man Cries is my favorite soul comp ever; and The Furies is the perfect cowboy-noir movie. And Flower Traveling Band are playing a reunion at the Knitting Factory this weekend. THE WONDERS OF THE WIDGET ARE THERE FOR YOU TO PROBE!!!!!!

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Clay Left Smoldering

New Shoals Unlimited on the linguistic lunacy that is the Most Improved Player award. Also, notice the new Amazon widget to the right: Same "you buy stuff by clicking through here, we benefit" idea, but new approach. We're going to be recommending books, music, movie, whatever we feel is worthy of FD's prized endorsement. If you click through there, feel free to buy whatever you want. But the point is to manipulate you.

Apologies if I've touched on this before, but when you have the same screamed phone conversation with multiple FreeDarko members, it warrants a post. It's agreed around headquarters that, simply put, Gerald Wallace is now scary. Not edgy, exhilarating, or overwhelmingly intense. When you watch him play now, fright nips at each and every fiber of your bones.

Part of it is his appearance. I will never cease to hammer home this "Gerald Wallace is the Predator" meme, because this is what a pop culture/sports analogy should be. Wallace is now a little older, thicker, and yet at the same time broken down and flecked with scars on his arms and shoulders. Gone is the sleek, statuesque specimen who was equally at home walking on air or slamming into the earth. Now, Gerald Wallace looks like the sum of all his heights and collisions—lofty, worn, tough, and always in a quiet frenzy. His dreads creep down the side of his head, where they occasionally come into contact with the plastic mouth guard that's always hanging out in the air.

This kind of adornment seems so out of character that we're taken aback by them. It's mysterious, like a vaguely sinister echo of his warped basketball philosophy and the moments that shaped it. We barely notice tattoos anymore—J.R. Smith and Larry Hughes are practically covered from waist to chin, but it's all in good fun. Wallace, though, exists at the intersection of style and grim reminders. Other useful pop culture references: Star Wars bounty hunters, those elegant tackle boxes with death sitting casually on their brains; every Vietnam movie where heroes get subsumed; eye-liner on radicals in the desert, and the chintzy portraits that follow directly from it.

No shock that this new vibe has manifested itself in—or stems directly from—Wallace's game these days. Gone are the eye-popping box scores of yore, the competition with Smith and Kirilenko to see who could most delight our mightily peripheral group of enthusiasts. Wallace scores less, attacks more sparingly, isn't as frequently streaking ahead on the break or leaping up for the put-back—even as he's continued to get more fluid and guard-like with each passing year. Part of this might be Larry Brown, which is fine, because it works. But it's most certainly not a reluctance to put himself or others at risk (though, it should be noted, usually only doing damage to his own person). Wallace is a lurching, semi-breathing basketball death wish.

Remember when Wade or Iverson embraced contact around to the basket to such an extent that it became an end in itself, and got kind of stupid? Wallace seems to have taken this same attitude toward open-ended, violent motion. And movement, if a difference exists there. He doesn't make plays as often, or sow the seeds of chaos (as said in our book.) Now, he's just kind of there to hit the floor like it was a dunk, go for blocks and steals like an agile wrecking ball, terrorize the court in a way that somehow evinces both more and less discipline. This isn't the hustle player reborn, but the blood and guts of what athleticism means at its best in the league. And it isn't necessarily pretty or inspiring, unless you think Icarus is really fucking cool coming and going.

That's because, while Wallace is by no means a dirty or petty player, the toll he's exacted upon himself is, for a basketball player, almost unprecedented. Four concussions to date, and an insistence on rushing back from a collapsed lung. The lung's actually become a running joke; most guys allude to their limitations with "I felt that in my leg," but for Wallace, the game catches up with him in his ribs and breathing apparatus. Forget the high-flown accounts of potential lost and imagined; in his combination of blazing ability, blatant disregard for his body, refusal to change one bit, and downright earnestness about the whole thing, Wallace is the second coming of Pistol Pete Reiser. As Big Baby Belafonte says, you can't watch him without worrying he's going to collapse or implode at any moment, even as he exudes strength.

I wish I could say that in Wallace, we see a simultaneous acknowledgment of mortality and embracing of life. Instead, he just makes my skin crawl.

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Bony Tenders

Nothing much of note, just thought I'd check in.

I now write with the disclaimer that I may no longer know what the f I'm talking about. I've been in a post-Al Jefferson knee injury daze for the past few weeks, and then with the news that Amare is out for the postseason, I almost just gave up. Instead, I've been watching all of the games without the sound on, and I actually cannot understand what is going on. As soon as I started watching the games on mute, LeBron seemed like way more of the MVP than Kobe, the Spurs look outstanding, and I am now on the verge of liking Dwyane Wade,

Now Imagine my confusion when I was watching the Wolves game and they flashed the faces, four in a row, of Antawn Jamison, OJ Mayo, David Lee, and Emeka Okafor. What could those four possibly have in common? Turns out it was one of those promos for fans to buy tickets for the upcoming next four games at home: Washington, Memphis, New York, and Charlotte. Depressing for sure.

Yes, enough has been made of the fact that Bynum's out, KG and a ton of Celtics are out, Al Jeff's out, Amare's out, Gilbert is still out, Iverson is teetering, T-Mac is out, most of the Bucks are out, Oden is out, and now Rudy Fernandez but let me make more out of it. We are entering into a swaggerless vortex that might extend into the postseason. Already, I don't want to see the Suns win it simply because it won't "count." Same goes for Rockets if T-Mac isn't there (yes, I know), and that goes double for Portland if Oden and/or Rudy aren't in the mix.

And if KG isn't at full speed, would a Cavaliers or Magic title count? And if the Spurs beat the Suns again, it certainly wouldn't have the same significance as it would if Amare was on the court. Remember those jokes about how the Rockets' mid-90s titles didn't count because Jordan "loaned" them the trophy? I'm starting to get that itchy feeling again.

Right now, the only teams I can fully get behind winning the whole thing is the Denver Nuggets and the NO Hornets (and on a good day, the Jazz). The Nuggets and Hornets aren't expected to beat anyone in the playoffs even an Amare-less Suns. They both have guys in Melo and CP3 who are more deserving of titles than anyone I can think of. Their teams are in tact. Their coaches' futures depend on their success this season. And they dunk a lot.

With a month left in the regular season, I thought I'd have more than that to cheer about. Please give me some other good news, if anyone cares to.

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FD Guest Lecture: Roots Like Brutal Beards

Today's Guest Lecturer is Brian Phillips, the mind behind The Run of Play. Soccer enthusiasts no doubt already hail Brian and his work; if you don't know the first thing about the sport, be advised that RoP is the closest FD gets to a sister site. Or blood brothers across time and space. Earlier: The PED/NBA debate, and a chance to buy a few of my records.

Here's the contrast that's keeping me up at night: European soccer and the NBA both have racism problems, but they manifest themselves in almost exactly opposite ways. Obviously Europe and America are different societies, variables diverge, math unrolls like a carpet, and nothing can be said about the subject that looks strict in the light of science. But it's a problem I can't stop speculating about, particularly given that so much else about the two sports—Kobe is friends with Avram Grant!—seems to be sloshing in the belly of the same whale.

In the NBA, racism is a substrate, a sentence that only makes sense if you know the words' etymologies. It's something you can talk about, not something you have to talk about, which is why it's so insidious. It's part of the interpretive structure, a deniable anxiety in the atmosphere (Is it a little cold? No. Shiver.), a form of judgment whose assumptions are disconnected from the thought process of the people who pursue it. That is, the suavities of Donald Sterling aside, it's largely covert and unconscious; it stays vague, informing descriptive categories (the "intelligent" player vs. the "athletic" player) and the periodic outrage that inevitably breaks out in a league in which black players are tacitly perceived as dangerous to white fans. It's a fundamental component of the culture of the game, but it doesn't overwhelmingly or frequently run afoul of the swirling taboos that regulate the same forces in society.

Contrast that to soccer in Europe, where it's still not uncommon for fans to throw bananas on the pitch and coordinate monkey chants to taunt black players. This isn't a narrative of progress, in which the NBA has absorbed and begun to resolve conflicts still wild and at large in soccer, because, at least at the level of categorical interpretation, soccer almost certainly has less endemic racism than basketball. It's just that the expressions of racism (and its worldly twin, ethnic hatred) that do occur tend to be obliteratingly direct. Ajax fans in Holland have appropriated Jewish iconography in recognition of the fact that their stadium used to be located near a Jewish neighborhood in Amsterdam. Their opponents' fans hiss in unison to simulate the sound of the gas coming down at Auschwitz.

Which actually opens onto one of the likely reasons for the dichotomy. The agony that's soaked into the rock in soccer isn't race, as it is in the NBA, it's nationalism. In the NBA—let's widen that into American sports in general—the defining figures and moments are generally encoded in the history of race: you have Louis vs. Schmeling, the Jackie Robinson breakthrough, the Globetrotters, Ali and Bill Russell as divergent possibilities for the civil rights movement, Magic and Bird as the salvific dyad of the 80s, Iverson and the mainstream threat of hip-hop paired with the Spurs and the emergent disciplinarian cult of the bounce pass. In soccer, by contrast, you have a litany of nationalist conflict: Mussolini co-opting the 1934 World Cup, FC Barcelona as the posed flagbearing orphan girl of the Catalan resistance to Franco, the '64 European Nations' Cup final between the USSR and Spain as the late last battle between communism and fascism, Rangers and Celtic restaging the Irish Troubles in Glasgow every season, Ajax fans singing about the bombing of Rotterdam, Zidane and the '98 French World Cup team as the expiation of postcolonial resentment.

Unlike American racism, which can be seen as an internal social problem transformed by changing attitudes within one overarching culture, the history of European nationalism was decided by relatively recent battles between armies whose sources of legitimacy were external to one another. Thus, to forestall the unanswerable shame that attaches itself to overt expressions of prejudice in American sports (Rush Limbaugh on Donovan McNabb, even Shaq when Yao first came into the league), prejudice in soccer can fall back on the dim memory of concrete populist ideologies. That's not to say that the shirtless gentleman holding the corner of the "Filthy Gypsy" banner is a learned proponent of any identifiable right-wing philosophy, but there's at least a vaporous sense that attitudes like his loathing for Ibrahimović were not long ago articulated by governments and embraced by respectable people. Which is enough to give them a perverse air of community justification, even when all the institutional forces in the sport are consciously trying (again, much more emphatically than the NBA) to eradicate racism and sectarianism from the game.

Obviously, there are other, simpler factors at work as well—the lack of diversity in certain parts of Europe, the natural territorial rivalry of political entities in condensed space. But I think this internal/external dynamic is important, partly because it points to a psychological possibility for the future of the NBA. Up till now the Stern-powered drive to globalize the league has been felt by American fans as essentially a phenomenon of intake: the best players coming from other parts of the world to play in our league. We know from recent Olympics that the game is being played at a high level in a lot of other countries, and we know from T-Mac at the airport (and I wasn't paying attention, but I'm guessing nine million trend reports in the New York Times Magazine) that it's "getting big in China." And we can see that foreign players like Ginobili have influenced American players to some degree. But so far that feels more like a side story than like a power that will transform our own perception of the sport.

What if it does, though? In European soccer the talent-import channel is wide open: the best leagues in the world are all European, and there's deep business in buying up the youth of Africa and South America and caravaning them to the big clubs' academies. In the last couple of years Arsenal has actually fielded teams with no English players. But the global popularity of soccer has combined with modern media overload to create its own anxieties.

The English Premier League now has several times as many fans outside England as it does inside it. A league that belongs to one country but is ardently followed by dozens of others ceases, in a sense, to belong to anyone. Local meanings wash out of the game, which in some ways impairs its social function, and jealousies mount up on the periphery. It's possible to try to ignore that, but doing so has practical consequences in a world where elite leagues exist in multiple countries: Real Madrid's recent attempt to lure Manchester United's star winger Cristiano Ronaldo to Spain almost certainly took courage from the fact that the Portuguese player had been blithely caricatured as a villain by xenophobic English tabloids. So how do fans react when they realize that someone is always watching them? The forms of hostility in soccer have grim historic precedents, but they can also be seen as the overwhelmed fan's furious attempt to blot out the rest of the world.

If the NBA really does become a global league—and there are people in soccer who think it can't be stopped—then what becomes of our relationship to the sport when American history is no longer the orb at the center of the game?

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White Worm, White Whale, White Elephants

Over the past week, there was some non-link-worthy speculation as the presence of PEDs in the NBA. The logic: Players got bigger and faster in baseball and football, and look what was just beneath the surface . . . so why not us? To their credit, the authors aren't pointing fingers—nor do they have the slightest bit of credible evidence to back it up—but believe that, as an analogy, the similarities are simply too juicy to ignore.

These arguments have already been refuted using the most obvious ammo. The league tests like crazy for them, reporting any semblance of a positive result with glee, since all are diet pill-related; unlike baseball or football, there hasn't been a wholesale shift in the numbers or physique of the league as a whole. Is it really plausible that only Dwight Howard and LeBron James have discovered HGH, and the rest of the NBA is in the dark? Plus, while stronger and faster is of immediate benefit in baseball and football, in basketball, skill is at more of a premium. There's a reason why terms like "skills" and "game" are so important to fans and players alike, and while the NBA combine is at best misleading, at worst, a version of that year's scouting drunk and tied to a burning sailboat.

But for yours truly, what makes these insinuations so absurd is the very nature of the pro baller. Not to get all quasi-essentialist on you, but what propels most players to to the top is some version of indvidiual arrogance or confidence, stemming from the fact that when they take the court, no one can fuck with them. From that age where everything becomes to jump off for them, who they are—a seamless combination of mind, body, learned tricks, and attitude—allows them to absolutely steamroll everyone they come into contact with. Except for sometimes in AAU, or if they play at Oak Hill, or are fortunate enough to train with Tim Grover. Compare that with football, where most players are trained as good soldiers meant to excel at a particular task, to fit into a role, or baseball, in which skills are so atomized as to become impersonal. Of course those two sports would welcome a third-party that could up the numbers, heighten the measurements, bring one closer to the unspoken—yet certainly formal—ideal that informs their training. These players are learning function, and to that end, to dispense with some of themselves. That's a lethal combination just begging for a chemical substance to play a key consulting role.

Now consider basketball and the ego. Admittedly, if one were to construct the perfect player in a vat, in the most mechanistic way possible, there might be a way to bio-chemically optimize the process. I guess that would make sense psychologically, if not technologically—as of yet, no one's suggested that PEDs improve court vision or shooting form. In this country, though, that's not how players are made. They start to play, they are, and they pick up stuff along the way (or not). In short, if there's a way forward, it's clearly defined by both their strengths and limitations. Otherwise, why wouldn't everyone take drugs to turn into Durant or LeBron?

LeBron is one of names most frequently whispered. At which point, really, would PEDs have intervented in LeBron's development? When he was 16? When, as a rookie, he was merely one of the best players in the league? Forget the whole "they want to be fast" line of argument—why exactly would a player as at home on the court, as joyous in his identity as an athlete, suddenly decide he needed to conform to a non-existent standard? Who the fuck thinks "I'm the most unholy combination of speed and size the league has ever seen, but everyone knows I could be a little more that?" Becoming LeBron James is a tremendous accomplishment; deciding to become more LeBron would run counter to the entire project of perfecting self and style.

Addendum: Point raised in the comments section that stuff like HGH aids in recovery, and has nothing to do with what I've outlined above. Given how long it takes guys to come back from ankle and muscle and side problems, how back spasms have ruined careers, and that guys only ever rush back from wrist and finger problems (that's the scene of the crime?), I find this highly unlikely.

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Un prix est distribué et quelqu’un le refuse

Before you do anything, read Shoals's new Quotemonger over at SLAM.

Now, the winning entries from our Gunnin' for that #1 Spot contest! We asked you to select which high school class of ballers you would most like to see as the subject of a film, and what that film would be like. There were a lot of solid entries, but factual errors and a lack of imagination were automatic disqualifications. Magic and Bird in the same high school class--come on! Our winning entry identified the magical Class of '95, whose cup runneth over with talent and storylines. The runner-up didn't even follow the (very simple) rules of the contest, but anything that mentions a yeshiva and La Nouvelle Vague is going to fare pretty well. Know your judge!

If your entry was not a winner, you can still cop the DVD. And while you're there, pick up that Chubb Rock, too!

First Place: Jerry Jalette

My pick has to be the 1995 class because of the multitude of running subplots.

You'd have the Billups, Pierce, and Ron Mercer angle - kind of like the kids partying and having a good time at the boat house right before Jason (aka Pitino) gathers them up and rips them to shreds (and let us not forget the immortal Kris Clack getting drafted and cut from the C's). Retrospectively, you'd see some early Pierce / KG interactions. Maybe they'd be egotistical and snippy ala When Harry Met Sally, only to end up together in the end. And that isn't even discussing the KG / Starbury possibilities. High school phenoms, future teammates, future rivals, and maybe another pairing in 2009? I am really intrigued by the Starbury / Shammgod angle - if this is filmed at Ruckers and you have the two crazy New York pointguards going for the top spot. The two of them on the same McDonald's All-American team would be like 48 Hours with two Eddie Murphy's. Any chance you can feature God Shammgod is one you have to take. All these egos and Robert Traylor? What is the over/under on fat jokes in this flick? Also, some nice college connections with VC and Antawn going to UNC, Pierce and Robertson off to Kansas, and Clay and Shammgod going to the Ocean State rivals. Toss in Shareef as The Invisible Man, who would go on to put up the quietest double-doubles in NBA history to go with the record for most NBA games without reaching the playoffs (does he even show up on camera?), and you've got a pretty solid cast.

Runner Up: David Grossman

While I can't exactly meet the specific "rules" of your "contest", I can offer this up. While playing on the JV team of my Los Angeles yeshiva (Shalhevet Firehawks), my love of the French New Wave also came around. So I began work on a script combining the two, titled I Am Dan Gadzuric, named after the then-dominant (if sloppy) UCLA center. Allow me to offer up this excerpt from the opening monolouge (I never got around to the exact plot, but rough outlines I had pretty much consisted of me hitting threes, posting up and walking around the parking lot of this bar next to my school.


They laugh at me. Shit do they laugh. They see my size, they know we can't do anything. What is this guy doing at center? They don't understand. They'll never know what fuels a guy like me, a guy who - let's just say I don't do this for anything except basketball.


The Center:
I move, I run. I play this game - shit this ain't no game, this is all I have. My fury drives me, and their laughter. See, they don't understand the intensity. They don't understand. I am Dan Gadzuric, fury of a thousand suns [Ed. note: I swear I wrote this in high school]. Am I the best player out there? Fuck no. But I will triumph. I am Dan Gadzuric.


Know Thy Mirrors

New Shoals Unlimited, on the subject of the NBA Financial Apocalypse in its form most pure. Oh, and as I try to figure out this new revenue streams thing, I may go a little heavy-handed at times. Like reminding you that it's decidedly un-weird to own the FreeDarko tote bag, or linking to commercial pages from out of posts. . . remember, I want to admit all this up-front so we trust each other.

In the latest ESPN mag, Bill Simmons eats breakfast with Baron Davis and tries to get to the heart of what's eating the former pride of the Warriors. For one, it's Simmons giving a fuck, which is to say, reminding us why he's so beloved and feared as a basketball writer [insert Freudian father figure, anxiety of influence tangent here]. But there's one truly unprecedented moment where, to paraphrase, Bill and Baron discuss Davis's lack of vitality on the court, conclude that it has to do with a lack of inspiration, and decide he needs to channel the "Boom-Dizzle" demi-god that rose out of the 2006-07 Warriors campaign.

Let's rewind that one, in case you missed how many fourth walls got violated therein: Davis opens up to a member of the media as if Simmons were there to help, a valued consultant instead of a thorn in his side. Then, he welcomes advice about his attitude on the court, even though the Sports Guy is not one of those wise ex-jocks who occasionally—and with great public fanfare—send messages to current players. To top it all off, or come full-circle, Simmons drifts over to the realm of fandom, drawing on his non-expert expertise to offer up a solution. Journalist and athlete meet in the middle, only to retreat to their respective sides of a gulf exactly because it's the source of the power, the mystique, that allowed Davis to thrive in the Bay. In short, it's Davis admitting that some of his swagger comes from a larger-than-life self that's both reinforced and reinvented by adoring fans. You can also imagine a more cynical version that involves sneaker companies and marketing entities.

In a way, this makes me understand why some people think Simmons is the only person alive who could realistically write another Breaks of the Game, likely the finest basketball book ever written. But this being a very different era, this new Breaks wouldn't just be expert reportage with an ear for the novelistic. Instead, it would go deep into one of Halberstam's recurring themes: what players mean to fans, or cities as a whole, and what impact this has on the actual person inside the jersey. Except, in a turn so benignly postmodern that I am contractually bound to type "postmodern," Simmons's authority comes from his willingness to intelligently embrace this fan-tastic aspect of the athlete. That, above all else, is how he's influenced FD.

However, instead of the players in Breaks of the Game, who come off as either staunch professionals troubled by this unpredictable realm of meaning, or egomaniacs who refuse to acknowledge what really fuels their stardom, you get today's NBA players. Davis may be exceptionally self-aware, but it's worth noting that popular players drowning in love feel it, feed off of it, and reflect it in their play. The concern isn't over why the public can't see them for who they are—either they could care less about everyone seeing "the real me", or such a thing no longer exists—it's about getting back to that place where they felt best and played like it. That's got everything to do with a version of themselves that has everything to do with perception, or consulting an expert on attitudes in the stands. Simmons remains the foremost chronicler of these voices, and if you want to understand why blogs matter, it's because—no matter how crappy they're treated by the league—fans matter like never before.

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Left Turn at Midnight

Buy stuff in our name. Now, watch me wrestle with a topic beyond all human comprehension.

I tried writing about Nellie's new plan in a quasi-mystical, mytho-technical style, but then my brain collapsed, I fell into a wormhole, and at the bottom of time I was confronted by Anthony Randolph and Monta Ellis folding in and out of one another, only deepening my belief that these two not only share a special bond, but might be guided by the same hive-brain. Then I threw my laptop aside in disgust, and proceeded to absolutely flip out over Cavs/Heat. It seems like Moon is a budget Marion, and I wish I lived in a world where this was going to be our ECF.

Now, I find myself calmer, though maybe worse for wear, and ready to discuss what one can only properly dub Nelson's "negative rotation." What's most striking about this project is how heavy-handed it is. It reminds me of Stalin, or some other form of social engineering where the logic is prized above the actual human toll. Yes, Nelson has insisted that the vets will be fresher (TK suggests that he's realized he's incapable of managing their minutes in games, so this is the only option). But it's so ruthless, so decisive in its lunacy, that there's little room for empirically-induced change. What if the vets get creakier, lack rhythm, or one—say, Maggette—proves himself absolutely indispensable? The way Nelson's talking, you get the sense that this isn't about people, but about a structure, an idea.

It reminds me on some level of what D'Antoni promised us with the Knicks: Euro-like, a bunch of interchangable dudes getting 20-25 minutes a night each, depending on match-ups and that night's hot hand. The Warriors might be ideally suited for this philosophy, provided the youngsters came along some; it's not like Jackson, Maggette, Crawford, or Biedrins have insufferable egos. But this would be the ultimate coach's team. What makes Nellie so enigmatic is that he wants to organize in such a way that players will be free to undermine any notion of sound coaching. The 2006-07 Warriors, demented as they were, were the most reactionary kind of revolution. Nellie was the ringmaster, but on some level was able to trust his team, let them travel down paths he'd get started in his imagination. You couldn't find a more unlikely combination of a coach's team and one so much in the players' hands that at times, you'd swear you were witness to a mutiny.

Instead, Nelson replaced the screechy line-up tinkering of the first half of 2008-09, a kind of micro-managing that sought to compensate for the loss of spontaneous detail that occurs when a PG like Baron, Nash, or Hardaway guides a fluid assemblage. Now, he's going all Rauschenberg on the game, leaving the most gaping holes he can and watching the rest of the team scramble to adjust. It's a dramatic form of meddling that leads to hands-off ingenuity, forcing a group to gnash their teeth and survive by depriving them of what little comfort they have. This team may depend on its vets, but none of them are the focal point of it; it remains stranded between D'Antoni's vision and the traditional model, and simply lacks both the control and the chaos to recreate 2006-07's Baron/Jackson axis. In fact, you might say that it's replaced controlled chaos with chaotic control, all centered, ironically in the person of Mr. Jackson.

But, to return to my terrifying vision, I have to think that this is ultimately all about Ellis, Randolph, or the indistinguishable future that is the two of them. Monta's an undisputable star in the making, but no one knows exactly how he will flourish. Randolph has so much it people get queasy, and since the break has showed an almost untoward level of commitment, intensity, creativity, emotion, and willingness to be everywhere at once. It's almost as if Nelson wants to see how many gaps these two omni-positional talents can fill. As everyone else on the team foams at the mouth and is forced to surprise themselves, working every day toward realizing one of Nellie's core values (Control or Chaos), Ellis and Randolph are a secret experiment unto themselves.

There's a team to develop here, but it's entirely likely that by season's end, all notion of well-distributed depth, and a roster full of possibilities, will give way to the belief that what's needed is lesser beings to hang in the background as Ellis and Randolph are given free rein going forward. If it works perfectly, you'd get a foundation that's achieved some measure of order and logic, like a point guard unto itself. And then on top of that, those two. And behind it all, Don Nelson, about to unleash his most diabolical team yet.

We'll probably never know, though, if he's doing this to prove something to the world, to himself, or simply because he sees no other way forward.

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Rational, Collaborative Commerce—>

First special thanks to a special someone for helping me figure all these new strategies out. They are far less demeaning for everyone involved.

First, the reborn donation box, up in the left-hand corner, looking terrible for the next few hours. This one's simple, if you remember and I remind you enough: If you have to buy books, or CDs, or text books, or staplers, or whatever, go through these links to buy them and we get a cut. It's that simple. I'm planning to some more equally logical choices, and some might disappear, but this is an easy way to make FD pay without extra cost or any kind of weird suspension of sound financial judgment. However, if you prefer the latter, please do hit up the Cafe Press outlet. Made up mostly of shit that makes us laugh. And there's always the shirts, prints and such.

Why should you do this? Because I'm now hunkering down to write about Don Nelson's latest lunacy, and its near-inevitable overlap with Randolph's rise. But you probably already knew that.

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Shakin' It Loose

There are going to be some major corporate changes around here in the near-future. The ads will be gone, replaced with a more reader-friendly, transparent strategy that basically just encourages you click on a text link to, say, Amazon before doing your shopping. Trust me, it will be unobtrusive and revolutionary. And we've opened our own super-goofy CAFE PRESS OPERATION, in case you want a mug or the un-named item by its very existence embodies the most general sense of "FD." Debate what it is, maybe even buy it. It's a shop, but also a conceptual piece about internet commerce and branding.

This is not an effort to exploit you, or tarnish our good name. Mostly, times are hard, and I'm looking for ways—ideally low-key or hilarious—to maximize the money I can make off of this site while writing for it close to every day.

SOME BASKETBALL: Dwyane Wade is the Monster's Ball right now, whatever that means. What he did to the Knicks last night was both inhuman and inhumane, and yet way-up-in-the-middle-of-the-air radiant. He's like those movies where vampires turn out to like cotton candy and long walks. I know I've been hard on him in the past, but with LeBron having crested for the moment (or at least our discussion of him), Kobe Kobe, and Durant out, it's time we paid some homage to D-Wade. . . with these links other people gave me!

-Ziller is awed by the forceful classiness of Wade's NBA headshot. Since when do they wear suits in these?

-Those band-aids were a major fashion statement, and now they've been. . . BAND! But seriously folks, this look was positively jarring and frivolously assertive, just the kind of thing I've always wanted from his game. I also think these fall more under the Li'l Wayne category of talisman-like adornment, rather than that old Nelly "you know, it just shows I can flip it like that."

-Finally, some wunder-stats courtesy of TZ: "Wade needs 20 more blocks to break the record for most blocks by a 6'4 or shorter player in a season." (SOURCE). Now that's fucking money.

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