Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The System Works

I was caught watching USA Basketball last week. Women's basketball.

Well, not exactly. My job is to make DVD copies of certain TV broadcasts. These are used for a variety of things; scrapbooks, banquets, PowerPoints, broadcast training. I am the "reproduction of any part without the express written consent of the NBA is prohibited" guy. A pending request was in for the women's basketball gold game, and I was in the midst of filling the order. And I was entertained.

Ladies, playing round ball, is exciting in a way that is unparalleled. OK, besides Candace Parker. Detractors deride women's hoops by calling it an exercise in fundamentals, but miss the stunning efficiency of this display when played at the 99th percentile and excised from male athleticism. Every pass was on target, every cutter filled the lane appropriately. The fearful symmetry was at work, and the Aussies had no chance. I now see how David Stern was hoodwinked into the creation of the WNBA.

(The problem with the WNBA is this: Only 1% of its athletes can perform these skills at 99% efficiency, 99% of the time. US Women's Basketball is a TEAM, the WNBA a LEAGUE. And like any league, the WNBA must find creative ways to hide the inadequacies of its imperfect 99%. In the NBA, athleticism fills in the gaps. Fans are too busy "WOW!"ing at a Lebron James jam to notice the traveling violation. In the WNBA...we are forced to embrace the damning humanism.)

I think Mike D'Antoni would make an excellent WNBA coach.

This is not meant as a knock on Mike, or the WNBA. You see, D'Antoni's creed is one of basketball communism. Every man is created equal. If the sum of the parts is greater than the whole, why not try to have each part work as interchangeable yet relational beings? One man leads the troupe (Nash/Felton/Lin), if only because someone needs to teach the kids how to share.
"The system works!" has been Mike D'Antoni's siren song. And he has every right to feel this way. The system worked in Italy, with Darryl Dawkins and Antonio Davis. It worked under Steve Nash's stewardship, and was only a Joe Johnson eye injury away from the NBA Finals. It gave Chris Duhon the team record for assists in a game, and Ray Felton new life (once he lost the baby fat). And it gave the world LINSANITY.

Mike D'Antoni is going to get canned, either today or mid-June, for the same reason that Hilton and Ruth Lucas got canceled by CBS. Creative differences. But when you say the phrase "creative differences" under your breath 10x fast, it sounds a lot like "irreconcilable differences."
D'Antoni is finding out - just as Karl Marx did years after the publication of his Communist Manifesto - that perfect communism is only possible in an utopian environment. Equality in action and purpose is unsustainable, especially in a NBA's "survival of the fittest" corporate structure. In his hoops infancy, Carmelo Anthony survived this threshing floor, and was rewarded with indoctrination. THE BEST PLAYER TAKES THE MOST SHOTS. (Just like Ewing, Bernard, and Clyde before him.) Worlds were going to collide. Mike D'Antoni's utopian vision was on a collision course with a brick wall.

Maybe Jeremy Lin is right. Perhaps Mike D'Antoni is an offensive genius. And perhaps, just as all creative geniuses, his time has not yet come.

- M.B., II

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