Mount Dikembe

Nov 06

James Harden’s euro-step on the fast break exhibits too many things at once—a seemingly unlimited number of things. 
There’s the deceptive speed to set it up. His speed’s deception comes from his long and purposeful strides. Those gaping strides are ravenous—they maw chunks and chunks of court with every step. The man may look thick, but it’s Harden’s movement that’s hungry. Put another way, more shocking way: He looks like LeBron in the open court.
And then Harden, unlike any player, completely re-orients his mode of movement. This is commonly referred to “switching gears” but with Harden it’s as if he is, at a half-second’s notice, switching out his entire transmission. He transforms from the ballhandling funny car into a performance two-wheeler able to maneuver around the tightest corners. It’s a lunge to the right, ball out front leading the way, then a lunge back left with the ball swinging back with him (and still out front, giving the poor sap one last chance to whisper to the orange before Harden whisks it away!). When Harden’s in the middle of his eurostep, those lunges seem to defy direction, velocity, and momentum. They’re inexorable thrusts forward into a specific space…but simultaneously his body hangs back as if he’s suddenly two people moving in competing directions.  
Then there’s the power/finesse combo to top it off. Jimmy the Hard initiates contact, takes it, and finesses the ball over the rim (this part of the move is so gorgeously finessed that using the board is usually out of the question) to finish. The defender often ends up stumbling backward—a extreme physical form of sheer disbelief. 
It’s open court speed and fine maneuverability, strength, finesse, and a defiance of physics in one move. Certainly Manu’s eurostep is comparable, but he’s lost a step and leans more on finesse than power to finish. Wade, likewise, has lost a step, and anyway Harden deploys his eurostep more often Dwyane. More so than any other single move, Jimmy the Hard’s euro nods to the unlimited; each of his euros includes so many elemental aspects of the game that with each, Basketball-in-the-abstract tingles briefly in us.
* * *
In the Rockets third game of the year, the Blazers made some big shots and outlasted Harden and Houston in overtime. After outbursts of 37 and 45, The Hard only scored 24.
Through two games, though, Harden gave me and the rest of us a gift. For two games, that tingle—that flash of Basketball-in-the-abstract—was more than a tingle. Jimmy gave us two games that allowed us, against our better judgment, to view the possibilities as unlimited. Throw a team together—if Harden’s on it, there’s instant chemistry! Build a young team with some mismatched parts—if Harden’s on it, that team’s rebuilt! Shove more minutes at a per-minutes monster—if it’s Harden, his efficiency stays up! Want to watch a guy get a career high? Watch the next Rockets game.
And let’s generalize: Want to uproot your life, move to a new city, and instantly fit in at your new job with no adjustment period? Well, shoot…Harden did it! You ain’t James Harden, but still, buck up kiddo. At least you know it’s possible.
 The institution will always fight back, though, and the NBA schedule will demand its pound of flesh. So no, the fantasy we knew would end did end, and we saw again that there can be no Unlimited Man embodying it all at once (well, except Kobe in his own way). But Harden gave us all he could when he let us into his brief fantasyland. It’s sad now, but at least we can still feel the tingle when he gets going on the break.
-greg

James Harden’s euro-step on the fast break exhibits too many things at once—a seemingly unlimited number of things. 

There’s the deceptive speed to set it up. His speed’s deception comes from his long and purposeful strides. Those gaping strides are ravenous—they maw chunks and chunks of court with every step. The man may look thick, but it’s Harden’s movement that’s hungry. Put another way, more shocking way: He looks like LeBron in the open court.

And then Harden, unlike any player, completely re-orients his mode of movement. This is commonly referred to “switching gears” but with Harden it’s as if he is, at a half-second’s notice, switching out his entire transmission. He transforms from the ballhandling funny car into a performance two-wheeler able to maneuver around the tightest corners. It’s a lunge to the right, ball out front leading the way, then a lunge back left with the ball swinging back with him (and still out front, giving the poor sap one last chance to whisper to the orange before Harden whisks it away!). When Harden’s in the middle of his eurostep, those lunges seem to defy direction, velocity, and momentum. They’re inexorable thrusts forward into a specific space…but simultaneously his body hangs back as if he’s suddenly two people moving in competing directions.  

Then there’s the power/finesse combo to top it off. Jimmy the Hard initiates contact, takes it, and finesses the ball over the rim (this part of the move is so gorgeously finessed that using the board is usually out of the question) to finish. The defender often ends up stumbling backward—a extreme physical form of sheer disbelief. 

It’s open court speed and fine maneuverability, strength, finesse, and a defiance of physics in one move. Certainly Manu’s eurostep is comparable, but he’s lost a step and leans more on finesse than power to finish. Wade, likewise, has lost a step, and anyway Harden deploys his eurostep more often Dwyane. More so than any other single move, Jimmy the Hard’s euro nods to the unlimited; each of his euros includes so many elemental aspects of the game that with each, Basketball-in-the-abstract tingles briefly in us.

* * *

In the Rockets third game of the year, the Blazers made some big shots and outlasted Harden and Houston in overtime. After outbursts of 37 and 45, The Hard only scored 24.

Through two games, though, Harden gave me and the rest of us a gift. For two games, that tingle—that flash of Basketball-in-the-abstract—was more than a tingle. Jimmy gave us two games that allowed us, against our better judgment, to view the possibilities as unlimited. Throw a team together—if Harden’s on it, there’s instant chemistry! Build a young team with some mismatched parts—if Harden’s on it, that team’s rebuilt! Shove more minutes at a per-minutes monster—if it’s Harden, his efficiency stays up! Want to watch a guy get a career high? Watch the next Rockets game.

And let’s generalize: Want to uproot your life, move to a new city, and instantly fit in at your new job with no adjustment period? Well, shoot…Harden did it! You ain’t James Harden, but still, buck up kiddo. At least you know it’s possible.

 The institution will always fight back, though, and the NBA schedule will demand its pound of flesh. So no, the fantasy we knew would end did end, and we saw again that there can be no Unlimited Man embodying it all at once (well, except Kobe in his own way). But Harden gave us all he could when he let us into his brief fantasyland. It’s sad now, but at least we can still feel the tingle when he gets going on the break.

-greg

Oct 01

It’s preview month here at Mount Dikembe just like at all the other blogs! Here at Mount Deke, though, our preview month is called KOBEGO MONTH.
Having just weathered its first NBA offseason, Mount Dikembe is back and ready to go with previews of players, teams, and trends that interest me. The only thing holding this feature together is that we’ll be previewing all those players and teams with The Kobego in mind. 
What does that mean? Well, here’s all of Mount Deke’s previous stuff on The Kobego:
The Kobego, an Introduction
The Kobego butting in on the WCF
The Kobego butting in on the Finals
The Kobego conquering China
For those of you who don’t want to read the primer, The Kobego is all of Kobe, an extension of Kobe, the force that mediates between and among the NBA establishment [(1) the players/coaches/FOs, (2) the media, and (3) the fans]. The Kobego is the sentry tower in the middle of the NBA panopticon, keeping control of everything by butting into, and subsequently framing, everything that goes on in basketball; or, if you prefer, the Kobego is a body able to spread out over any and all of the basketball world—a sheer, almost invisible, stocking that can stretch and stretch without ever breaking.
However you conceptualize it, I contend that no NBA team, player, concept, or trend can be properly understood unless we understand how The Kobego functions in relation to that entity. To that end, Mount Dikembe will this month use The Kobego as our NBA superstructure.
I can’t wait. And thank The Kobego that training camps are back and that the NBA season is within shouting distance!
-greg

It’s preview month here at Mount Dikembe just like at all the other blogs! Here at Mount Deke, though, our preview month is called KOBEGO MONTH.

Having just weathered its first NBA offseason, Mount Dikembe is back and ready to go with previews of players, teams, and trends that interest me. The only thing holding this feature together is that we’ll be previewing all those players and teams with The Kobego in mind. 

What does that mean? Well, here’s all of Mount Deke’s previous stuff on The Kobego:

The Kobego, an Introduction

The Kobego butting in on the WCF

The Kobego butting in on the Finals

The Kobego conquering China

For those of you who don’t want to read the primer, The Kobego is all of Kobe, an extension of Kobe, the force that mediates between and among the NBA establishment [(1) the players/coaches/FOs, (2) the media, and (3) the fans]. The Kobego is the sentry tower in the middle of the NBA panopticon, keeping control of everything by butting into, and subsequently framing, everything that goes on in basketball; or, if you prefer, the Kobego is a body able to spread out over any and all of the basketball world—a sheer, almost invisible, stocking that can stretch and stretch without ever breaking.

However you conceptualize it, I contend that no NBA team, player, concept, or trend can be properly understood unless we understand how The Kobego functions in relation to that entity. To that end, Mount Dikembe will this month use The Kobego as our NBA superstructure.

I can’t wait. And thank The Kobego that training camps are back and that the NBA season is within shouting distance!

-greg

Aug 22

Previous thoughts on the Kobego
The Kobego stretched over China recently. Originally, Kobe-as-Panopticon-Tower (those thoughts are the first link in this post) was a way to explain the Kobego as the mediating figure of the NBA, but it’s made two high-profile forays into international basketball recently and it’s probably necessary now to situate it in Basketball rather than just the NBA. 
First of course there was the Gold in the Olympics (a broader topic that I tackled for HoopSpeak recently). Then there was the Chinese charity game. The Kobego wore a black jersey—the Chinese celebrities wore green or yellow uniforms. It played half-speed and scored 68 in 15 minutes. The Kobego picked up poor #18 fullcourt and got at least one breakaway out of it. (Poor, poor #18—he didn’t know what hit him. He was a trooper, but he wore long pants to a game against the Kobego, so what did he expect?) 
It’s often said that Kobe (the man, not the force-of-nature) is pathologically competitive, somewhat like Jordan, although within the usual discourse there are real distinctions between both men’s forms of competitiveness. It’s indisputable that Kobe Bryant runs on competition. The Kobego, though, only exists in the absence of competition. To mediate among the forces of the NBA the Kobego stands apart, just like the watchtower in the center of the Panopticon. To stretch and expand, the Kobego has to be flexible enough to lean and fold itself into concepts and phenomena outside of the basic NBA conflict of basketball, the individual game and the set of games that make up the larger competition. Championships transformed Kobe Bryant into the Kobego, but once the Champion task was finished, it’s unnecessary to win more of them as long as the Kobe-the-player simply continues to try to win titles in good faith (to become Gordie Howe on the Hartford Whalers, a mascot or ambassador, would probably signal some kind of transformation for the Kobego, and it’s pretty obvious as of now that the Kobego isn’t in that stage). The Kobego has to work in isolation away from the quotidien business of “competitive basketball” or it ceases to mediate every aspect of Basketball.
And both of these international incidents signify competitive opt-outs for the Kobego, with the China charity game the greater signifier. Being competitive demands having competition; when a competitive person isn’t challenged, he opts out. The Kobego did the opposite; in the face of a ridiculous spectacle—there was a quick light show whenever he scored!—the Kobego decided to score 68 points in 15 minutes. That second half is a warped, aggressive act in the context of a competition, akin to blocking all of your 5-year-old nephew’s shots in the driveway. But in the context of the Kobego always stretching and reaching, now seemingly out of the NBA and into Basketball in general, 68 in 15 makes perfect sense. 
(One more thing: Look at the picture at the top. Jay Chou exists as an entity because we can see his shadow. The Kobego, though…)
-greg

Previous thoughts on the Kobego

The Kobego stretched over China recently. Originally, Kobe-as-Panopticon-Tower (those thoughts are the first link in this post) was a way to explain the Kobego as the mediating figure of the NBA, but it’s made two high-profile forays into international basketball recently and it’s probably necessary now to situate it in Basketball rather than just the NBA. 

First of course there was the Gold in the Olympics (a broader topic that I tackled for HoopSpeak recently). Then there was the Chinese charity game. The Kobego wore a black jersey—the Chinese celebrities wore green or yellow uniforms. It played half-speed and scored 68 in 15 minutes. The Kobego picked up poor #18 fullcourt and got at least one breakaway out of it. (Poor, poor #18—he didn’t know what hit him. He was a trooper, but he wore long pants to a game against the Kobego, so what did he expect?) 

It’s often said that Kobe (the man, not the force-of-nature) is pathologically competitive, somewhat like Jordan, although within the usual discourse there are real distinctions between both men’s forms of competitiveness. It’s indisputable that Kobe Bryant runs on competition. The Kobego, though, only exists in the absence of competition. To mediate among the forces of the NBA the Kobego stands apart, just like the watchtower in the center of the Panopticon. To stretch and expand, the Kobego has to be flexible enough to lean and fold itself into concepts and phenomena outside of the basic NBA conflict of basketball, the individual game and the set of games that make up the larger competition. Championships transformed Kobe Bryant into the Kobego, but once the Champion task was finished, it’s unnecessary to win more of them as long as the Kobe-the-player simply continues to try to win titles in good faith (to become Gordie Howe on the Hartford Whalers, a mascot or ambassador, would probably signal some kind of transformation for the Kobego, and it’s pretty obvious as of now that the Kobego isn’t in that stage). The Kobego has to work in isolation away from the quotidien business of “competitive basketball” or it ceases to mediate every aspect of Basketball.

And both of these international incidents signify competitive opt-outs for the Kobego, with the China charity game the greater signifier. Being competitive demands having competition; when a competitive person isn’t challenged, he opts out. The Kobego did the opposite; in the face of a ridiculous spectacle—there was a quick light show whenever he scored!—the Kobego decided to score 68 points in 15 minutes. That second half is a warped, aggressive act in the context of a competition, akin to blocking all of your 5-year-old nephew’s shots in the driveway. But in the context of the Kobego always stretching and reaching, now seemingly out of the NBA and into Basketball in general, 68 in 15 makes perfect sense. 

(One more thing: Look at the picture at the top. Jay Chou exists as an entity because we can see his shadow. The Kobego, though…)

-greg

Jul 09

Eric Gordon is not happy about his restricted free agency. We should expect Gordon to stay put. His situation probably feels more hopeless than it is, since his fury and insult smacks of negotiation more than sincere emotional pain. He is now out of legitimate negotiating tools, so he’s going below the belt to get to Phoenix. 
And thank goodness for Gordon’s inevitable return, because it allows for the dreamers to dream. I’ve hoped for new knowledge on the court before; the Warriors capitulated to the Old Order and built a Pure Point Guard/Scoring 2 Guard lineup instead continuing to try to synthesize Elliscurry. The Bucks are in a trial period, but Scott Skiles doesn’t seem the type to embrace the possibility of a Synthesized Backcourt. Ellis is an unrestricted free agent next year, and most expect him to leave. The Thunder still have the best chance of finding the mystical balance by playing Westbrook and Harden 30 or so minutes together and sharing evenly and logically (but novelly) the three relevant backcourt responsibilities (primary PnR ballhandling, scoring, facilitating). Scott Brooks has shown consistently that he’s squeamish about looking for that new knowledge, though, and I expect Harden to come off the bench again next year.
But then on Draft night the Hornets took, and tantalized with, Austin Rivers. Rivers’s pre-Draft analysis tilted largely negative; even Chad Ford’s confidence that Rivers could be “a good teammate” trended low, and Ford’s job is basically to be bullish on prospects. The “good teammate” label sticks to players who fill altruistic Old Order roles—tenacious defenders, pass-first point guards—and combo guards coming into the draft always get tsk-tsked for scoring and dribbling so darn much.
Rivers’s NBA pedigree (Doc Rivers has been elevated to shaman status at this point; haven’t you heard? The Celtic “culture” is going to make Jeff Green above average) and polished off-the-dribble game, though, convinced the Hornets to overlook his combo guardness and take him 10th.
Both Gordon and Rivers are PnR ballhandlers; Gordon is a shooter, Rivers more of an isolation creator. Monty Williams is a smart coach who gets his guys to play hard and buy in. A Rivers-Gordon backcourt could be the duo that elevates the combo guard deviancy into new basketball concepts.
But there’s more than just the backcourt in New Orleans. There’s Anthony Davis (19 years old) and Ryan Anderson (24). There’s some chatter that Davis and Anderson are redundant, two power forwards, but I suspect the Hornets realize that eventually, in a smaller, quicker NBA that exists largely without post play, Anthony Davis will be the team’s rim protector. Anderson, in that case, is perfect because he’ll create space and a release valve for a backcourt looking to attack off the PnR. 
More abstractly, though, that four and their creative coach—Rivers, Gordon, Davis, Anderson, and Monty Williams—will come closest to what we might call Mystical Basketball. FreeDarko called it the Positional Revolution, and others took that concept and made it more technical.
Mystical Basketball is a simplification and hallowing of those concepts. I conceptualize Mystical Basketball to be, simply: 5 players on the court, all of whom can do everything, both defensively and offensively. I call it Mystical Basketball because if every player can do everything, there would be no way to explain or break it down. There would be no tendencies, matchup problems, sets designed to work to certain guys’ strengths; there would simply be a blob of size and skill gobbling the other team. 
Mystical Basketball is unattainable, obviously, so the idea is to get as close to that state as possible. A Synthesized combo-guard backcourt means that both guards can and are doing everything that a backcourt does, rather than distributing specific responsibilities; a Stretch-4 is a big man-perimeter player hybrid by definition. And Anthony Davis, if all goes according to plan, is a rim protector who will also close out on perimeter shooters and shuffle laterally above the three-point line in PnR defense. These Theoretical Hornets, by my estimation, would be the most versatile team in the league and thus the most Mystical. If all four players develop positively, they would be more Mystical than the reigning champs of both Mystical Basketball and NBA Basketball, LeBron James’s Heat.
The signs are all around us. The rise of the Stretch 4, the incessant switching on defense, the shortening of big men and the tallening of perimeter players, the constantly improving state of ballhandling in the league, the widening array of PnR ballhandlers and PnR roll men.
The Hornets are young, impressionable, and tabala rasa. I hope to see them build something entirely new.
-greg

Eric Gordon is not happy about his restricted free agency. We should expect Gordon to stay put. His situation probably feels more hopeless than it is, since his fury and insult smacks of negotiation more than sincere emotional pain. He is now out of legitimate negotiating tools, so he’s going below the belt to get to Phoenix. 

And thank goodness for Gordon’s inevitable return, because it allows for the dreamers to dream. I’ve hoped for new knowledge on the court before; the Warriors capitulated to the Old Order and built a Pure Point Guard/Scoring 2 Guard lineup instead continuing to try to synthesize Elliscurry. The Bucks are in a trial period, but Scott Skiles doesn’t seem the type to embrace the possibility of a Synthesized Backcourt. Ellis is an unrestricted free agent next year, and most expect him to leave. The Thunder still have the best chance of finding the mystical balance by playing Westbrook and Harden 30 or so minutes together and sharing evenly and logically (but novelly) the three relevant backcourt responsibilities (primary PnR ballhandling, scoring, facilitating). Scott Brooks has shown consistently that he’s squeamish about looking for that new knowledge, though, and I expect Harden to come off the bench again next year.

But then on Draft night the Hornets took, and tantalized with, Austin Rivers. Rivers’s pre-Draft analysis tilted largely negative; even Chad Ford’s confidence that Rivers could be “a good teammate” trended low, and Ford’s job is basically to be bullish on prospects. The “good teammate” label sticks to players who fill altruistic Old Order roles—tenacious defenders, pass-first point guards—and combo guards coming into the draft always get tsk-tsked for scoring and dribbling so darn much.

Rivers’s NBA pedigree (Doc Rivers has been elevated to shaman status at this point; haven’t you heard? The Celtic “culture” is going to make Jeff Green above average) and polished off-the-dribble game, though, convinced the Hornets to overlook his combo guardness and take him 10th.

Both Gordon and Rivers are PnR ballhandlers; Gordon is a shooter, Rivers more of an isolation creator. Monty Williams is a smart coach who gets his guys to play hard and buy in. A Rivers-Gordon backcourt could be the duo that elevates the combo guard deviancy into new basketball concepts.

But there’s more than just the backcourt in New Orleans. There’s Anthony Davis (19 years old) and Ryan Anderson (24). There’s some chatter that Davis and Anderson are redundant, two power forwards, but I suspect the Hornets realize that eventually, in a smaller, quicker NBA that exists largely without post play, Anthony Davis will be the team’s rim protector. Anderson, in that case, is perfect because he’ll create space and a release valve for a backcourt looking to attack off the PnR. 

More abstractly, though, that four and their creative coach—Rivers, Gordon, Davis, Anderson, and Monty Williams—will come closest to what we might call Mystical Basketball. FreeDarko called it the Positional Revolution, and others took that concept and made it more technical.

Mystical Basketball is a simplification and hallowing of those concepts. I conceptualize Mystical Basketball to be, simply: 5 players on the court, all of whom can do everything, both defensively and offensively. I call it Mystical Basketball because if every player can do everything, there would be no way to explain or break it down. There would be no tendencies, matchup problems, sets designed to work to certain guys’ strengths; there would simply be a blob of size and skill gobbling the other team. 

Mystical Basketball is unattainable, obviously, so the idea is to get as close to that state as possible. A Synthesized combo-guard backcourt means that both guards can and are doing everything that a backcourt does, rather than distributing specific responsibilities; a Stretch-4 is a big man-perimeter player hybrid by definition. And Anthony Davis, if all goes according to plan, is a rim protector who will also close out on perimeter shooters and shuffle laterally above the three-point line in PnR defense. These Theoretical Hornets, by my estimation, would be the most versatile team in the league and thus the most Mystical. If all four players develop positively, they would be more Mystical than the reigning champs of both Mystical Basketball and NBA Basketball, LeBron James’s Heat.

The signs are all around us. The rise of the Stretch 4, the incessant switching on defense, the shortening of big men and the tallening of perimeter players, the constantly improving state of ballhandling in the league, the widening array of PnR ballhandlers and PnR roll men.

The Hornets are young, impressionable, and tabala rasa. I hope to see them build something entirely new.

-greg

Jul 05

Here’s the first episode of Mount Dikembe’s Matrix Podcast. In this ep, Chris and I redraft the 2008 draft class, up to like 20 players (plus honorable mentions). 
We’re still figuring out the process, so if you’ve got headphones, use ‘em. In the future, we promise clearer audio and better levels. 
Listen here
To download, right click, etc.
Length: ~40 min
Theme: Father’s Children — “Kohoutek”
-greg

Here’s the first episode of Mount Dikembe’s Matrix Podcast. In this ep, Chris and I redraft the 2008 draft class, up to like 20 players (plus honorable mentions). 

We’re still figuring out the process, so if you’ve got headphones, use ‘em. In the future, we promise clearer audio and better levels. 

Listen here

To download, right click, etc.

Length: ~40 min

Theme: Father’s Children — “Kohoutek”

-greg

Jul 01

Relating to sports and sports figures can churn a stable self-identity into mash. Who can we claim to be if we invest ourselves in sports? If we do it after work to unwind, it’s easy to feel that our life is bad. At that point, how is sports functionally different from popping pills, other than the fact that sports doesn’t harm us and thus the addiction may not seem like one?
Some fans were athletes themselves, college or high school or semi-pro, and they see themselves in the athletes. That’s sad. The reality hovering among that fan’s beer-and-couch milieu is that this is wallowing, self-pity. Also, delusion: You probably can’t jump as high as Adam Morrison.
Some sports fans love their game intrinsically. They enjoy understanding its intricacies and often try to elevate that activity, as if it’s an end in itself. It is not; it’s a lark at best. Any reasonably intelligent person can do it if they put the time in. With access to experience—your dad is college coach, or something like that—you can be an expert. These facts explode the illusion that X-and-O expertise is valuable as an endpoint. Understanding this can be an end. Understanding and internalizing this can also be an end in itself. Not understanding basketball, though.
What sports gives us are actors in conflict over a goal. In other words, it’s a story. In the NBA, there’s a grand, progressive story—each game in the regular season has low stakes but stakes nonetheless, and each game closer to the Finals is a little more dramatic than the one before until we reach those Finals. Some people watch them because sports give us a compelling story, and humans love a good story.
The general modes of fandom, then:
1) Wasting time;
2) Relating to athletes;
3) Understanding the game;
4) Observing drama.
I’ve tipped my hand, somewhat, by bashing the first three. But the reason I believe conceptualizing sports as drama is primary is that the first three depend on the fourth. Those people who want to kill time can kill time in a lot of ways—they can watch movies, play cards, or fix cars. But sports is their chosen time-waster because it holds their attention. Would they watch sports if nobody kept score? I say they would instead fix cars or something. 
When I watch the masterpiece Heat, I think I should have gone to the police academy. That’s a ridiculous notion. But stories often convince us that we want not to simply observe but participate in the drama. My organized basketball experience is minimal, but even just as a pickup player, I see myself on the Knicks or Heat. I can’t imagine how being a top high school or small college player, now punching a clock, would warp my sense of empathy. I suspect that athletes’ fetishization of the “competition” concept fills the same space that my naive fetishization of policework does. 
The more I watch Heat, the more I love it; I begin to pick up on little things that enrich the experience of the movie. This is a common experience, and it’s what makes a die-hard. The question is, what brought me to Michael Mann (or basketball) at first? The drama. This would seem to privilege mode #4 over #3.
Once we understand the intricacies of a sport, the drama of spectating pops even more. If we know Wade loves scurrying away from the screen, and some second-year, overzealous knucklehead overcommits to fighting through the screen, we can all in real time realize: Dwyane’s about to be by that kid and then launch at the rim. If we know who has help responsibility, we’ll flash our eyes to that man. If it’s a slow-footed big, we might get excited because there’s a dunk or acrobatic And-1 coming. If it’s Tyson Chandler, we might get still more excited, waiting for a virtuoso, mid-air mini-drama. The fan whose excitement is only tickled by the score won’t feel the game nearly the same way that the diehard will.
So #3 and #4 actually work together to increase our enjoyment. By understanding the game intricately, we build characters. Hollinger’s scouting reports are Sparknotes character biographies. By understanding strategy and rules, we’re understanding the parameters of the narrative world, just like we might understand where Sartre’s coming from if we read the philosophy and take that knowledge to his plays or novels.
In short, understanding the game isn’t an end in itself—it services our appetite for narrative. 
-greg

Relating to sports and sports figures can churn a stable self-identity into mash. Who can we claim to be if we invest ourselves in sports? If we do it after work to unwind, it’s easy to feel that our life is bad. At that point, how is sports functionally different from popping pills, other than the fact that sports doesn’t harm us and thus the addiction may not seem like one?

Some fans were athletes themselves, college or high school or semi-pro, and they see themselves in the athletes. That’s sad. The reality hovering among that fan’s beer-and-couch milieu is that this is wallowing, self-pity. Also, delusion: You probably can’t jump as high as Adam Morrison.

Some sports fans love their game intrinsically. They enjoy understanding its intricacies and often try to elevate that activity, as if it’s an end in itself. It is not; it’s a lark at best. Any reasonably intelligent person can do it if they put the time in. With access to experience—your dad is college coach, or something like that—you can be an expert. These facts explode the illusion that X-and-O expertise is valuable as an endpoint. Understanding this can be an end. Understanding and internalizing this can also be an end in itself. Not understanding basketball, though.

What sports gives us are actors in conflict over a goal. In other words, it’s a story. In the NBA, there’s a grand, progressive story—each game in the regular season has low stakes but stakes nonetheless, and each game closer to the Finals is a little more dramatic than the one before until we reach those Finals. Some people watch them because sports give us a compelling story, and humans love a good story.

The general modes of fandom, then:

1) Wasting time;

2) Relating to athletes;

3) Understanding the game;

4) Observing drama.

I’ve tipped my hand, somewhat, by bashing the first three. But the reason I believe conceptualizing sports as drama is primary is that the first three depend on the fourth. Those people who want to kill time can kill time in a lot of ways—they can watch movies, play cards, or fix cars. But sports is their chosen time-waster because it holds their attention. Would they watch sports if nobody kept score? I say they would instead fix cars or something. 

When I watch the masterpiece Heat, I think I should have gone to the police academy. That’s a ridiculous notion. But stories often convince us that we want not to simply observe but participate in the drama. My organized basketball experience is minimal, but even just as a pickup player, I see myself on the Knicks or Heat. I can’t imagine how being a top high school or small college player, now punching a clock, would warp my sense of empathy. I suspect that athletes’ fetishization of the “competition” concept fills the same space that my naive fetishization of policework does. 

The more I watch Heat, the more I love it; I begin to pick up on little things that enrich the experience of the movie. This is a common experience, and it’s what makes a die-hard. The question is, what brought me to Michael Mann (or basketball) at first? The drama. This would seem to privilege mode #4 over #3.

Once we understand the intricacies of a sport, the drama of spectating pops even more. If we know Wade loves scurrying away from the screen, and some second-year, overzealous knucklehead overcommits to fighting through the screen, we can all in real time realize: Dwyane’s about to be by that kid and then launch at the rim. If we know who has help responsibility, we’ll flash our eyes to that man. If it’s a slow-footed big, we might get excited because there’s a dunk or acrobatic And-1 coming. If it’s Tyson Chandler, we might get still more excited, waiting for a virtuoso, mid-air mini-drama. The fan whose excitement is only tickled by the score won’t feel the game nearly the same way that the diehard will.

So #3 and #4 actually work together to increase our enjoyment. By understanding the game intricately, we build characters. Hollinger’s scouting reports are Sparknotes character biographies. By understanding strategy and rules, we’re understanding the parameters of the narrative world, just like we might understand where Sartre’s coming from if we read the philosophy and take that knowledge to his plays or novels.

In short, understanding the game isn’t an end in itself—it services our appetite for narrative. 

-greg

Jun 30

Personal Pan Power Ranking: Draft Edition is third in a series of pizza topping- and NBA-themed power rankings. A Personal Pan ‘Za only has four slices, probably (has an adult ever ordered one? I’m trying to remember my childhood), so this feature ranks only four things.
Personal Pan Power Rankings #1
Personal Pan Power Rankings #2
#4: Andre Drummond (Drafted 9 to Pistons)
The draft analysis surrounding Drummond focused so much on his physical profile and the “high risk/high reward” aspect such that only teams probably thought about who he could really turn into as a player. There’s the Amare Stoudemire/Dwight Howard thing, both of which are silly. Early Amare played with one eye toward the basket at all times. Drummond will never roll to the rim as purposefully as Amare did, simply because so few do and because Drummond doesn’t get off on maiming; his on-court personality grows out of his love, not a desire to terrorize. 
He loves to pass the ball—and at 18 he showed himself to be a clever college passer. Combined with his well-documented (and pejoratively documented) desire to play on the perimeter too much (an overstated problem that Jim Calhoun rooted out of him somewhat with profanity, benchings, and windsprints), Drummond could snatch a little of Boris Diaw’s game as he gets older and develops chemistry with Greg Monroe (another smart, skilled player). He’ll always smash it through when the ball’s within a few feet of the rim, and his aggression on the offensive boards will always be an asset. 
Defensively, it will take a while for him to protect the rim and see the floor, and he’ll never be Dwight Howard. In college, he often got lost in rotations and his help D was lackluster. With coaching, though, he’ll play Tyson Chandler-level PnR D. As soon as NBA coaches get his footwork and mind in order, there will be no PnR coverage that will truly test his lateral quickness. Like, he’ll chase LeBron James and Dwyane Wade around the perimeter, then recover like a demon.
As one package: a mobile defensive player whose rim protection may never be as good as fans might want, and a complementary offensive player who sees the floor and loves to make team plays. Ironically, then, I’m quite certain that he categorically will not be a boom-bust guy, but instead an interesting and quality big man on a good team. Detroit could have an interesting future ahead of them with their fearless bulldog backcourt and more cerebral frontcourt, a reversal of the usual court-personality alignment that can lead to some very interesting high-post-centered sets from a smart coach like Lawrence Frank.
This is all down the road, though. Drummond’s going to be a mess next year, head-in-the-clouds type of stuff.
Counterintuitive pizza topping: Pancetta—looks like bacon, but so much more interesting than you first thought
#3: Terrence Ross (Drafted 8 to Raptors)
As the Raptor brass said: Shoots 3s, defends the wing, doesn’t need the ball. That’s a starting player on a good team. How’s that a reach again, at 8?
Uninteresting but extremely important, fundamental at this point, really, pizza topping: Red sauce
#2: Perrence Jones III (28 to Thunder)
Perry Jones as a stretch 4 on the Thunder’s second unit can be scary. With three facilitators in Maynor, Harden, and Collison, Jones will be able to cut to the rim, get open shots on Harden drives, take slower second unit 4s off the dribble, and run the floor and finish in transition. Eventually, he may be able to do a little Lamar Odom point forward stuff of his own. Frankly, I think he can become comfortable and effective in that role by next year, as long as the knee thing isn’t dire.
Lower your expectations and it can actually be a darn effective pizza topping: Sausage and peppers
#1: Harrison Barnes (7 to Warriors)
People don’t like Harry Barnes because he’s basketball-insecure. He’s got all manner of skills, but he’s practiced them in a vacuum and he thinks too much; he’s a teenager trying out pickup lines in the mirror before the party. He’s uncool. His team/branding smacks of helicopter parents arranging social outings with other kids. 
Think of the space he’ll have, though. Curry: shooter; Thompson: shooter; Lee: mid-range shooter. Barnes should be able to pull off the jab-steps, fadeaways, and other isolation mid-range moves with a lot of room. On top of that, he’ll be able to lube up the offense by spotting up. He’s coachable and smart. He’s big and athletic enough to defend the wing.
If Bogut and Curry stay healthy, the Warriors are a low playoff team next year with room to grow.
Uncool pizza that nevertheless is delish: Cheese
-greg

Personal Pan Power Ranking: Draft Edition is third in a series of pizza topping- and NBA-themed power rankings. A Personal Pan ‘Za only has four slices, probably (has an adult ever ordered one? I’m trying to remember my childhood), so this feature ranks only four things.

Personal Pan Power Rankings #1

Personal Pan Power Rankings #2

#4: Andre Drummond (Drafted 9 to Pistons)

The draft analysis surrounding Drummond focused so much on his physical profile and the “high risk/high reward” aspect such that only teams probably thought about who he could really turn into as a player. There’s the Amare Stoudemire/Dwight Howard thing, both of which are silly. Early Amare played with one eye toward the basket at all times. Drummond will never roll to the rim as purposefully as Amare did, simply because so few do and because Drummond doesn’t get off on maiming; his on-court personality grows out of his love, not a desire to terrorize. 

He loves to pass the ball—and at 18 he showed himself to be a clever college passer. Combined with his well-documented (and pejoratively documented) desire to play on the perimeter too much (an overstated problem that Jim Calhoun rooted out of him somewhat with profanity, benchings, and windsprints), Drummond could snatch a little of Boris Diaw’s game as he gets older and develops chemistry with Greg Monroe (another smart, skilled player). He’ll always smash it through when the ball’s within a few feet of the rim, and his aggression on the offensive boards will always be an asset. 

Defensively, it will take a while for him to protect the rim and see the floor, and he’ll never be Dwight Howard. In college, he often got lost in rotations and his help D was lackluster. With coaching, though, he’ll play Tyson Chandler-level PnR D. As soon as NBA coaches get his footwork and mind in order, there will be no PnR coverage that will truly test his lateral quickness. Like, he’ll chase LeBron James and Dwyane Wade around the perimeter, then recover like a demon.

As one package: a mobile defensive player whose rim protection may never be as good as fans might want, and a complementary offensive player who sees the floor and loves to make team plays. Ironically, then, I’m quite certain that he categorically will not be a boom-bust guy, but instead an interesting and quality big man on a good team. Detroit could have an interesting future ahead of them with their fearless bulldog backcourt and more cerebral frontcourt, a reversal of the usual court-personality alignment that can lead to some very interesting high-post-centered sets from a smart coach like Lawrence Frank.

This is all down the road, though. Drummond’s going to be a mess next year, head-in-the-clouds type of stuff.

Counterintuitive pizza topping: Pancetta—looks like bacon, but so much more interesting than you first thought

#3: Terrence Ross (Drafted 8 to Raptors)

As the Raptor brass said: Shoots 3s, defends the wing, doesn’t need the ball. That’s a starting player on a good team. How’s that a reach again, at 8?

Uninteresting but extremely important, fundamental at this point, really, pizza topping: Red sauce

#2: Perrence Jones III (28 to Thunder)

Perry Jones as a stretch 4 on the Thunder’s second unit can be scary. With three facilitators in Maynor, Harden, and Collison, Jones will be able to cut to the rim, get open shots on Harden drives, take slower second unit 4s off the dribble, and run the floor and finish in transition. Eventually, he may be able to do a little Lamar Odom point forward stuff of his own. Frankly, I think he can become comfortable and effective in that role by next year, as long as the knee thing isn’t dire.

Lower your expectations and it can actually be a darn effective pizza topping: Sausage and peppers

#1: Harrison Barnes (7 to Warriors)

People don’t like Harry Barnes because he’s basketball-insecure. He’s got all manner of skills, but he’s practiced them in a vacuum and he thinks too much; he’s a teenager trying out pickup lines in the mirror before the party. He’s uncool. His team/branding smacks of helicopter parents arranging social outings with other kids. 

Think of the space he’ll have, though. Curry: shooter; Thompson: shooter; Lee: mid-range shooter. Barnes should be able to pull off the jab-steps, fadeaways, and other isolation mid-range moves with a lot of room. On top of that, he’ll be able to lube up the offense by spotting up. He’s coachable and smart. He’s big and athletic enough to defend the wing.

If Bogut and Curry stay healthy, the Warriors are a low playoff team next year with room to grow.

Uncool pizza that nevertheless is delish: Cheese

-greg

Jun 22

Previous posts about James as religious figure
That little light above LeBron James’s head?
That’s his headband, beginning to become his halo.
Amen!

Previous posts about James as religious figure

That little light above LeBron James’s head?

That’s his headband, beginning to become his halo.

Amen!

Jun 20

Several people this morning have commented on LeBron James’s post game during these Finals, especially after last night, when his ability to back down whoever guarded him won Game 4 for his team.
I’ve said in this space that perhaps Mr. James is the Basketball Messiah. His ability to take on all responsibilities and subsequently succeed in carrying them out is a basketball miracle, after all. The one and only true Elevated Role Player, a player taking unto him the meek, poor, underprivileged banner of “role player” and ennobling all role players before him Him. 
To watch Him dig down dirty in the low post last night is to see Basketball Virtue in its most obvious, primal form. Backing down, His disciples all scurried away from Him; all the responsibility on the court settles on his shoulders as four men squeeze onto the other side of the floor. They look on now, purely reactive to Him and His will; He will lead them.
He backs down His particular Pilate (whether it’s Westbrook, Sefolosha, or Harden). If the help is late, He might spin left shoulder and shoot the righty jump hook. Or, He might face up and take His man off the dribble (harkening back to his past life as a carpenter/perimeter slasher). He often, like the most wonderful post players, will shoot, miss, and immediately swallow up his own rebound. He doesn’t miss the second opportunities. 
But He also gives unto others. His pinpoint passes to shooters are never off target, and, unlike early in the series, they aren’t too early. At times in these playoffs He would find the open shooters, but He was not taking on enough of the help D to really free those shooters. He’s learned now He must attract full responsibility in the form of a true help defender, a true double team. He must put himself at extreme risk; He must take unto himself the burden of making a more difficult jump pass, or a more difficult pass through four arms and hands rather than two. His disciples—weaker men, frailer men, but men (says Mr. James with His passes) worthy of praise and love from their Leader—need more guidance. And He now realizes exactly how to deliver them.
On top of this show of virtuoso low post altruism, there was the three-pointer, 97-94, that came while His body, so destroyed by all of the responsibility its Owner has taken on in these playoffs, rebelled against Him. “Just do a little more, just take on even more!” And He did.
Much has been made by non-believers of Mr. James’s halo. Little do they realize that next year, that headband may finally be floating above His head. 
Amen.
-greg

Several people this morning have commented on LeBron James’s post game during these Finals, especially after last night, when his ability to back down whoever guarded him won Game 4 for his team.

I’ve said in this space that perhaps Mr. James is the Basketball Messiah. His ability to take on all responsibilities and subsequently succeed in carrying them out is a basketball miracle, after all. The one and only true Elevated Role Player, a player taking unto him the meek, poor, underprivileged banner of “role player” and ennobling all role players before him Him. 

To watch Him dig down dirty in the low post last night is to see Basketball Virtue in its most obvious, primal form. Backing down, His disciples all scurried away from Him; all the responsibility on the court settles on his shoulders as four men squeeze onto the other side of the floor. They look on now, purely reactive to Him and His will; He will lead them.

He backs down His particular Pilate (whether it’s Westbrook, Sefolosha, or Harden). If the help is late, He might spin left shoulder and shoot the righty jump hook. Or, He might face up and take His man off the dribble (harkening back to his past life as a carpenter/perimeter slasher). He often, like the most wonderful post players, will shoot, miss, and immediately swallow up his own rebound. He doesn’t miss the second opportunities. 

But He also gives unto others. His pinpoint passes to shooters are never off target, and, unlike early in the series, they aren’t too early. At times in these playoffs He would find the open shooters, but He was not taking on enough of the help D to really free those shooters. He’s learned now He must attract full responsibility in the form of a true help defender, a true double team. He must put himself at extreme risk; He must take unto himself the burden of making a more difficult jump pass, or a more difficult pass through four arms and hands rather than two. His disciples—weaker men, frailer men, but men (says Mr. James with His passes) worthy of praise and love from their Leader—need more guidance. And He now realizes exactly how to deliver them.

On top of this show of virtuoso low post altruism, there was the three-pointer, 97-94, that came while His body, so destroyed by all of the responsibility its Owner has taken on in these playoffs, rebelled against Him. “Just do a little more, just take on even more!” And He did.

Much has been made by non-believers of Mr. James’s halo. Little do they realize that next year, that headband may finally be floating above His head. 

Amen.

-greg

Jun 18

LeBron James’s particular method of brand management, particular set of basketball insecurities, and particular set of basketball skills combine to create and then erase how we, the observers, feel about him. This is true of every NBA player to some extent, but Mr. James changes our minds more often than any other cat. And it must be emphasized: It’s not our fault that Mr. James has dragged on his back so many different narrative constructions—-it is strictly speaking “his” fault. As I’ve pointed out before, more than once, I don’t mean that as a condemnation, I simply mean that he exists as a bundle of characteristics integrated in a specific way, and that that bundle of characteristics interacts with others on the basketball court in specific ways. In Cleveland, he interacted with bad players and an uncreative offensive coach and went from phenom to fun-loving machine to lone warrior. Simultaneously, he went from tabula rasa in the clutch, to amazing in the clutch, to neurotic in the clutch in the 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals. In Miami, we have registered several new shifts. 
Our current view of him is one to treasure if you’re a human who believes trying to be positive is important for his own well-being. Mr. James through three games in this series, and really through his last five games, plays a comprehensive game. To see him acclimate to that fact—that necessity—is inspiring. It was particularly inspiring to see him in his 43rd and 44th minute of Game 3 pushing Kevin Durant up higher and higher toward midcourt while Russell Westbrook looked on waiting to make an entry pass but mostly just watching Mr. James defeat Durant fair and square. Mr. James has become such an elevated role player for Miami that perhaps he is the first real Elevated Role Player (thus demanding a coinage). If a role player has a few responsibilities and simply carries out those responsibilities, then Mr. James has taken on every responsibility and simply carries them all out. He defends the best player at the most important times; he is the best rebounder on the floor; he alone is the Heat’s transition offense (in that semi-transition where the only victory for OKC can come when he doesn’t snatch the and-1 on top of the layup); he shoots spot-up threes; he is the team’s post presence; he is the team’s best pick and roll ball handler, finding angles no other quality PnR player can find since he can look down on the play (he made one of these bird’s eye passes to Bosh on a PnR that was typical James—impossible for everyone else, but not flashy enough for us to respect its uniqueness). And all of this is done without any bad shots, few turnovers, and barely any wasted motion. Finally he is leveraging both his physical gifts and his mental gifts to do exactly what the Heat need, exactly when they need it. Derek Fisher and Robert Horry—the prototypical role players—were often in the right place at the right time; Mr. James—the only Elevated Role Player—is in the right place at the right time all the time. If he were to play even better than in these playoffs, and I have a hard time conceiving of that, he would make us understand the Basketball Singularity, or some other such transcendent mysticism that we can now only think of as shapeless hokum.
To see Mr. James play these days is think that he isn’t just a Holy Warrior but perhaps the Basketball Messiah. 
I hope that he doesn’t force us to change our view of him like he has so many other times; insofar as a title would “lock in” this particular iteration of Mr. James, I’m rooting for the Heat to win.
-greg

LeBron James’s particular method of brand management, particular set of basketball insecurities, and particular set of basketball skills combine to create and then erase how we, the observers, feel about him. This is true of every NBA player to some extent, but Mr. James changes our minds more often than any other cat. And it must be emphasized: It’s not our fault that Mr. James has dragged on his back so many different narrative constructions—-it is strictly speaking “his” fault. As I’ve pointed out before, more than once, I don’t mean that as a condemnation, I simply mean that he exists as a bundle of characteristics integrated in a specific way, and that that bundle of characteristics interacts with others on the basketball court in specific ways. In Cleveland, he interacted with bad players and an uncreative offensive coach and went from phenom to fun-loving machine to lone warrior. Simultaneously, he went from tabula rasa in the clutch, to amazing in the clutch, to neurotic in the clutch in the 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals. In Miami, we have registered several new shifts. 

Our current view of him is one to treasure if you’re a human who believes trying to be positive is important for his own well-being. Mr. James through three games in this series, and really through his last five games, plays a comprehensive game. To see him acclimate to that fact—that necessity—is inspiring. It was particularly inspiring to see him in his 43rd and 44th minute of Game 3 pushing Kevin Durant up higher and higher toward midcourt while Russell Westbrook looked on waiting to make an entry pass but mostly just watching Mr. James defeat Durant fair and square. Mr. James has become such an elevated role player for Miami that perhaps he is the first real Elevated Role Player (thus demanding a coinage). If a role player has a few responsibilities and simply carries out those responsibilities, then Mr. James has taken on every responsibility and simply carries them all out. He defends the best player at the most important times; he is the best rebounder on the floor; he alone is the Heat’s transition offense (in that semi-transition where the only victory for OKC can come when he doesn’t snatch the and-1 on top of the layup); he shoots spot-up threes; he is the team’s post presence; he is the team’s best pick and roll ball handler, finding angles no other quality PnR player can find since he can look down on the play (he made one of these bird’s eye passes to Bosh on a PnR that was typical James—impossible for everyone else, but not flashy enough for us to respect its uniqueness). And all of this is done without any bad shots, few turnovers, and barely any wasted motion. Finally he is leveraging both his physical gifts and his mental gifts to do exactly what the Heat need, exactly when they need it. Derek Fisher and Robert Horry—the prototypical role players—were often in the right place at the right time; Mr. James—the only Elevated Role Player—is in the right place at the right time all the time. If he were to play even better than in these playoffs, and I have a hard time conceiving of that, he would make us understand the Basketball Singularity, or some other such transcendent mysticism that we can now only think of as shapeless hokum.

To see Mr. James play these days is think that he isn’t just a Holy Warrior but perhaps the Basketball Messiah. 

I hope that he doesn’t force us to change our view of him like he has so many other times; insofar as a title would “lock in” this particular iteration of Mr. James, I’m rooting for the Heat to win.

-greg

Jun 14

Previous post on the Kobego
It’s inevitable, as we all should expect by now, that the Kobego would force itself into the NBA Finals. 
This J.A. Adande piece prompts another update on the functioning of the Kobego. Kevin Durant is in the midst of determining several outcomes:
1) Who is the best player in the NBA? If Durant and the Thunder win, is he the best player in the world?
2) How do you build a team? If Durant and the Thunder win, is the draft superior to free agency in building a team?
3) Is Durant going to match Jordan? If this is the start of a string of several NBA titles, by the time he is 30 is Durant in the conversation?
There are many sub-stories Durant is partially responsible for determining, as well. Is Russ Westbrook Basketball-Good or Basketball-Evil? Is LeBron still incapable in the clutch and all of that mess? 
Again, from the Adande piece:

The one thing Kevin Durant lacks is a means of defining himself, of setting the parameters for which he should be described. It’s always a generic “better.” He wants to ascend to huge heights, but he’s never named a specific mountain he desires to scale.
When Kobe Bryant entered the NBA, it was clear that Michael Jordan was both his template and target. Maybe that’s why Kobe’s the closest thing to Jordan. Since Kobe is so good at specifics, we should let him describe what the ultimate manifestation of Durant could be.
"A 6-11 me," Bryant said.

And just like that, the Kobego, stretched over it all, filtering and mediating everything, makes itself obvious for a split second. By positing that Durant is Teleological Kobe Bryant, the Kobego asserts to observers that it is still governing it all. All those stories Durant is supposedly “deciding” or “determining” are still impossible to decide or determine without the Kobego, sitting in its center tower of the Panapticon, interpreting and transforming the stories before they reach us. 
-greg

Previous post on the Kobego

It’s inevitable, as we all should expect by now, that the Kobego would force itself into the NBA Finals. 

This J.A. Adande piece prompts another update on the functioning of the Kobego. Kevin Durant is in the midst of determining several outcomes:

1) Who is the best player in the NBA? If Durant and the Thunder win, is he the best player in the world?

2) How do you build a team? If Durant and the Thunder win, is the draft superior to free agency in building a team?

3) Is Durant going to match Jordan? If this is the start of a string of several NBA titles, by the time he is 30 is Durant in the conversation?

There are many sub-stories Durant is partially responsible for determining, as well. Is Russ Westbrook Basketball-Good or Basketball-Evil? Is LeBron still incapable in the clutch and all of that mess? 

Again, from the Adande piece:

The one thing Kevin Durant lacks is a means of defining himself, of setting the parameters for which he should be described. It’s always a generic “better.” He wants to ascend to huge heights, but he’s never named a specific mountain he desires to scale.

When Kobe Bryant entered the NBA, it was clear that Michael Jordan was both his template and target. Maybe that’s why Kobe’s the closest thing to Jordan. Since Kobe is so good at specifics, we should let him describe what the ultimate manifestation of Durant could be.

"A 6-11 me," Bryant said.

And just like that, the Kobego, stretched over it all, filtering and mediating everything, makes itself obvious for a split second. By positing that Durant is Teleological Kobe Bryant, the Kobego asserts to observers that it is still governing it all. All those stories Durant is supposedly “deciding” or “determining” are still impossible to decide or determine without the Kobego, sitting in its center tower of the Panapticon, interpreting and transforming the stories before they reach us. 

-greg