Monday, January 21, 2008

This Is (Mainly) A Basketball Post - See Point #7 For Non-Basketball Information

I just finished watching the highlights of the Celtics MLK Day victory over Isaiah and the Pips, and I think I might be ready to talk about this C's season. (To reiterate, I have watched a total of two Celtics games, both losses, but I have seen the extended highlight packages for every game - sometimes multiple times in an attempt to see more deeply into what is and isn't working and/or avoid studying. At this point, I am well-versed in Andre Aldridge's somewhat choppy explanation of the highlights, Fred Carter's throaty admonishments and Peter Vecsey's elderly screeds against the Knicks, selfish basketball and the neighborhood kids who won't stay off his lawn).

Point #1: Garnett could not be more important. It cannot be overstated. Check out this link for whatever it is I am talking about. (Maybe the author doesn't really know that the Blazers were scared, but it seems convincing. The friendly Canadians at The Basketball Jones have also previously said that the Raptors are afraid of Garnett and by extension afraid of the Celtics). Not to step on Bill Simmons' toes here, but what Garnett does each game can't really be calculated or fully understood, except by saying it's important. Kat and I went to There Will Be Blood over the weekend, and as we were walking out I said "What did I just see? I mean, what was that about?" I was pretty much enthralled all the way through, but I didn't have a firm grasp about why I liked it, what it was about, what I should take away from it and whether I should be laughing or frowning. Garnett is sort of like that for the Celtics. He seems borderline psychopathic and far too intense to actually play with any sense of composure or effectiveness. He may be scaring his own teammates into playing harder, scaring the other teams or scaring himself into refusing to lose. I don't think it's all that quantifiable - and Garnett's numbers aren't spectacular this year - but he is definitely doing something. I don't think the C's as constructed on Draft Day 2007 (namely Pierce plus Ray Allen with Al Jefferson and other assorted parts) would be near as good as the mix of whoever was left after the big trade plus Garnett. It seems your Y League team plus KG would stand a decent chance against the bottom rungs of the NBA.

Point #2: I need to do some research - but I don't know where I can look - but I believe that 2007 Slam Dunk champion (and 2008 Slam Dunk entrant) Gerald Green and Garnett may be the worst and greatest players to ever wear the same number for the same team in consecutive years. I had totally forgotten both wore #5 until I saw some old GG high(?)lights from last season. I can't think of another comparison except maybe Mark Madsen leaving a team and LeBron James coming to that same team the next year and wearing the same number. This really means nothing but is interesting.

Point #3: Warning: This is borderline unbelievable! But here it is: Zach Randolph's first(!) dunk of the season came in the MLK game against the Celtics. Yes, in his 41st game of the season, Randolph, who is 6-9 finally got his first dunk. And it was off a rebound slam that was right in front of the hoop for him. I'm not saying athleticism is the only way to succeed, but if you are 6-9 and you're only dunking twice a season, I don't like the chances of you helping my team win.

Point #4: Warning: This has been placed next to Point #3 for comic and explanatory effect. Amare Stoudemire is 6-10. He had six dunks in one game Sunday night. The rather amazing highlights of Amare's destruction of the Nets can be found here. (Added note: the Nets haven't won in Phoenix since 1993) On the season, Amare has 93 dunks, according to the Dunk-O-Meter. He absolutely looks like vintage 2004 force-of-nature Amare but with an improved jump shot. I don't think his defense is much better, but I like to watch him for enjoyment purposes, not for San Antonio Spurs-style textbook purposes.

Point #5: Everyone in Phoenix and all of Arizona has been killing Boris Diaw lately for his laissez-faire attitude and court demeanor (see what I did there, he's French!), but I'm still firmly a Diaw fan. I just like how much he can do on the court, so I'm granting him most-favored player status. I like that he might underachieve a little sometimes or lack a killer instinct. Too many fans on message boards don't realize that the players are real people with fears and insecurities. I think if Diaw had Garnett's particular version of insanity he would be totally unstoppable, but Garnett was born with that gift(?!?) and Diaw was born in France. Boris took an entire offseason off without touching a basketball so he could go see lions on a safari in the Serengeti. Lots of regular people would love to do that but would never have the money or time to do so. When Diaw actually had it, those same people who call themselves fans killed him for actually fulfilling a dream. I understand that lots of professional athletes feel entitled and the middle-class fans who pay their enormous salaries feel marginalized, but there are also a handful of professional athletes who are thrilled with their jobs but also understand that what they do is just that, a job. Boris seems to understand that, and to understand that what he plays is a game, where the ball can take funny bounces and you can't dominate every time. Most people like sports because it is a reflection of life but in starker relief - there is always a clear winner and loser. The problem is when they translate that simplistic view over to a person.

Point #6: The Celtics are 10-0 against the Atlantic Division. It is possible that they could sweep their division for the entire season. I've probably jinxed them now, but we'll see. Obviously, their division is not, you know, good by any stretch of the imagination, but it is still impressive to beat those teams every time out. Now, if they could only figure out how to beat the Wizards... For excellent Wizards-related nicknames, look here.

Point #7: Obviously, I didn't have school today. I plan to get back to my usual pattern of not blogging starting Tuesday. I did want to relate a story from my first week back at law school. I was walking down this hallway and I heard a female voice behind me say "Hey" in a way that would convey the idea of "I would like to speak with you because I like you and we're friends." So I turned around and the person said in a clearly disappointed tone, "I thought you were someone else." Sensing that I was feeling a bit hurt by the exchange, the person then said, "But hello anyway." I then said hello and continued down the hallway with Charlie Brown-style dejection. These are the stories of what it is what it is like to be me. "It is an up-at-dawn, pride-swallowing siege that I will never fully tell you about, ok?" But despite encounters like that, which are humiliating and make me question whether I will ever succeed at anything, I still keep moving forward. And on that note, I bid you adieu.