Wednesday, August 16, 2006

one-oh-oh-one uses, We got the juice to bruise the fuses!!

(continued from The Self-Actualization...)

1. Melo's rep is going to emerge from this in the best shape of its career. Its gonna be the one kicking the sand down at the beach, now, muthafuckas!

2. If Chris Paul's your main PG, then either Arenas has to be a 2 or he's backup and you cut Hinrich. But he's too good to be a backup and there are better 2s… Either way, Gilby got cut. Maybe. Whatever - one way or the other he's not on the squad anymore. He's a fave but I'm not really broken up about him not being on the squad. Why?

3. I'm still sticking with my earlier instinct that the "American" style of basketball lays in the trait of versatility, as in, if you assemble a squad of really good American players, whats their biggest strength? The answer to this inquiry is quintessential, as the coaching adage professes you play to your strengths.1 Really good American players have many strengths. Hence, versatility.

4. The cutting of Gilby, however, has exposed the earlier hypothesis, that American basketball is Kevin Garnett, as FALSE. Garnett is not versatile. Garnett is a virtuoso. He is not merely a "really good ball player," he's a fucking goddamn demigod. Same with LeBron and Kobe. Can't tell for sure yet with Wade. Gilbert might be a late-bloomer half-diety. You might throw Amare in there too. And its not just their games that are quasi-Asgardian, its their gravitas. Put them on a team with at least 11 really good basketball players and they won't know what to do with themselves – Herculean feats are their soul's calling, and Hercules works alone. Seeing as LeBron & Wade are already on this edition of Team USA, and can easily play multiple positions (and given a lack of big men, LeBron's crucial since he can play some four), Gilbert had to go. Its like, Patton and MacArthur were never in the same combat theater for a reason, y'know?

5. Gilbert Arenas in a Patton tank helmet or in MacArthur aviator shades w/ a corncob pipe? Much ink could be spilled over this subject, so I will shelve the issue, for now.

6. Hey, waitaminute! If KG, Kobe, and LeBron are demigods, and Wade, Arenas, Amare are the sleeper unawakened, then how is it that Melo's the Dude on this U.S. Squad? Simple: while the blood celestial courses through the viens of the aforementioned larger-than-life players, transcending this hardwood coil, Carmelo Anthony is, simply, the World's Greatest Basketball Player .


1 My conviction in this adage, and its extension that the "True Way" of good basketball is a team that plays to its strengths (last years Suns were as pure of an example as we may ever see of this…) is deep. This belief apparently lay dormant in the subconscious for many years, until one night Fat and I were both talking about NBA Live teams we liked to run with (me: the crippled Blazers, the Redd-Mason Bucks, the Alston-Bosh Raptors; Fat: the Zarko Cabarkapa Warriors), and it occurred to us we had no interest in running with the, say, 85+ rated teams. Booooooring! For us, perhaps, apothesis of the game was made manifest in short-handed, under-talented team, taking what few strengths it had, and riding that mare into the ground, even if it meant using a committee of six players to generate the illusion of having a decent backup center.

Anyways, if you were to watch us running these teams over our shoulders, it'd probably be like watching the Suns' last year: "how are they winning? They play no defense, have no reliable outside shooting, and half of them can't rebound, pass, or shoot a free throw, yet they're winning division titles and making deep playoff runs." I hung up my coaching controller when I took last year's abysmal Trail Blazers to the Finals for a loss against the Pacers, then the Western Conference Finals for a loss against the Wolves, and final trip to the Finals to beat the Heat in six games after going down 0-2. I think in that playoff run there was a double OT game against Phoenix where the final score was in the high 80s or low 90s, with regulation FIVE MINUTE quarters! Defense? We don't need no stinking defense!!

2 Comments + Unabashed Criticism:

Blogger Fat Contradiction said...

Coaching is:
Putting players in a position to succeed.

Thus, the purest coach is the one who could take yours and beat hers, after using hers to beat yours. (This formula, I think, I got from Dan Issel's book when he was talking about the sainted Doug Moe, the greatest coach roundball ever saw. Either that or somebody talking about one of Earl Campbell's old coaches.)

Another reason to play as bad teams:
Bad teams are a blank slate. Move players around, play dudes out of position, who cares? There's no based-on-reality reason for me to be faithful to the Warriors as they actually existed (like, ever), so I was totally free to make over the squad in the image of the Nuggets from 85/86 through the beginning of the 90s, my Platonic ideal of a basketball team.

Those Nuggets teams were run-and-gunners built around ball-pressure defense in the backcourt, with Wayne Cooper blocking shots in the middle, and offense from cornermen Calvin Natt (a 4 with range) and the great Alex English. (That 85/86 squad had the starting backcourt both in the top 10 in steals and Coop like fourth in blocks, with both forwards in the top 20 in scoring. [This is from memory; my numbers may be off.])

Steals and pace are easy with Davis and Fisher in the backcourt. You can extract lots of O from Richardson at the 3 and Murphy from deep at the 4, and Foyle does a pretty fair Cooper impression...for that matter, Davis is a nice Lever knockoff, though with infinitely better press clippings.

Those old Nuggets teams tended to get annihilated on the boards, and got thrashed when the jumpers weren't falling, which is pretty much how the Contradiction Warriors ran.

Now, actually playing as the Nuggets would offer much the same pleasures. Cooper isn't mimicked by Camby, he's transcended by him. (Last two seasons, he's been Marcus CaMVPby.) 'Melo is English with flash and charisma added to the game, and Miller's like the young Lever, playing out of position at the point for no discernable reason, racking up numbers while queering the flow of the offense. (Christ do I wish we'd kept a real point--Earl Watkins--instead of continuing the doomed Miller/Boykins era.) But I could never really bring myself to play as that squad: they were just...good. Where's the fun in that?


6:40 PM  
Blogger Fat Contradiction said...

Okay, so it makes sense that you rate versatility uber alles: Oscar Robertson's your favorite old-school player, and if a triple-double for a season or two isn't versatile, then what is?

Plus, a player who gets a B at doing 4 things is usually thought to be better than a player who gets an A at doing one thing. This is why Wade is judged better than, say, Jason Richardson. Therefore, the very best players, by definition, will tend be versatile: good at lots of things.

Makes sense so far, but.

What's the contribution of "American" to this whole scenario? There are great versatile players, there are great players who're only good at one thing, and it is absolutely unclear to me that these variances have anything to do with nationality.

Okay, there's that Brazillian cat who's a pure scorer. Is Yao one-dimensional? Sarunas sure was. Sabas was pretty well-rounded. Kirilenko can do a couple different things. Do Ginobili and Nowizki have anything in common beyond bad hair and skin tone? Really?

What I'm trying to get at is: great Euros have been one-dimensional and versatile, just as great Americans have. I will grant that a passable selection of Euros are multidimensionally suck (Skita, Darko, Dino Radja, your beloved Wonder Twins) but I'm not convinced that American greatness is necessarily marked by versatility.

If our team has more versatile players than most other squads, this is for two reasons.

First, we don't have a dedicated national program. We don't have a long-term team. This means we've got to pick a bunch of players every time. Since there's no continuity in the coaching staff, there's no well-defined roles, so we've got to pick a bunch of pieces that can do a bunch of things, then try to figure out how to make a team.

Second, when you're picking a bunch of good players, the versatile ones tend to be among the best. I showed this above.


8:08 PM  

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