Tuesday, May 20, 2008

5/20/08 - WCF, And Then I See A Darkness

Ugh, I say, when greeted with the unholy visage of the NBA's final four teams left standing, especially the two odious titans left in the Western Conference. Here, then, is the downside of the glorious unpredictability of sports - sometimes, one is left with Goliath victorious, with David left in a crumpled heap, sling clutched in bloody hand. Surely it makes some future eventuality all the sweeter, knowing that this can be the result, but that doesn't make this any easier to stomach in the here and now.

To wit: the Spurs. Perennial playoff vanquishers of Nash and the Suns, who have, in fact, committed the death blow to the D'Antoni and his free-form offense and ensured that bland assertions of defense-wins-championships continues. Sure, they seem like "good guys" in the classic sense, Duncan=unselfishness and all that, but to have the tantalizing potential of the now-departed running Suns gradually sapped by such methodical efficiency is a multiyear tragedy. D'Antoni's warmth and self-deprecation makes the (great) Popovich seem bland, wan, and jerktastic by comparison. Bowen's voluminous fouls/elbows/dark magic foiling the offensive grace of Steve Nash is an affront to the aesthetic flow of the most telegenic basketball. Execution: the Spurs embody both meanings of that dread word. Add the evisceration of the Suns (and I do mean evisceration - they now have Shaq, don't run, and are about to bring in some defense-first knucklehead to follow D'Antoni's insanity) to the ouster at their hands of the marvel of the marvel that is Chris Paul and his young Hornets team (exciting to watch, and also endearingly young - witness Tyson Chandler's hilarious "I Wanted My Buddy But I Got Chucky" comparison) is enough to make one throw allegiance to...

The Lakers? Kobe Bryant? Not likely. Bryant hits all the signifiers of great basketball/terrible person while standing as the avatar of all that is shallow and petty about LA. Whining about a trade at the beginning of the season, playing like the worst ballhog pickup player when things aren't going his way, attempting some sort of bogus authenticity with his tattoos and bling when the guy is a cosmopolitan Italian-American - the smugness and self-regard are as wearing to me as a viewer as his trancendent abilities must be to a playoff opponent. And Vujacic? The machine? His hair net is even more egregiously annoying than the one sported by Oberto of...

The Spurs. Methodical. Slowdown. Duncan's self-abnegating brilliance. Execution, execution, execution, with the fun sucked out except by Parker's mad drives. And he raps in French! And is married to Eva Longoria? This is who I'm supposed to cheer for? Give me Lamar Odom's drives instead, any day of the week, except that leaves me with...

The Lakers. Phil Jackson and his billion titles. The crush of the celebrity crowd. Luke Walton's uncanny resemblance to every slightly-too-aggro drunk guy at every party I've ever been too. Pau Gasol's calculated scruff. But most of all Bryant, Bryant, Bryant - drinking in the MVP and the spotlight like that guy at the party that Luke Walton looks like.

So, what? The Celtics? The Pistons? Yawn and double-yawn? Stacked vs. been-there, done-that. I guess I'm for Rasheed Wallace, who I once saw throw down a stanchion rattling dunk at the Dean Dome when he played for UNC, and who seems to be the only member of any team left that embodies the slightly unhinged nature of basketball at its best, with so much of that aura departed with AI, Nash, Paul, and Deron Williams.


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