From my appearance on Paul Flannery’s “Talking Hoops” podcast for WEEI, Boston. Doing these things with people you know, especially when they’re for an institutional outlet, can be really weird. Anyway, those mileposts are pretty representative. Though there’s a good chance that “Chauncey Billups” actually refers to Chris Ryan.
That terrifying fellow Mobutu Sese Seko (the blog one) visits GQ.com. Among other things, your Yankees/Heat analogy is torn to shreds and fed to fat pigeon-dogs:
While the Yankees are accepted as a historical inevitability, like misunderstanding the founding fathers or making bad jokes about travel, the Patriots seem to get a pass because of football’s layers of personnel and structure—neither of which exist for the Heat. In football, signing one guy to a team can’t change the balance of a conference. Randy Moss might be a playmaker, but Darelle Revis can put him on an island. Both men serve under a pyramid of specialists and technocrats. Meanwhile, the Heat play under a coach who’s routinely reduced by fan commentary to a cipher, a poor beard for the fact that egos set the tone and ignore the sober official voices.
If you want to kill something today, read this post instead.
For GQ.com: How LeBron can learn from Dirk, and we can learn from that:
LeBron isn’t Dwyane Wade; he doesn’t attack like Wade, and isn’t nearly as harrowing off the dribble. Wade’s been given the role of closer because it makes sense, and yet somehow, that casts doubt on everything we want to believe—and feel in our gut—about James. Wade is in the mold of Jordan, both in personality and game. To crib the easy analogy, that makes LeBron into Scottie Pippen. Some people simply can’t accept that the Pippen-esque marvel could be better than the Jordan-ish guard, since Jordan is the greatest, and Jordan-esque equals best.
I really should have included a sentence about “hard” and “soft” expectations. Oh well. Imagine it in there yourself, if you find this post lacking.
James had passed to Bosh. Wade had been the fourth-quarter warrior, all but unstoppable, and James more of a facilitator (watch the tape). Bosh, despite that last shot, continued to stink. Who was the man? Was Bosh worth it? Was the manly, assertive Wade being forced to take a backseat to a passive-by-nature James? What is a superstar? Where lies Truth? Won’t this tension lead to utter disaster in Game 4? How can these players not be as freaked out, or unnerved, as we want them to be?
Thoughts on LeBron and this image, at GQ.com:
Surrounded by photographers, James showed us something. He was iconic, and yet less self-conscious, than ever. LeBron stayed there, sinking into the hardwood, photographers kept a respectful distance, and we waited for it to make sense—or at least strike bone. James and the Heat have gone from searing manifesto, to endless cipher, to finally an impenetrable mass. This wasn’t a question of James gone spinning off into some emotional space that only Kobe Bryant or Larry Bird could make sense of. In that moment, LeBron was trying to tell us something. We’ve just lost all willingness to listen.
I wonder if we’ll remember this one.
I have to be careful what I say about Derrick Rose. My opinions on him are heterodox, stubborn, and probably relevant to no one but myself. Basketball is sometimes best kept to one’s self, like shit you tell your therapist or your cat. However, today something dawned on me: How much of the Rose-for-MVP narrative is about him being the anti-LeBron? Derrick Rose has emerged as the Good Son figure, over the summer, Kevin Durant was being groomed for. Oh high irony, that Rose was there, all along, in Durant’s shadow in Turkey. Now Rose is everybody’s favorite player, a new kind of point guard, and the flash point for the stats vs. gut war that I though the NBA got over before it started. Rose can seemingly do no wrong—if he’s less than perfect, well, damn it, he deserves credit for improving or trying. Durant, on the other hand, is looking less like a transformative figure, and more a very tall, classic SF who scores a lot for a very good team.
I wonder, though, if the Chicago-ness of Rose gets in the way of his filling this (prophetic) role in quite the same way Durant was meant to. Durant could belong to everyone because, in a sense, OKC as a basketball town remains a work in progress. Especially to the outsider looking in. LeBron was a league-wide villain; Durant was ideally positioned to counter that, showing great faith to a small market that, to many, was more symbolic than anything else. Rose’s South Side story perhaps gives him an even closer bond to the team, but it also makes him much more the the property of that city, those fans. And let’s not forget, Rose came to the Bulls a decade after Jordan left, with some good, if ultimately disappointing teams, in between. Chicago can’t help but be in the equation; Chicago may also be standing in the way of Rose’s ecumenical appeal. Rose couldn’t possibly be more adored, and yet who is he fighting for: NBA fans writ large, or the Bulls, who will then make converts of the world just like they did under Jordan?