Fridays With Fenrich is a weekly feature here at Hickory-High, the aggregation of an extended, week-long email conversation on a single basketball theme, between myself and Kris Fenrich of Dancing With Noah.
Ian: We’re rapidly approaching the half-way point of this NBA season. What are a few of your favorite moments? Who have you really enjoyed watching? Who makes you change the channel searching for re-runs of the Cosby show?
Kris: Favorite Moments – It’s strange, when I think back across the first couple months of the season, moments don’t come to mind. Nothing does, it’s just a blank abyss at which I have to look closely and deeply with the right kind of eyes and even then the image I get is far from what I’d call “favorite.” It’s an image of Dwight Howard with that ridiculous headband on, those silly arm wraps, trying with all his might to look gladiatorial, but instead looking like an unknowing court jester, struggling to understand where fun ends and work begins.
Who have I enjoyed watching? – Anyone who’s read my blog knows I’ve had a lot of fun watching Golden State this season. Stephen Curry’s a flower in full bloom and I’m considering going to church just so I can pray for his health. And David Lee’s no slouch either. He’s at home in the paint with the ball in his hands. He doesn’t have the most moves or the slickest moves, but like fullbacks who just happen to have a nose for the end zone, he has a nose for the basket and makes me think back to the Bob Pettits‘ and Jerry Lucas’ of the world. But in terms of pure joy, it’s a toss-up between Chris Paul and J.R. Smith. CP3’s just too exquisite to ignore. He’s a conductor out there in the most musical sense of the word. And when his orchestra can’t keep up, he just does it his damn self. Then there’s J.R. … he’s a lightning rod of offense. It’s like he calls forth on the Gods of Thunder and reigns down furious fireballs on his opponents when the Knicks most need it. He dunks, passes, bombs threes and plays serviceable defense … and he’s less than $3mill this year. A man who has access to the Gods deserves more.
Snoozers – Hmm, this is really a circumstantial thing, but unless the following teams are in close, competitive games, I’m usually moving on: Atlanta Hawks (easily one of the most depressing fan bases in the league), Phoenix Suns (it’d be more interesting if Beasley was out there gunning, but the only thing I enjoy watching with Phoenix is Shannon Brown’s inflating self-confidence and flaring nostrils), Indiana Pacers (I know this is your squad, but I haven’t seen these guys play more than five minutes at a time this season).
Ian: It’s funny because I feel like this season has been defined by a collection of contrasts and a few of those contrasts, as I see them, are what stood out to you – the Lakers precarious balance of overwhelming talent and underwhelming performance, J.R. Smith somehow channeling his volcanic and chaotic abilities into a placid sea of stability. I see the Warriors as part of this two-sided coin as well. Save the additions of Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green they are not that far from the “my defense is my offense” lineups of Sasha Pavlovic‘s dreams that they ran out they past few seasons. Yet somehow, without Andrew Bogut, they’ve turned into a tough, tough defensive team, one who controls the defensive glass and shuts down the lane to opposing ball-handlers.
To me the biggest self-contained contrast, and the highlight of my early season has been watching a molten-hot James Harden splash his boiling efficiency all over the court. If you watched Harden walk out of the tunnel you’d think he was a player driven by style and aesthetics but his game is strikingly different. Everything is about efficiency and economy. Every move he makes has a distinct and and driven purpose. Other than it’s striking effectiveness, nothing is eye-popping about what he does between whistles. The Rockets’ don’t have a wealth of offensive talent but Harden’s focus on efficiency has spilled over to his teammates, and they’ve built one of the best offenses in the league primarily around the revolutionary idea of taking good shots.
As the doldrums of late-winter shuffle closer, what basketball candles will you keep burning to drive away the dark and hold out until Spring?
Kris: I love what you wrote about the Rockets and Harden. I wish I’d seen them more particularly because Omer Asik’s forays towards the rim always provide a glimpse at potential disaster and Chandler Parsons’ offensive abilities are a joy to behold.
But winter? So damp, so cold, so uncomfortable, but so full of basketball. It’s this time of year that the season starts to stretch and the weight of 82 games starts to wear on players. For this season, right now as I write this, I’m looking forward to a few things, a few players and this isn’t in any order.
- The returns of Derrick Rose and Andrew Bynum. Eric Gordon made it back, so perhaps these two can do the same. Thibodeau continues to churn out a team that plays hard with discipline and is committed to a unified experience on the court and that’s without their star and some hard-to-replace role players from last year’s team. I don’t know if the east is up for grabs, but if Rose can possibly do an Adrian Peterson-esque impersonation, this team could be upsetting for eastern opponents. And Bynum? I don’t know what to make of this guy. I was watching games the other night and seeing Nikola Vucevic and Andre Iguodala thriving in Orlando and Denver and felt a lot of empathy for Doug Collins. You know he’s hyper aware of what they gave up for the big man and it’d be nice for all of us, and especially Doug Collins, if he could come back and make the Atlantic Division more interesting.
- There’s not much in sports that I enjoy more than booing a villain and throwing rotten vegetables at my flat screen TV. And I tell you, I’ve always been a Tyson Chandler fan. He seems like a straight up good dude off the court, but as a winner, he (and Carmelo Anthony as well) strikes me as a vulgar front runner. He sneers, pushes, shoves, flirts with dirty play, mean mugs, barks, roars and basically pretends to be the New York version of Kevin Garnett’s most villainous Celtic moments. And because of this, I have a lot of fun when the Knicks lose. It’s not personal, Knicks fans. It’s just a Tyson Chandler thing. And what up with those rotten veggies?
- I mentioned this in a longer post I did on my site, but the unpredictability of this Lakers team is fascinating. I was talking to a co-worker who’s a lifelong Laker fan and the incongruity between their talent and results is something so foreign and difficult to conceptualize. I can’t think of recent teams in any sport that have had the same kind of pre-season championship expectations and not just failed to live up to them, but have face planted on the concrete and slipped on banana peels and oil slicks every time they try to stand up. It’s one disaster after another and for me, it’s damn near impossible to turn away from.
- I’m mostly indifferent towards Scott Skiles. It seems like he burns out his players and is perpetually angry and he also looks a little bit like a grown man baby, but all judgments aside, I’m excited for the Bucks, Brandon Jennings and Milwaukee fans. I don’t know anything about Jim Boylan, but in the two games he’s been at the helm, Jennings has had two of his more complete and efficient games of the season. Larry Sanders continues to play well and if Ersan Ilyasova can return to his 2012 form and they can get steady contributions from Monta Ellis, it’ll at least be a fun team to watch. That’s a lot of “ifs” though and as we’re all so painfully aware: If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d never go hungry.