05.19.07

Suns Set: NBA Western Conference Finals Set, Hateful To Face Weirdly Likable

Posted in Basketball at 12:04 am by

I know: why do the Western Conference Playoffs always have to be about me? Well, because Gerard’s out doing boss-type thangs, while I’m at home watching the NBA Playoffs and searching for ways to explain to my girlfriend why I say such terrible things about the Spurs.


“Didn’t Gregg Popovich used to coach at your alma mater?” she asked. “And wouldn’t it be impossible for him to eat your farts anyway?” The answer to the first part, inexplicably, is yes. The second part doesn’t matter, it’s the thought that counts. The Spurs efficiently, crushingly, suffocatingly, inexorably finished off the Suns tonight, 114-106. The specifics of the game can be seen on the other side of that link: a brilliant performance from Duncan (24 points, 12 rebounds, a staggering career-best 9 blocks), impressive steps-up from Tony Parker (30 points) and Manu Ginobili (above, 33 points, 11 rebounds, 4 steals, an oppressive omnipresence in every play that broke the Spurs’ way).

The Spurs spent some of the second half blowing out the Suns, a smaller portion of it blowing that lead — thanks in large part to an impressive showing by a pace-pushing Steve Nash, who scored 15 of his 18 points in the second six minutes of the fourth quarter — and most of the game just doing what they do. Which, I think I can now say, is playing hatefully efficient (if flop-intensive), undeniably effective, 100% soul-free, me-angering, fart-eating basketball. The Spurs’ brand of basketball is about as alluring as a Steve Phillips Bad Touch Example, and as fun to watch as…well, I hate to recycle the same reference, but as fun to watch as a commercial break-ridden airing of “Gymkata” on the USA Network. If I was ambivalent about my newfound fondness for the Utah Jazz, this pretty much seals it: I’m ready to get a Jeff Hornacek haircut and get my “U-T-A-H Utah Utah Utah” chant on in my living room. Because holy crap, I do not like these Spurs.

For fun, here are two takes on San Antonio, both predating tonight’s deathblow. The first is from Paul Shirley, at Slate. The second is from my friend Ben Polk, in an email. Big Shirl Says:

I can’t imagine how anyone could root for the Spurs. It would be like cheering for cancer. Of course, they’re really effective (unfortunately, so is cancer), but I don’t know if a roster of such easily disliked basketball players has ever been assembled. Tim Duncan might be one of the greatest players of all time, but the constant bug-eyed complaints and the mumps-cheeks make him borderline unwatchable. Manu Ginobili was one of my favorites when he played in Italy. Here, he seems determined to bring a soccer-style sissification of basketball”along with a strong belief in the power of the bald spot”to our shores. Tony Parker looks like Gargamel. And everybody knows that Gargamel is evil. Bruce Bowen’s dirty play is well-documented; his resemblance to Mr. Potato Head isn’t. Oberto plays like a dump truck, Elson couldn’t get off the bench when I played in Spain four years ago, and Robert Horry”while a hell of a good guy”seems to consistently play on my least favorite teams and then help those teams win in dramatic fashion.

And Ben, from an email. You will not get a more ambitious or broad-ranging critique of these Spurs, at least until they beat the Jazz in the next series. In which case I am going to get positively Zizekian on you. Anyway, Ben?

Its not that the games are boring–clearly they’re not what with all the late game comebacks–its that they’re joyless. They just sort of methodically squeeze the life out of you (and the dirty stuff is part of that–I noticed that Bowen either stuck his leg out or just totally put his arms around somebody’s waist on every pick set against him, fuck that guy) until suddenly your shots aren’t falling and you can’t quite get to their three-point shooters. Its just really depressing and inhuman-seeming and sort of reminds me of what the capitalist state does to poor people and anybody with a little vision and passion. To make the comparison even more direct, they’ve embodied the capitalist view of competition. not a beautiful struggle that enriches both competitors, but a crass tautology: winning justifies itself. And I know that pro sports does that anyway…but the Spurs strip it bare, nullify that sense of possibility generated by teams like the Suns or the Warriors or the Finnish national hockey team, that sense that possibly beautiful things are worth doing for their own sake. Fuck.

Anyway, Popp, see you at the reunion, dickhole. And that’s all the unbiased commentary I can come up with right now.

10 Responses to “Suns Set: NBA Western Conference Finals Set, Hateful To Face Weirdly Likable”

  1. Hot Shit Collage Student says:

    Jeff Hornacek’s haircut may be more of a statement against capitalism than you already know.

  2. Allan Smithee says:

    alright. Spurs advance.

  3. David R. says:

    David, bless you for vocalizing my thoughts on this skidmark of a team without resorting to the f-bomb barrage I was using last night in the comfort of my living room.

  4. David Roth says:

    Thanks, David. Not to pat myself on the back, but avoiding the f-barrage was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do as a writer. What’s odd to me is that I don’t remember disliking them this much, say, two years ago, when they were NBA champs. It’s this second act, that kind of unkillable-Michael-Myers bit they’re doing this year, that really pisses me off. They’ve won their championships, their way, and they deserve credit for that. Now I wish they would stop.

  5. Brushback says:

    Wow– someone actually made reference to the Finnish national hockey team?

  6. Timothy Polk says:

    Doesn’t everybody refer to the Finnish national hockey team? How else does one guage the beautiful? There’s mozart, the Suns (at moments, none of which are the final moments, apparently), and the Finnish national hockey team. I mean, hell’s bells, the boy wasn’t raided to be stupid.

  7. Timothy Polk says:

    Raised, that is.

  8. anita boyd says:

    So they find these immature guys who never grew up and write about them like they really matter. The Spurs are one great team and some people can’t except the pure experience and defensive attack that this team exhibits because it makes their team lose. You and I both know the Spurs are one of the most professional teams ever in basketball …just face it instead of making fools out of yourselves.

  9. David Roth says:

    I’m not sure about some of what you’re getting at, Anita, but I can, uh, “except” some of your criticisms. I’d never deny, for instance, and don’t deny anywhere in here, that the Spurs are probably the singular dynasty of the past decade — yeah, ahead of the Kobe/Shaq Lake-Show, which blew itself up in a way the Spurs never would — and that a large part of what I dislike about them is that they win. But they’re good, and I’d never say they weren’t, and I’d sure admit that they play a “purer,” if not more enjoyable or likable, brand of ball than the Warriors, say.

    They basically out-Suns-ed the Suns to amazing effect in Game 6, by simply and patiently moving the ball around the perimeter until open shots emerged and playing impressive defense. But in the all-time list of “most professional teams,” I’d say that 1) your criteria is a little unclear and 2) I’m not sure how they’d be more capable of playing for money than anyone else. The whining and flopping and crazy-eyed beseeching of the refs is kind of distasteful to me, obviously, but then again, that might be because I can see it. Whether they mean anything in a broader context is a matter of taste; whether they are likable is a matter of where you live and, again, taste. But just because they’re great doesn’t mean you have to like them.

  10. jessica says:

    anita boyd, if I wanted professional, I’d go to a board meeting. Do the Spurs save the world with their basketball? Cure cancer, AIDS? I think not. They play basketball, which at its best is a beautiful, lyrical expression of athleticism and teamwork.Why should anyone worship the way the Spurs play? They bore, and as such, they’re pointless – unless you can figure out how they’re going to save the world with that basketball. Then you’d have a point.

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