Wednesday, January 31, 2007

NBA notes

Frequent site contributor Bob Macajew, currently in SoCal exile, texed me the other night:
Was there a racial component to this GSW/Indy trade?

My response:
It's the third-most interesting thing to talk about in this trade, after Mullin ditching two massive investments of two years ago, then the way lil' Dun and Murphy look like perfect Nellieball guys, but (apparently) totally aren't. But, yeah, it's probably tough to sell Mike and Troy to fans in Oakland.

Troy Murphy is one of my favorite NBA moments, oddly. I knew his name was "Troy Murphy", and I knew he'd gone to Notre Dame, but I was still surprised to find out that he was white. I uh. I blame my paint problem(s).

In other news, DDT and I had an intensely long-ranging and wide-running NBA meeting last night. Among (many) other points, he suggested that the Rise of Gilbert Arenas 2006-7 is essentially AI01 redux. There are many things to be said about this putative parallel and its possible implications, and I have urged him (twice now, counting this) to say some of them. I want to point out merely that:
It hurts a very little bit for me to watch this guy go mainstream. Taken from the Wizznutzz and FreeDarko, filtered through Deadspin, and then appropriated by ESPN, adulation for this guy is no longer a lovely in-joke.
This hurt is ameliorated hugely by the fact that his new nickname, as ratified by ESPN and whatever, "Agent Zero", is 'way lamer than the first one I ever read, the NYCentric "the World's Most Famous Arenas". Now that was a nickname!

3 Comments + Unabashed Criticism:

Blogger d.d. tinzeroes said...

(A) the MSG-nickname was funnier/awesomer in the context of a sentence, for example:

In the far reaches of Patagonia, archeologist-adventurer Gilbert "World's Most Famous" Arenas incovered evidence of the previous eons' cyclopean civilization, the consequences of which would be far-reaching & portentious.

(B) The AI 2001 / GA 2007 parallel is a treacherous one. Comparative historical studies are, by nature, erroneous & ultimately futile. However, sometimes looking at the past can tell us something about the present. The only real similarities are that Arenas is acquiring some that sheen of personality which AI picked up in 2001. The east is also really shallow in terms of competition this season, as it was in 2001, making for a similar situation to Iverson's 76ers march to the Finals, i.e., the Wizards have as good a chance, if not better, than anyone else in the east to get to the Finals, but odds are said road would probably involve 6-7 game shootouts in the second & conf. final rounds. I think its prob best to stop at these 2 parallels. After all, the playoff spotlite shined perhaps brighter on AI in '01 because the Lakers went 12-0 through the west, while the 6ers had 7 game series w/ TOR & MIL. This year I don't see any team out West making a similar blitzkreig, & honestly, AI's 6ers didn't have a fraction of the supporting players the Wizards do (McKie, Snow vs. Tawn, Caron, D'Shwn).

I've been patiently waiting for 2-3 seasons now for a team that lacks the cliched requisites for winning championships to win the championship: a dominant bigman, good/great defense, blah blah blah. PHX was the original tease in this sense. I really thought DAL was going to pull it out last year. Those 2 remained the frontrunners of pulling this feat off for me, but now I'm seriously confronted w/ the possibility that WASHINGTON of all fucking places could be the instrument of my desire. Further, the possibility of a Wiz-MAvs or Wiz-Suns Finals, although it makes my heart flutter, is too much for me to seriously consider at the moment.

11:06 AM  
Blogger Fat Contradiction said...

Leaving aside for the moment the merit of studies comparative and historical, I think the parallel is, while limited, maybe a hair deeper than you're giving it credit for.

First, Arenas is clearly an exponent of a particular type of player, one usually described as an "undersized 2" or "scoring point". (Admittedly, he's a little tall: all the other cats are clustered right at 6-1.) AI is perhaps the leading exemplar, but probably we can trace this back to Tiny Archibald, through Thomas, etc. --This category is labeled in my mind "the great little men", that I may remain sanguine on the topic of their putatively problematic position-description... This similarity increases the particular resonance of the parallel, I think.

Second, the nature of those personalities is felt as similar. Where Melo invites us into his game, where Kobe doesn't give a fuck about any of us, so long as he can impose his will on that despis'd foe, where LeBron and Wade lately bore with impenetrable versatility, AI and the World's Most Famousest Arenas just seem to want to be maximum who-they-am, to kick out the jams. Both have a me-against-the-world vibe enabling them to be fantastically popular outsiders. Neck tattoos and endless penetration go well with smirking walkoff threes. Each player thus offers a splendid blend of something like "rugged individualist" and, less explicably, "man of the people".

That last bit allows the real test of this parallel. Somebody--FD, very likely--pointed out long ago that AI picked up a ton of non-basketball fans that year. (This point was devastatingly illustrated by a champion picture of such a fan, wearing a hoody under a blazer with jeans and creative hair. You could practically hear his iPod not drowning out his opinions about Garden State.) If there's something really valid about this parallel, we'll see Arenas pull similar strangers to the party...

I want later to explore the possiblility of this non-standard champion. For the moment, I'd like to propose (very briefly) an extension to a point we developed down the reg-season stretch last year.

We noted then that Phoenix had, as a seemingly vital component of their success, rendered irrelevant a very standard sort of basketball-positional scheme, usually abbreviated PG, SG, SF, PF, C, each with relatively standardized job descriptions: passer, scorer, scorer, rebounder, rebounder, being the obviously non-exhaustive core values here.

But, we noted then and remember now, this abandonation of standardness did not obviate the necessity of accounting for points, rebounds, etc. It merely assigned those responsibilities in a different fashion. Take this moment in history. Then combine it with the type of guard I claim AI, et al to be. Perhaps add in cats like McGrady and Nowitzki who seem to me to need a whole different label for their customary offensive practice--I just call'm "wings". And I thus propose that the current version of the NBA may well allow a team to be five players of no particular position, just playing as skill and matchups allow... It may be, I am suggesting, that your millenium is closer than you think, DDT.

(There is a bit of precedent for this: when Kareem retired, it was said that Riley wanted five guys of 6-9 out there, and he very nearly realized that with Mychal Thompson 6-10, A.C. Green 6-9, Worthy 6-9, Scott 6-4 and Magic 6-8, all fairly versatile guys, still with clear core competancies...)

(A less generalized version of the standard position breakdown might go: passer/penetrator, scorer/shooter, scorer/finisher, rebounder, rebounder/interior team defense. I offer this only in hopes of clarifying the sort of ideology I have in mind.)


4:18 AM  
Blogger d.d. tinzeroes said...

Arenas 07 definitely seems to be acquiring that "people's champ" glow to him, you are correct. And yeah, this is perhaps the true vien of what I'm thinking when I make the AI '01 parallel. And "people's champs" tend to bring new fans to the table, esp. b/c adoration of said "champs" entails a strata of exclusive fan who take notice of said player, & feel like they "get it." THere's nothing wrong w/ this, mind you, just that it creates a fan whose commitment transcends mere homerism or bandwagoneering - they enter that "neo-fan" category we've discussed before - wherein the nature of the fandom is rooted in relating one's adulation of a certain player or team to that certain something in ones self.

In regards to the '06 Suns disregard for the standard model of how teams are supposed to act (& win), I would posit that a historical method rule does come into play - namely that golden rule of Unintended Consequences. When the L implemented its rule changes I would contend that thier intention was, specifically, to generate Wade's Finals performance last year: a MJesque solo act wherein a perimeter player like Wade single-handedly brings him team back from the brink of elimination to win it all.

However, the larger & long-term consequence of said rule changes is that atypical teams like PHX & DAL (& perhaps WAS should be thrown in there now, too) are emerging as the way of the future. "New Millenium" might actually be the best way to describe my desires in terms of what I WANT to see in the Finals in years to come, for its not a "renaissance" (which implies regaining something lost) & not really a "revolution" (which is close to what I want, but not severe enough). A millenial event is what I want, real world-turned-upside-down shit. & jeebus do I want this event NOW. It, to me, has edged closer to actualization each of the two years (PHX in '05, DAL in '06) & the emergence of Arenas' 'Zards this year as a 3rd option - in the other conference! - delights me.

2:45 PM  

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