Friday, October 30, 2009
All My Friends Are Funeral Singers: An NBA Experiment Vol 1.4
I won’t lie to you…I am tired of Kobe too. I’m tired of Stuart Scott confusing Kobe with his street patter. I’m tired of Lakers fans who use tags like BlackMambaCreatedTheWorldin7Days and refuse to countenance the suggestion that Kobe might wake up with bad breath. I’m tired of dicking around with the Kobe vs. Lebron question (Lebron), or Kobe vs. Shaq (Kobe). I’m tired of wondering whether he’s capable of a sincere human interaction that doesn’t involve anyone named Mrs. Kobe Bryant or Kobe Bryant’s Daughters. I’m even tired of hearing about Kobe’s Quest for Another Ring. Mostly, though, I’m tired of apologizing for Kobe.
Who cares, right? Why whine about it when we got the trophy last year? But when the best member of your squad is the American Civil War of the NBA (the motherfucker pits brother against brother), it grates on you. Because he plays basketball the way you wish the shooting guard on your team would play. Well, unless you are a Miami Heat fan; in that case go put on a white shirt and thank Avery Johnson every night before you go to bed. For the rest of you: let’s all agree that the media talking points suck, Kobe the person is not likable or adept in the spotlight, there’s an accusation of rape that David Stern has somehow declared Will Never Be Mentioned Again, and just for kicks his wife may be a psycho hose beast of Barbara Bush proportions. And let’s agree you would take him in your backcourt.
To keep things obvious, the Lakers NEED him in their backcourt. We have a Slovenian who supposedly improved his game this summer by cutting his hair. We have Shannon Brown, an unknown quantity of freakish speed and chaotic athleticism that may translate into more turnovers than points. We have a young point guard in his contract year who believes he should have been a starter three years ago but whose best defensive move may be hoping one of his ears clotheslines Aaron Brooks as he flies by for the -nth time of the game. Fish has been canonized at this point…in 2001 we guessed he was more Devean George than Norm Nixon, but he has proved his value with numerous integral plays over the years. So let me not seem ungrateful when I point out his legs will barely make it through another 100-game season; his shots still rainbow with that obscene arc, but now tend to go in fewer than 4 out of every 10 attempts. If it’s unclear why that’s a bad thing, I bet Daryl Morey has an ingenious algorithm to explain it.
What I’m clumsily implying is the Lakers’ chance at repeating as champions lies in its frontcourt. You’ve heard about the length, you’ve heard about the boy wonder Bynum and his injuries and large contract, you know Lamar has handled his role as sixth man without fault. There’s nothing revolutionary here, just a team built around size while most of the league went small. The Artest-for-Ariza swap? Your guess is as good as mine. Trevor was well-loved, as any young player would be if he makes the Leap on your team, especially on the way to winning a ring. Artest has been a long-time favorite in the same way I’ve enjoyed the speeches of Michelle Malkin…pure entertainment value, but please stay way the fuck over there. The only thing I can be sure of is Crazy Pills’ barber had better be sending royalty checks to Anthony Mason.
The one reason I’m not letting any of that ruin this season for me, or my hopes for another championship banner in our so-close-it-hurts attempt to outnumber those seventeen dusty green-and-white flags hanging in Boston: Pau Gasol. He yowls, he grows a beard that looks like it belongs in an underfunded Museum of Natural History, and he makes the whole damn roster click. He could pass to you across a Brooklyn-bound F-train car on a Friday afternoon. He can guard your center or your power forward, and might be able to move faster than both. He plays within any offense. He is the perfect number 2. He is the reason we were the last team standing in June, and he will be the reason if we do it again.