I Can't Share Ranks


I've been around the world. I did some writing on soccer and America. You would do better to read this Sport is a TV Show post, or Brian's dissection of Spain's aesthetics. As far as LeBron is concerned, today I offered up a plea for sanity based on The LeBrons, Friday I predicted the toast of doom at Melo's wedding.

There are, however, some decidedly FD matters to tend to. First, off of Brian's "Ballet of Frost" post linked above: I very much enjoyed watching Spain throughout the World Cup. As I told Eric several times, they made me feel like I actually understood something about soccer. Many people compared the midfielders, especially Xavi, to Nash. And it's true—we've often discussed on here the ways in which Nash creates new passing lanes. To me, that's what the endless movement of Spain looked like: Manipulating position until an unfamiliar path to the goal revealed itself. I don't care if it's wrong, it's how I saw it. What got to me, though, was how little playfulness there seemed to be in what was, in its most basic and post-structural sense, play. I tweeted that it was the most earnest trickery I'd ever seen. Today, chatting with Trey, I called it Nash with no sense of fun; he came back with "Chris Paul if he weren't a dick".

I may still be a soccer beginner, but style is universal, because it is a product, and mirror for, the human spirit. I think what made Brian's piece resonate with me was that, while I don't find Spain at all boring, there is something inhuman about them that's always on the wrong side of human. They aren't steely or clinical; it's a game that wants badly to express itself, to be art not math, and yet it's fundamentally either too fulsome or too cautious to take that plunge.

Back to reality: I watched John Wall's debut, eagerly, and was perfectly satisfied with what I saw. Yes, there were a few really bad turnovers (what happened to the handle?), and no, the jumper hasn't emerged overnight. But mostly, this looked like Wall, at some vague semblance of the next level. He got his teammates involved, and pretty quickly established that he and JaVale McGee could become Paul-Chandler Redux. Throw Blatche in there and I have no idea how you express it as a word-equation. Blah blah blah not so much quicker than everyone else wide-open game agrees with him gets to the line college obviously stifled him. The real key, though, is that Wall didn't need to make a statement. No one doubts him. And as a pure point, you've got to figure that he was more interested in making others look good—especially when they need it so much more than he does.


The lottery picks who make headlines in summer leagues are usually those with something to prove. I'm thinking specifically of Tyreke Evans, when no one understood what position he played, or why he mattered more than Rubio. Anthony Rudolph had 40 when his legend started to build. Of course, there's also Julian Wright or Qyntel Woods going off, but turning in the other direction, does anyone think for a second that LeBron James couldn't have dominated summer league if he wanted to? Some rookies can afford to take slow, get a feel for this sort-of-pro context as a warm-up for the NBA, and, as Wall did, realize it means more to the second-rounders and free agents than to them. The big men who get 647573 fouls? It's them getting their bearings. All lottery picks should be able to use the summer league like this. But alas, sometimes they end up in the same boat as D-League-bound aspirants.

POSITIONAL REVOLUTION: I forgot who on ESPN kept saying "great players figure out how to play together". I think it was Tim Legler, who also said (I think) that Wade and James had the same kind of game. But, at the risk of embracing pure emptiness, this Miami Heat is super-major with regard to one of this site's core tenets. Actually, fuck it, these three DO know how to play together, like they did in the Olympics when they conquered the known universe. And that was with Kobe Bryant in tow, who—with all due respect to the God—makes this line-up more difficult to pull-off, since he's less versatile than James or Wade.

I have lately become enamored of the idea that James is a reluctant mega-scorer. Not a bitch who doesn't live for late game situations, or whatever the latest attack meme is, but a multi-dimensional beast who can do so much more with the floor than simply barrel inside or hoist jumpers. Given how much success he has with those two tools, the possibilities are mind-blowing. Once upon a time, James was likened to Magic Johnson. Put LBJ at point forward, truly playing on or off the ball, at either end of the pick and roll. There's no reason he can be the most ferocious inside-outside/outside-inside threat the league has ever seen. A quitter because he's with two other All-Stars? Fine, whatever. I'll take James unleashed as superstructure, with Wade alternating between the two guard slots, and Bosh taking advantage of his ranginess as a big man (the Gasol comparison). I know I said that this team was the anti-Thunder, but if they go this direction, they'll be light years ahead of Durant and company.

I refuse to comment on the new Raptors or Suns any further until there's a good chart for me to consult.


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At 7/12/2010 2:45 PM, Blogger STC said...

This is why I don't understand the vitriol aimed at LeBron and company. Yeah, that one-hour special was ridiculous, but the combination of LBJ, Wade, and Bosh should make every true basketball fan jump for joy. How many times do we get to see something like this in sports?

At 7/12/2010 3:16 PM, Blogger nadiel said...

This is Post-Jordan basketball, where we want to see dominance exhibited in the form of scoring. Wade fits our sensibilities of that perfectly, which is why many call LBJ the second most important player in South Beach.

LBJ dominating through pick and rolls makes him Stockton or Nash. While great players, no one calls them dominant or "assassins". Not saying I agree, but this is the perception.

Which is why Durant has the greatest opportunity to become the new Golden Boy. He has the unique ability we savored with LeBron, but the dominant scoring and the Jordan-patented "killer instinct."

At 7/12/2010 3:38 PM, Blogger Mercurialblonde said...

With Lebron and Wade, if Spoelstra has any balls, they could re-invent basketball positions and roles.

The Miami heat truly could be the apocalypse that ushers in a new perception of basketball.

I see no reason why Wade and Lebron can't play interchangably, and Lebron interchangably with Bosh. Three guys constantly changing where they are at, what they are doing, and leaving defenses looking positively antiquated. They could find new cadences in the game that have never before been seen.

The possibilities are astounding.

Lebron was pretty constrained in Cleveland in terms of what he could be, but even then he found room to play by diffrent rules. In miami there is no restriction to his imagination.

If the Heat trot out this lineup:
Mike Miller

you'd have your 5 as a spot up 3 point shooter. And then everyone else playing an apositional blob of passing, dribbling, and cutting.

Is it not blatantly obvious that in a decade 6 foot point guards, and lumbering 7 footers will become a thing of the past, and every team will be just 5 guys all between 6-5 and 7 foot who can do everything, contextually to any given moment in the game.

At 7/12/2010 4:10 PM, Blogger Ace Hunter said...

"Is it not blatantly obvious that in a decade 6 foot point guards, and lumbering 7 footers will become a thing of the past, and every team will be just 5 guys all between 6-5 and 7 foot who can do everything, contextually to any given moment in the game."

This is what they used to say about those old Portland Trailblazer teams with Drexler, Kersey, et al.

At 7/12/2010 4:12 PM, Blogger H. Cheadle said...

@MercurialBlonde: Yes! LeBron on the Cavs was like using a Ferrari to commute to and from work in heavy traffic. I don't care if (nickname to be determined) win a title together--I just want them to play the kind of basketball that could adorn the top of the Sistine Chapel.

The 90s Bulls, maybe the best team ever, didn't have the traditional lineup of small point guard, gigantic dominant center (Rodman was only 6'8 ), etc. Positions are prisons.

At 7/12/2010 4:29 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Alas, there is but one ball, to be shared by three men used to riding the ball like it was their private comet. The Jacksons would not have survived three Michaels. Unless…, Lebron has decided to adopt the smudged alias "Tito"..?
I see nothing but flashes of brilliance when the planets align and the random chaos of deep space if anyone of them is unhappy.
South FL will be a lonely hell if they have second thoughts.

At 7/12/2010 4:31 PM, Blogger Jplawrence said...

The question is this: will Riley and Sposey go with freedom, or will they go all fundamentalist on us with defense and iso-ball? Will we get a repeat of force basketball or will showtime come once more? All I know is that the last time this happened, The Boston KG-Big Three, they decided to go all-defense with a very traditional, almost prototypical offense.

At 7/12/2010 5:07 PM, Blogger Ben Heldt said...

offense is great and all but no one is talking about what this team might do defensively. lebron and wade are seriously destructive defensive players. i don't know if the heat would go down this road but they could probably play defense something like the we believe warriors did--players swirling chaotically around the court and only loosely having any sort of defensing shape. bron and wade have the instincts to make it work. they could generate a billion turnovers per game.

At 7/13/2010 2:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aren't we all talking about the basketball-isation of Dutch Total Football. So 1970's.


At 7/13/2010 3:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Celts big three in year one blew people out of the building with a mix of defense, ball movement, and scary swagger...I fully expect this from the Heat this coming season.

I do think they need a bit more muscle on the front line. All praises to Z and Haslem, but a healthy Andrew Bynum eats their kidneys.

I would love to fancy Z as some kind of late stage Synbonis, but I think their is far too little in his tank.

At 7/13/2010 5:57 PM, Blogger Robin said...

Spain is the San Antonio Spurs if Tim Duncan brought the ball up the court. Spain's technically sterile approach shows a preference for certitude, even when setting up their most elegant plays. There's the occasional flash of inspiration, but games are often won when the opposing team commits one to many mistakes.

The parallel doesn't quite work since there's no offense/defense dichotomy in soccer, but it's the closest I can think of.

I'm pretty sure this Miami team will lead the league in shot blocks. I can't wait to see what havoc Chris Bosh can wreak when paired with defenders who aren't total seives.

It's like a YMCA game when all the young, talented, black athletes wind up on one team.


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