Huq’s Pen: Facebook and celebration

I did my undergraduate studies at the University of Texas at Austin so it’s only natural that almost half of my facebook social network resides in or is originally from Dallas.  The celebration of these people and their countrymen is what I had dreaded.  If you’re landing here from Google News or are just not from Texas, allow me to explain something: to say there is a rivalry between Houston and Dallas is an understatement.  There has not been such hatred between supposed siblings since Cain and Abel.  When discussion turns to the topic of basketball, after suffering derision for our team’s perpetual mediocrity, we Houston natives always had a trump card – our rings.  That is now gone.  That is what I had dreaded.

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I hope at some point in my life, for whatever reason, I get to experience whatever it was that Dirk Nowitzki was feeling after the buzzer sounded and he jogged straight to the lockerroom.  I really can’t imagine the feeling of penultimate triumph after dedicating over half of one’s life to a particular craft.  The best victory celebrations usually come in the form of similar situations: the all-time great capturing his first title; it’s usually characterized by a look of complete shock and confusion.  We saw it with Shaq.  Who can forget Hakeem sitting peacefully at the scorer’s table in ’94?  I couldn’t help but get choked up seeing Dirk, imagining what he felt; yes, Dirk, suddenly the most likable man in basketball.

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When LeBron James first entered the NBA (and even in the bizarre media circus that followed him around the year prior), the players to whom he found himself compared were of hilariously lofty statures, as the boy wonder often prompted questions like, “Is he more Michael or Magic?” and “Will he be the first since Oscar Robertson to average a triple-double?” What was even crazier was exactly how poorly any of these media/barroom-chatter-inspired labels fit on the ever-broadening shoulders of James, who quickly left fans wondering not just if he could one day be the league’s preeminent star, but rather if he could be the league’s greatest star ever (a conversation that has not so surprisingly risen up again in recent weeks).

LeBron did things too differently, made things look too easy at times and so much harder than they should have been at others; he was quite simply like nothing else any of us had ever seen prior to him, so the juxtapositions got even weirder (Charles Barkley, Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O’Neal, Thor) as his game evolved into some unexpected, semi-confusing blend of vision, violence and omnipresence. He seemed bigger than the sport so early, even as the rest of the world had to be prodded into caring about professional basketball as the Spurs and the Pistons of the world (or more accurately, the Spurs and the Pistons) battled it out for titles that no one who wasn’t a diehard was watching. Because of this, his has never been a comfortable place in world of sports radio talk and Deadspin: he didn’t win enough, he passed too often, he cared too much about the wrong things and too little about the right ones, he wasn’t Kobe and sure as hell wasn’t Mike. It was only this last summer, in an event that somehow became bigger than this sport, at least to the mass populace, that LeBron finally looked comfortable (while looking altogether uncomfortable) as himself. Not as a savior nor a villain; no, LeBron James evolved into what he had always been ready to become: a celebrity. More specifically, a celebrity of the 21st century. [read more…]

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On the NBA: The pathetic need for a foil

Before the season, and early during it, the man was Kevin Durant.  The former Longhorn represented ‘good’ on this earth because Kobe Bryant was too old to any longer do it; he represented ‘good’ because Lebron James was our ‘evil'; there had to be ‘good’ for there to be an ‘evil.’

Durant is gone, fishing or perhaps at home, biding his time until his day comes (or perhaps when Russell Westbrook is dealt for something resembling a competent NBA point guard.)  In the wake of the destruction, Dirk Nowitzki emerged, bringing his Mavericks to the Finals on the strength of one of the most impressive stretches of basketball ever played.

Dirk is great, a figure of whom discussion will be held for the next three decades, a likable man with an irreplicable repertoire; Red94 wholly endorses Dirk.

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The value of a center

Watching Tyson Chandler score 13 points and pull down 16 boards in last night’s affair, two thoughts immediately came to mind: a) how greatly would the course of history have been changed had the Rockets’ offer of Jared Jeffries for Chandler been accepted? and b) is it ludicrous to even dream of young Hasheem Thabeet reaching Chandler’s level?

Nowitzki got the praise, but last night, Chandler was the difference, playing goalie in a zone that stifled Lebron James and performing his role as the roll-man in pick&roll’s marvelously.  Watching this Dallas team, the value of a center is so glaringly apparent.  Sure they run good defenders in Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion, but Josh Howard and Devin Harris were no slouches in that department either; having Tyson Chandler in the middle allows Rick Carlisle to run whatever scheme he wants defensively.

Is it so preposterous to hope Thabeet can assume this level?  Per 36 minutes, in his rookie year, 8.9rpg and 2.4bpg.  Per 36, Thabeet averaged 9.9rpg and 3.6bpg.  Both players had defensive ratings of 105.  (One could argue of course that Chandler was a mere 19-year-old but he had still been playing the game longer than Thabeet.)  The greater concern is the variable that can’t be measured.  From what I recall, Chandler always had a motor.  I’m not sure Thabeet even has in him the scowling intensity Chandler has had on display through these playoffs.  As I’ve been arguing, if you’re the type that prays, pray for Hasheem Thabeet because the realization of no single other factor on this team would have a greater impact on this team’s future.  Tyson Chandler showed that last night.

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