Read Everything That Dunks Must Converge

Read Everything That Dunks Must Converge
by Bryan Harvey

Truth & lies in Pixar's 'The Good Dinosaur'

Truth & lies in Pixar's 'The Good Dinosaur'
by Bryan Harvey

A world of child soldiers & cowboys

A world of child soldiers & cowboys
by Bryan Harvey

To their own devices: Pablo Larrain's 'The Club'

To their own devices: Pablo Larrain's 'The Club'
by Bryan Harvey

Bottled Ships: Dr. Manhattan and the NBA's Brat Pack

May 23, 2010

At some point the brute force with which the Celtics have dismissed the brightest stars of the NBA's future becomes less about their own aggression and the lack of it in their opponents.

Don't get me wrong, I'm in complete awe of this Ponce de Leon like quest that the Celtics are currently taking.  As Bethlehem Shoals points out in his piece "The Fourth Man," this Celtics team is not only willing itself into the Finals but into our hearts and minds.  I, like Shoals, always viewed the KG era in Boston as that of a desperate mercenary.  I even came to the conclusion during this year's first round that this desperation was so acute that it became as awkward as a man hewn in the midwest reincarnating himself as some silly adolescent fantasy of wealth and all its stereotypes; in other words, Kevin Garnett was a basketball Gatsby, twitching, nervous, "pale as death," and annoyingly desperate.  That view is now shattered.

My view of Kevin Garnett as a tragic figure stalking another NBA championship into oblivion began to break apart the moment Boston exiled LeBron James on the island of Elba, and the perception was completely shattered with last night's 94-71 Game 3 win over Orlando.  Garnett is not Gatsby.  He is not reaching for the green light.  But rather he melded with the light. He's now more like Bruce Banner, or-- better yet--Jon Osterman.

The old Garnett was obliterated by a knee injury that left him as loose particles, destroyed, lost, suspended, and this season we judged Garnett as deceased, not realizing that what we were witnessing was his reassembling into a figure able to collapse time into a single moment.  And now the fate of the NBA universe rests in his hands, and the Finals looks to be a showdown between this timeless Garnett, the essence of creation, and the driven intelect of Kobe Bryant, who, like Ozymandias, has spent his whole life studying the greatness of past conquerors--Alexander the Great, Ramses, MJ--in order to surpass them.  This showdown is nothing new.  In fact, what we're about to see is a 1980s' cult comic transformed into an underwhelming blockbuster.  I say underwhelming not because the basketball will be be subpar and unentertaining but because we already know the story. This was supposed to be the year when the NBA stepped fully into a new era, when the younger generation of stars seized the torch from the previous generation, but, instead, we have a reliving of the past; and trying to relive the past usually leads to feelings of disappointment.

Over on Straight Bangin'  Joey argues that the NBA is a changed place today because the NBA's best player, LeBron James, is not ascending his throne as and when he should, but the NBA is no different than it always was.  If one continues to view the NBA in terms of the players as forces, then, yes, the NBA may appear different when in truth it is not. The NBA is a place where organizations act as forces.  Look at the short list of teams that have championship banners as proof, and the fact that once again the Lakers will play the Celtics for an NBA title shows that little in this League ever changes. Anywhere other than Boston Kevin Garnett would be a Gatsby, but, in Boston, he's Dr. Manhattan.

One could argue that where KG differs from his comic likeness is that his reincarnation has made him more sympathetic to other players in the League, noting his advice to LeBron at the end of their series to go where the organization will help him win a championship, stating, "you can't get youth back."  The problem is that KG's statement, whether he intended it to or not, embodied the coldness of the NBA's seas because KG's statement also made the claim that franchises like Cleveland and Minnesota do not win championships, which is the elephant in the room that rarely gets mentioned in basketball circles.  In fact, the only person who does mention it on a regular basis is Michael Wilbon.  Many people always argue that the Lakers vs. the Celtics in the Finals is what David Stern and the television networks want, but the 1990's saw huge ratings in the Finals and not once did the Celtics play the Lakers.  The real problem for the NBA is that it appears to have bought into the idea that it needs the Celtics vs. Lakers narrative to unfold again and again, which ignores the League's real problem that so few teams ever win championships.  This past decade eight different MLB franchises won the World Series and eight different NFL franchises won the Super Bowl, but only five different NBA franschises won the NBA Finals; and all but one of those teams already had a championship banner.  The other Leagues each had more than one first-time winner, and baseball, the League without a salary cap, also saw two franchises end nearly century long droughts.  Could it be that both baseball and football are more popular because they speak more to the American dream and the belief that something can come from nothing, that hay can be spun into gold?  And in the NBA, hay is always hay, and with his ability to see the past, present, and future simultaneously, was KG not warning LeBron that, hey, Cleveland ain't winning a title now or never--the NBA is an unbroken rainbow spun from purple and gold and green threads.

The Brat Pack didn't age well.  Over the last decade, while Shaq, Duncan, Kobe, and Garnett, ruled the roost, a lot of spring chickens were supposed to be planning coups, but here we are at the end of the 2010 season and Kobe and Garnett are about to go at it again and the questions facing LeBron's generation are now more than where they will play next year but what are their true colors.  With the exception of Dwyane Wade, this group of players has accomplished very little other than individual awards, and, for the most part, they do not appear to be leaders.

When I say LeBron's generation, I'm basically looking at the draft classes from 2002 through 2004.  I'm going with these years because it's from these three drafts that the nucleus for the USA basketball team is drawn.

-The best players out of the 2002 draft are Yao Ming and Amar'e Stoudemire.
-The best players out of the 2003 draft are LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade.
-The best player from the 2004 draft is clearly Dwight Howard, but it's worth mentioning that his running mate Jameer Nelson is also from that draft.

The end of every decade is a gauntlet for younger players, placing them in a crucible, and the player whose heart winds up the hardest usually winds up ruling the next decade.  Only three of these players are still playing, but the first year of this new decade has not gone well for the players that are supposed to be its cornerstones.  Yao is a fragile giant.  Amar'e appears to have let his 2007 suspension and all the trade rumors write off all life's events to chance, as seen by his Lamar Odom got lucky comments.  Carmelo failed to step into the leadership void created by his coach's absence.  Bosh missed the Playoffs.  Wade's career continues to follow Tom Cruise's popularity arc post Nicole Kidman, and Dwight Howard appears to be more Clark Kent than Superman.  This offseason several of these players will be driven by instinct or impulse to change teams or to stay put, and whoever can resurrect their career out of the ashes of a postseason that burned like St. Elmo's Fire will most likely be drawn to the light of a franchise that's won before; and when these players are offered the leading parts in a franchise's narrative, we will begin to reach a verdict on whether they are style over substance or substance over style because most likely these moths will fly to the teams whose past accomplishments burn brightest (i.e. Chicago).


Kevin Garnett did not gather the particles of his being without an effort of will and the catalyst of Celtic Pride, and one has to wonder if LeBron's generation has had their willpower stunted by hellicopter moms, coddled out of them by AAU coaches, neglected as a result of celebrity granted and not earned, or if they were simply born without it.  Regardless of what weakened them, they will not be what we want them to be without the aid of a mighty franchise pushing them out to sea.





Or maybe this generation is reversing the stereotypes placed upon it, that they need everything at the click of a mouse or the push of a button, by waiting patiently for their time to come, rather than seizing it.  Afterall, even as Dr. Manhattan, KG can't stay on Earth forever, so the question becomes what happens to all the world's bottled ships once the cork and glass that caged them disappears--do they sail or do they sink?

6 comments:

Deckfight said...

love this: "Wade's career continues to follow Tom Cruise's popularity arc post Nicole Kidman"

May 25, 2010 at 2:15 PM
Teach said...

Thanks...and I guess in a round about way that makes Shaq Kidman and his stint in Cleveland has met expectations about as well as Australia.

May 25, 2010 at 7:43 PM
Deckfight said...

off the subject but, does Amare=the new KG?
surely this has already been said.

May 26, 2010 at 9:51 AM
Teach said...

I don't know if it's been said before, but there do appear to be a lot of similarities. The raw talent. The out of high school. The perceived underachievement. The differences might be that KG chained himself to Minnesota, while the Phoenix-Amare bond is something quite different. Does either one really care about the other? And somehow I swear they're like Optimus Prime and Rodimus Prime.

May 26, 2010 at 10:43 PM
Deckfight said...

Amare has never been perceived as 'the man' in PHX. Amare has had more injuries though. If Nash wasn't there breaking the MVP/Playoff ceiling repeatedly, i think Amare would be perceived like KG was.

Still can't help wonder how many championships PHX would've had if Joe Johnson had stayed. it's too alluring of a thought. Of course whatever that was with Boris Diaw in 06(??) would have never happened--but i think that's a fair sacrifice since it never got them anything except a cool acronym.

May 27, 2010 at 11:30 AM
Teach said...

Does Josh Smith fit in this lineage at all also?

May 27, 2010 at 11:28 PM

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