It is a rule so taken for granted that its insidious nature is rarely discussed.
It is common sense: you start your five best players (at each position.)
And yet. And yet...
Imagine the possibilities. Think of the limitations this unspoken dogma has wrought on our beloved game. The Cult of the Starter exponentially limits the strategies coaches can employ. Case in point: the Houston Rockets. It has become demonstrably clear that Tracy McGrady plays better without Yao on the floor. At the same time, Yao has consistently vanished in fourth quarters.
Imagine the havoc the Rocks would wreak if Tracy came off the bench. Yao could power through the first and third quarters. Tracy could enter in the second and play most of the rest of the game. He could alter the entire style, tempo, and handle just as his opponents begin to dip into their benches. As the other team began to tire, Tracy would just be beginning...And in the fourth, when Yao has worn down, here's this Tracy kid still fresh. Would it work this smoothly? Who knows? It is not even considered.
Would TJ benefit by coming off the bench without the pressure to get his teammates involved?
Would Joey D have drafted Milicic if he thought Melo would be fine playing behind Tayshaun?
Do Melo and AI really play all that well together?
Don't Manu and Terry benefit their teams most by coming off the bench?
Would David Lee's game really benefit from starting? Ben Gordon?
Is the Cult of the Starter necessary? Unchangeable?
How many matchup problems could shaking up one's starting line-up create?
Imagine the creativity.
So here, I challenge my brethren bloggers. Let us drain the Kool-Aid. Join me, burn the cloaks. Disband the Cult of the Starter. Let's call it the 2010 Blogosphere Challenge. In the next two years, how far can we go?
Here are a couple of suggestions to begin:
1) Change the vocabulary. Reserve need not mean B-team. Think of the traditional land war. Did armies necessarily send their best in the first wave of infantry? Why did they often save their most able men for later in the afternoon? And lose the 6th man handle. Cosmetic? Of course, but names do matter and 6th man necessarily implies less than best. And there's nothing us bloggers like to do more than come up with nicknames.
2) Reserve two spots on each All-Star roster for reserves. One to be voted on by fans, the other to be selected by coaches.
3) Unleash the power of the blogosphere! Wreak havoc! Speak the possibilities!
In the next two years, how far can we go? Is the culture so ingrained that TJ neccesarily feels slighted to come off the bench? How resilient is the Cult of the Starter?
We don't know. It's impossible to gauge the blogosphere's influence.
Most importantly, blogging is in its infancy. The possibilities still
1. I came to the cold, stone realization that I'm going to have to watch Tiger Woods storylines for the next twenty to thirty years of my life...
2. Amare for MIP. I cannot remember ever seeing a dominant player w/ a bad FT% turn into a great free throw shooter. Decent yes. But not a great free throw shooter. And that's what Amare seems to have done. It changes the Suns' entire fourth-quarter offensive. No more need to depend exclusively on a tired Nash. And it's a good lesson for the keedz. Yeah, free throw shooting, totally. All the cool cats are doin it...
3. If he could grow another couple inches,I'd definitely attend an arena prayer rally for AJ Graves...
4. Ditto on Stephon...
5. Is there a way Tiger can retire even if he still plays..?...
6. I cannot put Anthony Randolph on my draft board until I can find his dunk re-mixology. YouTube, you're failing as my advance scout...
7. For my money, Kevin Love might be the most interesting draftee to watch. Undersized PFs have been consistently underrated in the last few years of the draft: Milsap, Maxiell, Big Baby, Craig Smith, Carl Landry...on and on. But at some point, the pendulum is going to swing. With so many of these guys in the Lig, they're supply is going to outpace their demand. At the same time, the U-SPF has become something of a fad, they've over-performed, eventually GMs are going to over-value them. And I wonder: if Love gets drafted too high, will he become that Milici[sh] tipping point..?...
This morning I was hoping to better understand Riley's new life strategy of cutting-and-running by delving into his "inspirational guide," The Winner Within. Instead, I stumbled upon this gem from the annals of New York Knick lore.
"On October 1st, 1991, one day before my very first training camp as as coach of the New York Knicks opened, we acquired a tough, no-nonsense highly aggressive, low-post player named Xavier McDaniel...Xavier was an emotional, driven-to-dominate forward--tough and muscular--and his disposition was to dominate his opponent. Anyone who fits that description is also a very territorial individual. You can bank on it.
"As it happened, we also had a like-minded first year player already on the team, named Anthony Mason. Mace grew up on the tough streets of Queens, and from the instant the two laid eyes on one another, it was obvious that something was bound to happen. Each knew the other's reputation. Through the introductions and preliminaries that began training camp, the two men seemed to be circling one another.
"Our first workout began with a no-contact rebound drill. It was just supposed to be a way to teach technique. As chance would have it, McDaniels and Mason got paired up. Then, suddenly, eighteen minutes into my first practice as a New York Knick coach, all hell broke loose. We had a full-blown two-man riot on our hands. McDaniel pounding both sides of Mason's head. Mason was answering with furious, lunging blows. It was one of those traveling fights: they collided under the basket, fought their way over to the sideline, then ricocheted out to the middle of the court. It finally ended as a draw.
"And that was it. For the rest of the season McDaniel and Mason were true teammates. Once they understood that they were both fierce competitors who wouldn't back down from intimidation, the dispute ended. They were ready to join their strengths for the Knicks. They were ready to declare their innocence."
[Update: Ricky Davis is still not ready to declare his innocence.]
A couple of weeks ago, ESPNtheMAGAZINE published a piece by Michael Jordan in which he discussed the state of the Lig. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the article was how little buzz it induced. If I didn't still get the Mag in the mail from some BestBuy purchase years ago, I would not have heard of the article at all.
Alas, the lack of interest is understandable. The article amounted to little more than a patchwork of simple and unsubstantiated platitudes. One MJ quote, however, stuck in my craw:
"David Stern hates when I say this, but in some ways he created his own problem. Look at the way the league markets its players. When I came in, they marketed the athletes themselves, how they performed, what they accomplished...Don't take guys and force them into our mold."
What? I can't say I fully follow his argument, but Stern "created his own problem" by relying too heavily on Jordan's image...? Excuse me? MJ, I thought you and Stern were brahs...
Et Tu Brute?
Now, I read this two weeks ago and beyond being riled by MJ's on-going tour-de-self-righteousness, I wasn't going to post about it. As regular readers of the phdrib probably recognize, I try to minimize my masturbatory exercises in celeb-vilification. Really, how satisfying is it to win a one-way game of got-ya?
Then, I caught ESPN's videomentary on the history of the Air Jordan. Like MJ's article, there was nothing particular new about the piece. ESPN did a solid job outlining the cultural shockwave of the AJ as well as it's unfortunate aftershocks. On February 14, 1990, Sports Illustrated led with a cover story titled, "Senseless: In America's Cities, Kids Are Killing Kids Over Sneakers and Other Sports Apparel Favored by Drug Dealers; Who's to Blame?"
In the article, Rick Telander and Mirko Ilic reported on a spate of AJ murders,
"For 15-year-old Michael Eugene Thomas, it definitely was the shoes. A
ninth-grader at Meade Senior High School in Anne Arundel County, Md.,
Thomas was found strangled on May 2, 1989. Charged with first-degree
murder was James David Martin, 17, a basketball buddy who allegedly
took Thomas's two-week-old Air Jordan basketball shoes and left
Thomas's barefoot body in the woods near school."
ESPN's recent retelling covered the issue of AJ-crime, but omitted what was one of the central question posed at the time. Nike, the mega-faceless conglomerate had contributed to the problem. But how much was Jordan to blame? Had he not colluded in the creation of the Air Jordan? It's hard to imagine he could have foreseen the violence. But once prices skyrocketed to triple digits, did he not have a responsibility to put his foot down, remove his name from the product, and take a stand?
At the time, MJ expressed great sadness and feelings of guilt.
"I can't believe it," Jordan says in a low voice. "Choked to death. By
his friend." He sighs deeply. Sweat trickles down one temple...Jordan sits up straight in his chair. It's time for practice to start.
"I'd rather eliminate the product [the shoes] than know drug dealers
are providing the funds that pay me," he says.
And then...he did nothing.
Spike Lee directed seven of the AJ commercials. Today, he recounts the story of the AJ like a wizened professor emeritus. He told ESPN, "We have problems because people do what they need to do to get the money, or steal that stuff which is being hawked at them." He discussed the scandal as a dispassionate observer, as I would the discovery of Emelda Marcos' shoe collection.
Yet at the time, Spike did not enjoy such amnesty. The New York Post's Phil Mushnick, in an article titled "SHADDUP, I'M SELLIN' OUT..SHADDUP," ripped Spike for colluding in the Nike revolution. As SI reported, Lee hit Mushnick back with a charge of "thinly veiled racism." Sigh.
Eighteen years later the debate over inner-city poverty and crime has
shifted. The likes of Cosby, Kenny and Chuck, Whitlock, and Obama have
called for self-examination on the question
of, as ESPN puts it, "hip hop's swaggering materialism." But somehow,
Michael Jordan's name never surfaces in the debate.
The game has moved on and, as many of us believe, is hitting a new
Renaissance. As we look back to the last Golden Age, let's not forget
it's troubles. Let's remember it for what it was: both fantastic and unsettling. Michael Jordan, the lead actor, employed his superhuman skills for pure self-aggrandizement. Compare him to figures like Oprah, Bill Gates, or Magic Johnson...
I re-raise the question of Jordan's culpability not to bury the man nor to associate him with murders, but to re-evaluate his legacy. Stand up, MJ. Take a stand. Instead of dumping on Stern's stewardship of the game, how about a little self-examination? Are we really to believe that you had no input in the triumph of your spirit? Let's give Nike some credit, sure Stern and NBC/ABC/ESPN hyped up the games and the stars like never before, but Michael...hell, you're Michael f-ing Jordan.