Tuesday, June 28, 2011

20 Questions From The Association - Still Locked In

Is it just me, or…

Would defeating the veteran-laden squad that prematurely ended his last two postseasons, knocking off an MVP-led 62-win team en route to coming within two wins (I know he was awful in the Finals) of a championship be viewed as perseverance and “party of the championship journey” had they been done by any 26 year-old not named “LeBron James?”

Would it be hilarious and kinda awesome if “the worst draft in recent memory” yielded multiple Hall of Famers?

For a team that did not have a pick before #41 and added a pair of guys that will likely be on the opening night roster, are the Lakers catching an awful lot of flack for their showing on draft night?

Might the already PG-laden Cavaliers have done better to spend the draft's top selection on a strong athletic wing scorer who improved immensely in his one college season, rather than a potentially solid lead guard with 11 NCAA games under his belt?

Does any praise for the Dallas Mavericks “stealing Rudy Fernandez for the 26th pick” overlook the fact that a) while he’s shown flashes, Rudy has given no indication that he’s anything more than mediocre role player in the NBA and b) they gave up a 20 year-old perimeter scorer with size in order to acquire him?

Did the Charlotte Bobcats do more to build a successful franchise between 8:12 and 8:23 on Thursday night than they had in the previous seven years?

With the addition of Johnny Flynn and another tweener up front, have the Houston Rockets definitively established themselves as the NBA’s Island of Moderately Talented Misfit Toys?

After trying to turn Tony Parker into a lottery pick, is the acquisition of a top-10 talent (in a weak draft, but whatever) in exchange for Parker’s good-but-not-great backup the epitome of the Spurs being the Spurs?

Is it incredible how, even while falling flat on his face, LeBron James manages feats that haven’t been duplicated by any other player of the last 20 years?

Does it seem at this point like the Knicks’ primary objective with every first round pick is maximum confusion among the fan base, more so than solid roster construction?

Despite all of the professional contrarians and agitators that feature prominently in today’s sports media, is the “Jimmer Fredette will be a total bust” bandwagon (yep, that’s me at the wheel) still a pretty lonely place?

In a draft in which quality rotation guys are expected to be at a major premium, is it baffling that 17 players were deemed more desirable than Chris Singleton, an athletic, NBA-ready (6’9”; 230) defender?

Given the scrutiny and day-to-day reexamination of his value that he’s subjected to, should Russell Westbrook take a page from Ron Artest’s book and henceforth be known as “Blogosphere?”

Despite his shooting just 42.2% and averaging 3 assists per game as a freshman at Texas, is the fact that the San Antonio Spurs deemed Cory Joseph worthy of a first-round pick all we need to know about him?

Must the sight of Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd and Mark Cuban rubbing up against the Larry O’Brien Trophy resulted in Steve Nash a) binge drinking, b) vomiting, or c) both?

(Maybe just Laker fans on this one) Does it feel eerily like whatever the Lakers choose to do with Andrew Bynum- whether it be trading his $15M expiring deal or making him the franchise’s cornerstone for the future- will be wrong?

Is it a hell of a lot more fun to ignore the albatross contract and re-embrace “Fun Gil?”

Is Isaiah Thomas (#60 to the Sacramento Kings) a pretty solid bet to be the best last pick in the history of the NBA draft?

Have you unequivocally won Draft Night when this is your back story and you’re drafted in the first round while at Chuck E. Cheese with your little brother?

In light of David West opting out of his contract, is the next year and a half for the New Orleans Hornets too depressing to even contemplate?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Silence Broken- Introspection, Change and the New Laker Fandom

Roughly seven weeks have passed since the Dallas Mavericks, powered by a three-point barrage the likes of which the NBA postseason has never seen, brought the Los Angeles Lakers 2011 playoff run to an ignominious end. Approximately the same amount of time has elapsed (three days more, actually) since my well-timed arrival aboardthe Dirk Nowitzki bandwagon. Due to a variety of personal and professional commitments, not to mention a mental backdrop that might one day serve as the set of a “Hoarders” episode- I have been absent from the Association’s realm of the written word.
In life as in sport, nothing is more tragic than the betrayal of one’s passion. It’s possible for one’s shortcomings to stem from the undertaking of a task that based on talent or “ceiling,” is simply a bridge too far. However, more often than not, people do not exert themselves to the point at which they are exploring the limits of their abilities, at which any unfinished task is truly insurmountable. Rather than explore the limits of the abilities about which he is most passionate, it is often the interested party that fails his own ability.
No one among us is totally devoid of talent. Some are gifted in multitudinous ways, while the savant-like are almost supernaturally gifted in a specific area, often to the detriment of other, more practical aspects of life. The talents of some are immediately evident and irrepressible, while those of others must be unearthed and coaxed out, sometimes against the subconscious will of the individual himself.
Whatever the case, why then, even after having discovered an aptitude and a passion (there’s that word again) for a given endeavor do people take these things for granted and refuse, almost with disdain, to explore their outermost boundaries? Is it a crippling fear of failure? Perhaps it’s our old clich├ęd friend, the fear of success. Having given the matter considerable thought, I feel it’s reasonable to assume that the “betrayal of passion” stems not from a fear of any specific outcome (success or failure), but from the transformation of one’s passion, from a gift, begging to be unlocked, explored and shared, to a weighty burden. It’s been said that at their best, talent and passion are not things to be possessed, but rather phenomena that possess those whom they deem worthy.
Far too often, however, rather than immersing ourselves in those pursuits for which our minds and/or bodies were seemingly created, we transform these gems with which we’ve been entrusted into burdens, crosses to bear. Rather than draw strength from past successes and enjoy each new journey, we run.
Boy, that escalated quickly!
Now that you’ve cleaned the blood and guts from your browser, let’s take to the hardwood. One could make the case that since the emergence of the sports blogosphere as a viable outlet for quality writing, no writer, regardless of sport or season, has gone radio silent at a more inopportune time. And one would probably be right. In the weeks since I tossed my hat into the ring at the Dirkus Circus, the ranks of an NBA postseason for the ages shrank- from eight, to four, to two- until a lone champion, led by the aforementioned German, remained. One legend publicly aired some grievances, while another sought out Stage Left. Dynasty-In-A-Box worked beautifully, until it didn’t, while another, with actual jewelry to its name, seemingly drew to a close…
A lot of time and energy is expended worrying about, and trying to prepare for unforeseen, cataclysmic events. Sometimes, however, while we are attempting to identify the black swans of tomorrow, we neglect to notice constants that we’ve long taken for granted ceasing to function as they always have. This is a far scarier scenario.
For more than a decade (minus a brief hiatus)- fans (myself among them) and the media have clung dogmatically to the notion that the Lakers could take little more than a mild interest in much of the regular season before “flipping the switch” when the stakes were sufficiently heightened. That the 2010-11 incarnation proved not as deep as initially thought, was deeply flawed in more areas than championship teams of years past and at times appeared totally disinterested in the task at hand was irrelevant. These were battle-tested champions. Genius savants. Whatever. Either way, these guys knew what they were doing.
I watched the Lakers’ Game 3 loss in Dallas before embarking on a nine-day trip abroad. In addition to the stomach punch that accompanies watching one’s team run up an insurmountable deficit less than three hours before having to be at the airport for an early-morning, six-hour flight, in light of the Mavs’ backbreaking 32-20 victory in the most important fourth quarter of the Lakers’ season- on the heels of the team’s inability to preserve a 16-point second half lead at home in the series opener- I left the country in the throes of a painful realization. The sun was setting. This time around, the cavalry would not be thundering over the horizon to restore order in Lakerland.