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Friday, June 10, 2011

It Was The Best of Times, It Was The Worst of Times

by Connor Witt

I cannot say for certain what inspired Charles Dickens' inspiration to write A Tale of Two Cities, but recently I've hatched quite the theory. Since its release in 1859, we have been misinterpreting Dickens' famed novel. This whole time we've falsely believed that the novel was really about the French Revolution and other 18th century European mumbo jumbo. But no! The secret metaphor has been hiding in plain sight for over 150 years now, in the often quoted but rarely understood introductory phrase.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, itwas the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity..."

Isn't it now crystal clear to you? Charles Dickens did not write a novel about the French Revolution, it was all a metaphor about  to the conclusion of the 2011 NBA season! That Dickens... truly a visionary. See the connection? No? Allow me to elaborate:

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times"

The NBA is enjoying some of its greatest success in years at the moment. We are in the midst of a competitive series featuring four surefire future Hall of Famers in LeBron, Wade, Dirk, and Kidd. If that weren't enough, there are a number of other plots that make this series riveting. Can the Mavericks avenge their loss to the Heat in the 2006 Finals? Will Jason Terry have to get his Larry O'Brien trophy tattoo removed? Can the Mavs' win a ring before their title window closes? And of course, the Finals' most appealing storyline: the boo-boo on Dirk's non shooting hand can The Heatles live up to the hype and win a title in their first season Post-Decision? The intrigue surrounding this series has resulted in the highest TV ratings for the Finals in seven years.

However, not all is good and merry in the NBA. With 1,308 NBA games already completed this season, we are down to the last two or three. We must embrace the last few contests because no one can say for certain when we will see another NBA tipoff after these Finals conclude. 

On the eve of Game 5, players' union president Derek Fisher revealed that the owners' collective bargaining agreement proposal has remained essentially unchanged since their original proposal over a year ago. This is a grave sign for all those who had held out hope for an unscathed 2011-2012 season. Barring some sort of miracle, there will be an NBA lockout beginning July 1, and the significant progress that was made this season will be put on hold. The memories of a great season featuring The Decision, Derrick Rose's rise to greatness, Carmelo's blockbuster trade, and the downfall of the Lakers will be all basketball fans have to cling to as we wait anxiously for NBA basketball to resume.

"it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness"

I'll start with the age of foolishness on this one, and where better to begin than with the Golden State Warriors, a franchise that has exemplified foolishness in recent years (see: Adonal Foyle's 6-year, $42 million contract in 2004.) I thought perhaps the winds of change were blowing in the Bay Area when the team was sold to Joe Lacob in July of last year. The new management would surely learn from the mistakes of the previous ownership group and the failures of Nellie ball for Golden State.

The Warriors parted ways with coach Keith Smart in April with the best intentions of rebuilding the franchise. Lacob stated his intentions of hiring a coach "with, certainly, experience, someone with a lot of great ability to relate to players." It was the right criteria, the Warriors needed someone who knew how to manage their crowd of young talent and get them playing in a structured system where they could build a team identity.

So what did the Warriors do? Hire Mark Jackson, the only candidate with no coaching experience and no established system, of course!

Mark Jackson was a great player in his day and he could become a capable coach, but why, Golden State, why? Rick Adelman, Brian Shaw, and Lawrence Frank were all available and each could have brought some stability to the organization. I'll root for Mark Jackson to succeed with the Warriors, but the last thing the trigger-happy trio of Stephen Curry, Dorrell Wright, and Monta Ellis need -- if Ellis is still with Golden State by next season -- is a coach learning on the fly.

There is a silver lining to the Warriors' hiring Mark Jackson, and I'll give you a hint: it has nothing to do with the Warriors. Jackson leaves his position as an ESPN broadcaster to take the Warriors job, and his new gig leaves an open seat that needs to be filled so that we're not forced to listen to Jeff Van Gundy's rants for the entirety of the game. How convenient then that this vacancy coincides with Shaquille O'Neal's retirement. If we are forced to continue listening to Van Gundy, the least ESPN can do is complement him with Shaq. Honestly, how is ESPN going to pass up the opportunity to feature the oddest television duo since Flavor Flav and Brigitte Nielsen? Shaq could be just the person to put Van Gundy in his place the way Mark Jackson never could. 


Van Gundy: "Ya know, that really ticks me off! Nowadays players are taking 3, 4, 5 steps without a whistle for traveling. Back in my day, if you took -"

Shaq (in Shaq voice, mind you): "Listen up, little man! Cut the jibber jabber, if viewers wanted to hear about dinosaurs they'd be watching History Channel."

In addition to the commentary, Shaq's plethora of nicknames could make for an all-time great title for a television segment ("Monday Night Hoops with Superman and Clark Kent", "Tip-Off with the Shaq Diesel and Little Biodiesel", "JVG and Chamberneezy," the possibilities are endless.) 

Please, ESPN. Please.

"it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity"

LeBron James is coming off a regular season in which he established himself as the top player in the game. Had he not been sharing the spotlight with his running mate Dwyane Wade, his play would have merited a third straight MVP award. He answered early-season concerns about clashing egos in Miami by being a vocal leader, emphasizing defense, and involving his teammates on the offensive end. He battled through unimaginable scrutiny every away game, none more intense than his first return trip to Cleveland (in which he put up a cool 38, 8, and 5, while observing the entire fourth quarter from the bench.) With that game, America had proof that LeBron had the ability to deliver what Bill Simmons has dubbed an "Eff You" performance, an outstanding game motivated by a personal desire to annihilate the other team and shut up their crowd. This gave people the belief that perhaps it was not too late for LeBron to replicate Jordan's greatness. (For the record, LeBron is not Jordan, nor will he ever be. He has not asked to be compared to Jordan. Please, world, stop acting like LeBron is letting you down by not living up to Michael Jordan's feats.)

Then came the Finals.

In games 3 through 5, LeBron pulled an unfathomable unless you watched last year's Cleveland/Boston series vanishing act in the fourth quarter. After teasing us with late game heroics in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Bulls, LeBron has been nowhere to be found in these last three games. I could toss out any number of statistics about LeBron shitting the proverbial bed down the stretch, but the eye test says more about what is going on with King James.

LeBron wants the title to be won for him. He is not showing the necessarily killer instinct, the desire to take the game over and ensure his team comes out victorious. If there is any way that Miami even makes it to Game 7, LeBron will have to make us believe once again. Or, then again, he could keep passing to Wade and watch him shoulder the load.

Court adjourned.

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