All Barnes Myself: David and Goliath

China 57 – 106 Team USA

Harrison Barnes: 6p / 1r / 0a

In tonight’s blowout, DeMar DeRozan only solidified his need for even more minutes ahead of Harrison. And in tonight’s broadcast, Marv Albert only solidified his need to retire forever. We could discuss the frozen vertical image of Barnes’ dunk, or his three-point miss pinballing endlessly over the top of the backboard. We could wonder how he still isn’t in the official Team USA box scores, and draw up bets on whether anyone over the next hundred years will ever notice. But certain patterns of play have recurred two games in a row, so I’d like to sum up Harrison Barnes for you in twenty seconds of play:

Lowlight: [CHN 36-60] Peng Jump Shot: Made (2 PTS) Assist: Jiwei (1 AST) 06:17

“And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.” -1 Samuel 17:44

Zhou Qi is 7’2, but weighs just 218 pounds. Scouts worry his listed age is questionable, and insist that he lacks strength, quickness, and mental toughness, so obviously the Rockets drafted him with the 43rd pick this year. Amazingly, Harrison is already seven pounds heavier, with a center of gravity half a foot lower to the ground. So who’s hunting who? Well on this play, Barnes makes Qi look like the goddamned leviathan.

To be sure, it’s not all Harrison’s fault. As team captain Peng sprints to his left,  Qi feloniously slides about five feet into Barnes, burying him with a screen. Barnes crumples like a crash test dummy failing a rollover test, but the ref chooses to forever hold his peace. Meanwhile, DeAndre Jordan takes three useless steps towards Barnes’ corpse, effectively abandoning the play as Peng curls around for the open look. Draymond turns to uselessly recognize the shooter from beneath the basket; three days later, Barnes rises from the dead to fly by his open shot.

Baudrillard would have a field day. Here, the whole of the team defensive concept is constructed from the effortless swapping of disjointed projections of effort itself. This is the end of use- and exchange-value. There remains only the economy of signs, the empty back-and-forth of mere reproduction. The end of the era of defensive production is at hand, and it’s mostly DeAndre’s fault for valuing the hollow statistic of his three blocked shots. Which were admittedly pretty bad-ass.

But mostly, I just wish Barnes wouldn’t explode on every fucking screen. It’s gonna be a long year.

Highlight: [USA 62-36] Barnes Driving Layup Shot: Made (2 PTS) Assist: Lowry (4 ASTS) 05:49

“And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came, and drew nigh to meet David, that David hastened, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine” -1 Samuel 17:48

Under Mark Jackson, Klay Thompson struggled to create for himself, appearing one-dimensional. In 2013, he was projected to be just the 83rd best NBA player in 2017, and the criticisms are worth noting. But then Steve Kerr established a gliding motion offense designed to maximize the strengths of his two prized shooters, and Klay has grown into the league’s most proficient cutter. He even looks dangerous driving for himself when he catches the ball with a running start. Encouragingly, Barnes pulls off a very similar move here to challenge Qi at the rim.

Off Lowry’s kick-out, Barnes doesn’t even pause to survey his 3-on-2 advantage. Instead, he immediately swerves towards the bucket, though he picks up his dribble a step too early. He’s funneled left: disaster is imminent. But then, he smoothly bumps Qi, twisting and tumbling a wrong-footed layup softly up and in. Clearly his handle and footwork are lacking, and his decision-making is still a work in progress. But Barnes made an almost identical move at the end of the Argentina game, hinting that maybe he really can make off-the-dribble plays in an offense designed to give him quick-hitting opportunities.

Is there hope for Barnes yet? Can you really build the Six Million Dollar Man?? Stay tuned for the next hundred episodes as we painstakingly find out. Just kidding, you don’t have to read this shit forever.

But don’t forget to watch Harrison Barnes bludgeon China again this Tuesday at 9 pm central. I really will keep writing. Because who needs use-value anyway?

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